First Look

First Bite: Squable

The Heights restaurant from Justin Yu and Bobby Heugel shines a light on emerging talents.

By Timothy Malcolm May 1, 2019

Image: Jenn Duncan

The beginnings of the newly opened Squable can be traced to conversations between Justin Yu, Bobby Heugel, and chef Drew Gimma, who was working at the group's Better Luck Tomorrow. Yu and Heugel wanted to give Gimma a bigger opportunity to showcase his skills, but talks were merely that, since their attentions were focused on Penny Quarter, the cafe and bar scheduled to open this summer behind Anvil, Heugel’s church of cocktails.

Then the old Southern Goods space at 19th and Shepherd in the Heights became available. Yu, Heugel, Gimma, and Terry Williams—operations director of Better Luck Tomorrow and Anvil—looked at the space around October, had an idea for a restaurant, and ramped up their conversations.

“This thing happened in 72 hours, from us looking at the space to us making decisions and signing the lease,” says Williams. “No one was looking to open a restaurant. We weren’t interested in opening something on top of Penny Quarter that’s going behind Anvil. This just happened.”

Squable—whose name comes from the word meaning a playful, trivial argument—opened for dinner last week. Comfortable, casual, and effortlessly stylish with teal booths, exposed brick, wood accents, and a patio (currently in construction), it represents a chance for Williams, Gimma, and chef Mark Clayton—who was brought in to run the kitchen with Gimma once the team settled on the concept—to make louder noise in the city's food scene.

They have tremendous resumes already: Williams has worked with Heugel for more than six years; Clayton was the only sous chef at Yu’s Oxheart; and Gimma had stints at Per Se and Sullivan St. Bakery in New York, was the opening head baker at Common Bond, and most recently has worked at BLT.

The view of the bar and dining room from a street-side wall filled with booth seating.

Image: Jenn Duncan

The three minds seek to deliver friendly experiences through a tidy menu that emphasizes intense preparations of simple ingredients.

“Part of it is what Mark and I enjoy cooking,” says Gimma. “We’re focusing more on technique than super fancy plating or anything like that.”

A good example is the Dutch baby pancake, a pan-sized popover topped with soft cheese and preserved citrus, which is an imagining of a dish Huegel and Williams enjoyed while eating their way through Japan. But there are personal touches to it—for example, the “preserved citrus” that tops each pancake is calamansi grown by Clayton’s mother.

“She brought me a couple, and I was like ‘Oh, these are nice,’ and she was like, ‘Oh, I got more, I’ll bring you some,’” says Clayton. “Then she showed up with 50 pounds of them, and I was like ‘Okay, we need to do something with these.’”

Other popular dishes after a week include the salt-baked sweet potato and the pork neck schnitzel, which can’t help but be compared to a beautifully coated chicken fried steak. A half chicken from Tejas Heritage Farm comes with bread dumplings, chicory, and parmesan-soy dressing, while steak originates from Augustus Ranch.

Speaking of beef, there’s the French cheeseburger, named as such because of what’s on it: melted French raclette, cornichon pickles, and loads of maitre d'hotel butter on a thick hunk of beef that Williams says looks more like a steak than a basic patty.

For booze, Squable boasts a highly curated wine list from Justin Vann of Theodore Rex and Public Services. Look for classic European styles, top American bottles, and some natural wines mixed in. BLT's Anna Wilkins is running the bar, which focuses on elevating classic cocktails. The bar, which includes a window for guests who’ve yet to be seated, should be a hub of activity.

But make no mistake: Just about every seat and table at Squable is bound to be the place to be.

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