The very location that killed MoJoe’s Hot House coffeeshop will likely save Square Bar & Grill. The storefront sits on a relatively unremarkable stretch of Belmont, which otherwise might doom the newly opened spot to a short lifetime of thin crowds. But as anyone who has ever elbowed her way into—or been turned away from—Kuma’s Corner knows, this is a block that could use a plan B.
And that’s lucky for Square, which is pleasant but generic. If the watering hole were in Lincoln Park, or Andersonville, or Wicker Park, or anywhere other than across the street from the burgers-and-beer behemoth, it might not warrant a mention. The people—an eager crowd of Logan Square and Avondale 20-somethings who provide a whiff of community and hipness—truly set the scene against the bar’s simple backdrop: tables crafted from repurposed bowling lanes, brick walls, an overabundance of red pendant lights, and three flat-screen TVs.
There are no craft cocktails here—or even a cocktail menu, for that matter—although our bartender, a cute, tattooed blonde named Jeannie, assured us she could mix up “whatever our little hearts desire.” She also encouraged us to get up from our table and check out the long row of bottled beer (no menu yet), which runs from the requisite (Blue Moon, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada) to the local and/or organic and/or microbrew options that appeal to Kuma’s overflow crowd (Two Brothers at $5 a bottle, Three Floyds, Fat Tire).
Where the beer is sufficient, the menu is ballsy. I didn’t expect a bar across the street from Chicago’s burger palace to declare its Big Square the ultimate char-grilled burger ($8), nor was I anticipating a better-than-average bar menu. But the tilapia sandwich comes topped with grilled peppers and kalamata olives, and the chicken sandwich is punched up with pineapple and smoked applewood bacon (plus, read about Square’s deep-fried candy bars in Dish). It may not be enough to pull people in from the other side of town, but if you make the trek to Kuma’s and can’t stand the wait, take heart: Square Bar is a worthy backup.