“We thought Warren was going to become the new Bristol!” explained Joel Cary from behind the bar at his new café, The Square Peg, about why he chose to set up shop in the town. The 40-seat, brunch, lunch and dinner spot is located in the heart of what is becoming a crowded Restaurant Row on Water Street in Warren.
What was already a multiple choice of dining options has become much more so in the area over the past year or two. In Warren, the restaurants that were considered the “new kids,” such as Trafford and Sunnyside, are now the old guard. New places have opened their doors in former restaurant locations and in spaces that once housed other types of retailers.
The Square Peg kept the name of the business that had occupied the storefront at the corner of Water and Miller Streets for many years. It was an antique shop. On the day Cary and his wife, Amy, were visiting potential sites to open a second restaurant – Amy is the proprietor of Amy’s Place on Wickenden Street in Providence – the shop owner at the time had just hung a “going out of business” sign in the window.
The couple saw much potential in the building and purchased it not only for their business but also as a home for themselves and their four children. The restaurant opened the week before Thanksgiving. In a throwback to an old tradition that once was common in New England seaside villages, the family lives over the restaurant.
Heading up Water toward Main Street, less than a block from The Square Peg, is another new restaurant in another historic building. Simply Devine, the mainstay Barrington caterer established by Janet and Peter Devine opened in February in the spot that for many years housed the Nathaniel Porter Inn.
The Devines took an opposite path from many restaurant owners. Typically, restaurateurs open their eateries, then start catering. Peter Devine’s culinary path led him to Newport, where he worked for several years with various caterers before launching the company with his wife in 1998. Janet Devine started her career as a baker working for a local bakery supplying fine desserts for restaurants in Rhode Island and Boston.
The Devines have extensively renovated the venerable inn into an upscale dining space with an interesting contemporary look within the framework of the building’s Federal-style architecture. The bar remains two steps down at the rear of the building, which keeps its colonial-tavern-style coziness. The commissary kitchen for the catering operation occupies the basement of the structure.