I can't begin to express how excited I am for day-drinking in White Bear Lake when summertime rolls around. Ruminations of rascally Saturday noon hours tickle me to a point near insanity. It's all because of a sun-shiny corner shack my pal TRIM told me about: A comfortable abode close to the lake and closer to her local brewpub, where commercial suds are banned from the tap lines and the food just says "Relax."
I speak of Washington Square. My amigo Hornish and I found our way there Saturday, amidst 20-some temps and a sunny sky. Even then, I couldn't keep my head and arms in the restaurant at all times.
Come on in and have some fun. It just sounds so innocent, doesn't it? Oh, but the fun we're going to have ...
The Basics: "The Square" has been holding down the intersection of 3rd St. and Washington Avenue for some time now. They're open for breakfast every day at 8 a.m. and for mischief until 1 a.m. every night. Parking is plentiful, but you might want to keep some change in the car for meters. Their website is right here, and I would encourage you to give their Community page a glance.
Oh, and they're about two blocks from Big Wood Brewery -- and about four blocks from White Bear Lake (though I didn't scope out accessibility).
The Square is marked by a chalkboard sign and lit OPEN neon; otherwise, it isn’t the most conspicuous of joints. If Google Maps threw you a curveball, look for a peppy sign reading Lulu and Luigi's. The Square is across the street from it.
Nothing about The Square gets in your face, except sunshine. Thanks to large windows and skylights, rays nail you from every direction. They aren't filming a Twilight here anytime soon, I'll promise you that. Aluminum sheets line the ceiling and bar counter, and a fireplace (REAL fireplace, none of that electric BS) was crackling. This is a hotspot in the most literal sense. Our waiter -- think a less aggressive Tony Soprano -- had more than one tale about sweating a shift away.
If you're a patron, though, you're okay -- those sliding glass door-looking windows are, in fact, sliding glass doors. Open 'em up!
The Square's bartender wore a T-shirt with "NO CRAP ON TAP" written across the back like a jersey name. They live up to it; the closest thing they've got to a domestic is Finnegan's, and even that I suspect was only to satisfy St. Patrick's Day demands. The downside? Prices rival those of Butcher and the Boar (in a bad way), and the blow isn't softened a whole lot during happy hour.
I called for a shrimp BLT with guacamole, and Hornish – a self-proclaimed chicken tender connoisseur – tested the Square’s basket game. I don't know how long the food took; we had mentally traveled back home, to a place where nobody's pants are fancy and you're not really drinking outside unless you've got second-hand smoke in your face. Home. The baskets arrived.
The shrimp BLT is chill food at its finest. A subtle zing was cloaked in simple ingredients, making it more than a BLT but without overplaying the hand. If you're an everyday fan of the mats, you’ll love this sandwich. I did. I didn't even mind chucking $13 at it. Hornish ranked his tenders toward the top, in quality and certainly size -- sadly, the runt of the basket was the one snapped.
Downside: Both came with seasoned fries, and those were ... dare I say, square? Thick and soft, you could ball up a handful and assault them en masse. The seasoning, however, was nonexistent. I could occasionally see the seasoning, but it never made its mark on my palate. Oh well.
Service was fantastic. While many would take the "Not my problem" route when our server was handling a situation at another table, the remaining staff at The Square backed him up and our waters never emptied. We paid our tabs and parted, giddy for a future return.
If timed properly, the one-two of Washington Square and nearby Big Wood Brewery could be devastating to your to-do list.
I envision a sunny 12 o'clock at the bar, with a couple of brews and a meal. Maybe you sit there for an hour or two on the patio, then walk around the lake. Do you walk all the way to Admiral D's on Lake Ave.? Who knows.
Maybe you head to Big Wood once they open and have a few rounds there. They've got a Hobbit-hole door and a book's worth of dick jokes.
Maybe you swing to nearby Hollihan's for a couple. Maybe you just get a couple of bottom-shelf pints to maintain.
Maybe you swing back to Washington Square when the sun is beginning to set, when the lights are starting to come on outside and it's getting lively. Maybe you wake up Sunday morning to your undone dishes and untended yard.
Would you even think to regret it? I wouldn't, either.
Get ready, guys.