One of the shortest-lived restaurants ever to hit Ann Arbor was Yoshi’s, which lasted for less than six months last year in the Liberty Street spot Dinersty occupied for years. Yoshi’s didn’t close because of the quality of the food, but it may have closed because people didn’t understand the food. Serving a highly authentic but relatively unknown brand of Middle Eastern fare (Chaldean), and with a name that sounded Japanese (Yoshi was actually the childhood nickname of the Chaldean owner), it seemed to confuse people.
Its successor, Squares, is obviously trying not to make the same mistake. It asks only that customers accept that a sandwich can be made on a square piece of pita bread. And, as if someone worried that even that was too much (something about square pegs in round holes?), the path has been further smoothed. You get your square sandwich on a square plate. The square-pita sandwiches come in chicken, ham, turkey, pork, and gyro, all freshly rotisserie roasted, topped with some vegetables and special sauces. A long list of vegetable dishes and salads as well as “broasted” potatoes (meaning deep fried under pressure, and, according to director of operations Scott Nail, no longer a trademarked term) and some pizzas round out the lunch/dinner menu. Squares is open for breakfast too, with a breakfast version of the square sandwich, and omelets and quiches. For dessert, there’s house-made Danish–square, of course.
The owners are an investment group, but Nail and head chef Jimmy Seery are the chief architects of the menu and other details, and they admit the place is looking to franchise. Already there’s a Squares in development in Canton.
Seery started cooking at Denali National Park in Alaska, spending twelve summers there and eventually running the park’s fine-dining restaurant. He later went back and got a degree at the CIA. That’s cooking school, not spy school, though he’s pretty secretive about his special sauces, not even giving away whether they’re mayonnaise based (which they seem to be–“they’re flavor based,” he insists). “Cooking is my life’s passion,” he says. “It’s good to be able to take a vision and make it available to the masses.”
Nail is optimistic about franchising, hoping that he’s got the momentum to launch a national chain. “A lot of times we see a restaurant chain jump in with both feet, basing it on one product, as opposed to a larger concept and a full menu. They’re trying to survive because, say, they make bagels: bagel this, bagel that. We’re not just a square sandwich. We’re a salad. We’re a vegetarian option, we’re a breakfast option. We’re trying to fill the day with options that are always fresh, all the time.”
Squares, 241 E. Liberty, 761-6700. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. squarestakeout.com