January 29, 2018 turned out to a be a big day for James Malaby! The owner of the well-known Blue Plate opened up his second location in the Swedesboro/Woolwich area.
Center Square is James’ latest quest and aimed to be a little more upscale than Blue Plate with steaks, seafood and a full bar. Similar to Blue Plate, all food is made with fresh, local vegetables and ingredients.
I had the opportunity to try Center Square recently, but before I talk about the food, I wanted to just point out to you that the staff was probably one of the most professional and nicest people I’ve met in a long time. I’m sure dealing with hungry customers on a daily basis can take it’s toll on restaurant staff, but I was so impressed with the politeness and care given as soon as we entered the restaurant. They were attentive, constantly asking if we needed drink refills or if we were enjoying our dishes. Some of the staff just came by to engage in conversation and see how we were doing! (I know to some people, this may seem annoying, but this is really a big factor on whether or not you will give a place another chance even if you didn’t particularly enjoy a meal somewhere.)
Now..lets talk about the food! I happened to be there around lunchtime with a group so we ordered a variety of items to try out.
There was a good selection of items ranging from Tapas-style shared plates, appetizers, sandwiches, soups, pasta, etc. And, a good variety of flavors and type of dishes depending on your mood/preference.
Here are a few of the dishes I tried from the menu.
- Shoe-String Fried Pickles: MY FAVORITE! I loved that the pickles were cut really thinly and it was coated in a really well seasoned batter that was crispy and had a kick of heat. It didn’t overpower the tartness of the pickle, yet had its own distinctive flavor that tasted even better with the chipotle-style ranch sauce drizzled on top. (I definitely recommend you try this if you visit.)
2. Lobster Mac & Cheese: Okay so this dish was a bit of a love/hate for me. The macaroni and cheese sauce was really good, BUT I just couldn’t get a good taste of the Lobster. I know it was in there, but it just seemed to make the entire dish taste bland. I just felt like there was some flavor that was missing when I tried it. Again, not bad BUT just not the way a usual Lobster Mac dish should be.
3. Lobster & Crab Soup: Very good! There were little pieces of lobster and crab in the soup that tasted great. The broth/soup was seasoned perfectly and since I’m not a big fan of overly-creamy soups, this was perfect! The soup part was creamy but thin enough that you didn’t feel like you had an extremely heavy dish. I really liked this soup and how all the textures and flavors meshed together perfectly. Next time, I’ll have to ask for some hot bread on the side to dip as I eat!
4. Center Square Burger: It was a typical burger with grilled onions, but the flavor that made this burger “pop” was the Boursin cheese. It made the burger more interesting with the garlic & herb cheese flavor mixed in with the grilled onions.
5. Shrimp & Salmon Burger: This is one burger I would go into the restaurant for almost every week. It was like a crabcake texture and flavor, but just with shrimp and salmon instead. The dill & lemon cream sauce was a perfect combination for this burger and was really delicious! If you want something on the lighter side of burgers, but still in the mood for a “sandwich” lunch – this is your burger! I definitely recommend trying this dish when you go to Center Square.
6. Hot Roast Beef Sandwich: Okay, I just have to say I was really sad this sandwich didn’t work out. Usually when you hear “hot roast beef” it kind of makes you think of comfort food and maybe even some homecooking. Unfortunately, the meat was just too fatty and stringy for our liking. The flavors and seasonings were there, but the meat itself was just a “must miss” this time. With that said, I won’t say NOT to order it during your visit, BUT I would recommend asking the server how fatty the roast beef is. Everyone has their own preference of how roast beef should be, but I do believe this could definitely use some improvement.
Overall, I think is a great place to eat. I would love to go back again in the future and try out their dinner menu. It’s just seems to have this laid back happy environment. Plus the fact that it has very polite staff and fresh menu items is an added bonus.
In addition to the restaurant menu items, there is a section in the front of the restaurant that will eventually be an area where cooking lessons will be taught on how to make fresh pasta and other menu items. The part I thought was pretty cool was that there were tables and chairs there where participants will be able to sip wine and watch the chef make his dishes as he talks. The class details and dates are still in the works and will be provided at a later date.
Well Done James Malaby! I think he is going to be very successful as long as he stays true to his food and his vision! And I’m sure he won’t disappoint because his first restaurant, Blue Plate, has been open for 12 years so far!
If you would like more information on Center Square, please visit the website at: