Square One Burgers

Ah yes, the curious case of Square One Burgers. Based out of the Tampa area, the recently opened Gainesville location is their eighth, with other restaurants in St. Pete, Sarasota, and The Villages as well. Having taken over the former Maui Teriyaki location, the building has gone through quite a bit of renovations and transformed into a very nice dining room. The walls are lined with faux cow hide, dark wood accents, and ample seating. But the food is perplexing.

I can sum this all up in one word; overpriced. Most burgers range from $12 to $16, and while the burgers themselves are actually good, they have consistency issues with meat temperatures. I certainly don’t mind paying more for a premium product, but I wouldn’t say anything here particularly stands out. The sides are all standard out-of-a-bag stuff, and the onion rings they boast so much about are in dire need of seasoning. The fried mac-and-cheese was alright, but you could tell it sat in their freezer for some time. Even the beignet dessert that our waitress pushed so hard was nothing more than fried fluffs of flavorless dough dipped in sauce. I equated it to fried clumps of Wonderbread served with Hersey’s syrup. Yuck.

The Drunken Pig & Bull Burger (bourbon pulled pork, pepper jack cheese, onion rings) and the Buffalo Bob (ground buffalo, applewood bacon, onion rings, spicy beer cheese) were both very good, but the Cajun Salmon Burger (chopped salmon, cilantro, garlic, caponata aioli, cole slaw) was a big wet disgusting mess. If the fries were fresh cut, they used better buns, and the sides weren’t all out of a bag, I can justify the prices. While I hate to use the obvious pun here, I think they need to go back to Square One.

Rather than bash them, I’d like to point out a couple positives. They do have some good bar specials and a very nice outdoor area. On Thursdays, select martinis are $4, and all craft beers are $3 (including Swamp Head & Cigar City). Happy Hour is every day from 3 PM to 6 PM and then 9 PM till close, and you get ½ priced mixed drinks, $5 wings, and $4 glasses of wine. While it’s not exactly the best products, it’s worthwhile for the Archer Road area. The food itself though, is standard overpriced chain fare. Locals know better, and college kids can’t justify the prices. This spells trouble.

Off the top of my head, I can name several local restaurants that serve a better sit-down burger for less. Blue Gill Quality Foods (1310 SW 13th Street) has a killer ground beef, shredded pork, pimento cheese, and bacon burger for $9.50. Embers Wood Grill (3545 SW 34th Street) has a filet mignon and ribeye burger served with fontina cheese and tomato-shallot relish for $12. Loosey’s (2725 SW 91st Street and 120 SW 1st Avenue) has build-your-own burgers starting at $9 for hormone, steroid, and antibiotic-free beef, $8 for chicken, $8 for veggie, and $9 for crispy eggplant. Go on Wednesday nights, and the burgers start at $6. All of these spots serve a better burger, with premium ingredients and better sides for less. Sorry Square One, but I can’t justify paying Mercedes Benz prices for a Kia.

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© 2020 by Ken Peng & Ken Eats, LLC. Title image courtesy of Jesse Adrian Scanlon Media.

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