If you get past appetizers, entrées are solid. Perhaps the best is "wood-roasted half chicken" ($18) which has a bit of smoke to it, possibly due to bacon cooked with the accompanying Brussels sprouts ($5 as a side) and radishes. There is an underlayment of whipped potatoes. Cooked radishes (perhaps a little overdone) are kind of watery, but they look cool. "Baked mac and cheese" ($15) has cubes of Canadian bacon, which are surprisingly bland in this combination. The cheese is sticky, not creamy or custard-based, so the dish rises above the plate without spilling, and won't mess up your clothes. The only problem is that creamy has more taste.
"Wood-grilled skirt steak" ($19) is sliced onto braised greens, and a mound of whipped potatoes. Everything works but the chimichurri sauce, which has an un-Argentine addition of chili oil gunking up the parsley-garlic effect.
The "wood-grilled 10-ounce burger" ($11) is a best buy with excellent meat, a somewhat oversize brioche bun, and skin-on steak fries. Not amazing steak fries, but functional.
Drinks are a big story here, some named for local features. The Arborway ($8) is a light mix of prosecco, fresh lime juice, and St. Germain, the sweet elderflower liqueur that is in everything these days. As a sweet-sour sparkler, the Arborway is even better than the old trolley line. An "imperfect Manhattan" ($8) plays on the classic "perfect Manhattan" of rye with sweet and dry vermouth, by adding Fernet Branca and bitters. On the palate, sweet and bitter impressions dance around the core sourness of Jim Beam rye whiskey. I preferred it to the Cider Manhattan ($8), combining bourbon with Woodchuck dry cider, as that one ends up too bitter.
This pub also aspires to beer geekdom, so an inquiry about a pilsner-like drink produced samples of Mayflower Pale Ale ($5), which is light and hoppy (and our choice); Berkshire Brewing's Cabin Fever Ale, which was showing a spoiled aftertaste; and Otter Creek Copper Ale, which is hopped to the nines. Sierra Nevada Estate Ale ($6) is a heavier version of their mainstay pale ale, with the exact flavor of Cascade hops.
Desserts could use a bit of work. The fried Twinkies ($7) are pretty, but that means a lot of batter that might as well be on fried chicken. The subtle vanilla sweetness of the snack food is lost. Butterscotch bread pudding ($6) is caramel, but not what I think of as butterscotch. As caramel bread pudding, it's fine. The ice cream of our day ($6) was four scoops of Oreo cookie, pretty good by itself, odd on the bread pudding.
Atmosphere is where Canary Square might disappoint, although large early crowds provide their own atmosphere. When it's not crowded, you can hear the background music: dub and reggae (wrong Jamaica, but we like the analogy) veering into R&B and some ancient disco. Even when it was crowded, service was quick and accurate.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at email@example.com.
Canary Square | 435 South Huntington avenue, Jamaica Plain | 617.524.2500 | Open Monday–Wednesday, 5–11 pm; Thursday and Friday, 5 pm–midnight; Saturday, 10:30 am–midnight; and Sunday, 10:30 am–11pm | Di, MC, Vi | Beer and wine | No valet parking | Sidewalk level access