The Square Cafe is a popular queer-owned restaurant located in East Liberty. Sheree Goldstein, the owner of Square Cafe, shares that when she thought about opening a restaurant, it was only a pipe dream.
“I was actually working in a drug and alcohol treatment facility for a long time, 12 or 13 years,” Goldstein says. “I was ready for a change and ready to do something different. It was kind of a wild dream, where you think about this cool cafe and there’s great pastries and coffee, arts and entertainment, and people hanging out. That’s kind of what my mission was. It’s morphed and changed a lot since then, but that was the dream.”
Goldstein pursued this dream, and the restaurant recently celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this year.
Upon opening, first in Regent Square, the goals Goldstein set were simple: get open and stay open. Then, once that happened, the goals changed a bit.
“It was really to have a place to hang out for the community, and obviously have great food and great customer service,” she says. “Not a lot has changed since then, with the exception of Covid.”
Goldstein, who identifies as a queer woman, shares that she is simply an open person, and doesn’t correlate the restaurant’s success with her sexuality.
“We are open with who we are inside the doors, and we have people all over the spectrum of gender, sexuality,” she states. “We just want to love people and share good food and good coffee and have fun. We’re trying to feed people and nurture them.”
Goldstein describes how the food service industry changed “drastically” with the arrival of the pandemic.
“We’re working hard every day to have enough staff to be able to serve all of our customers and working with our vendors to create unusual and unique dishes,” she says.
Now that groups of people have come together again, Square Cafe has events that they host to bring the community together. Wheel of Drag and Mocktail Contest are two popular events of the restaurants.
A big reason the restaurant is able to host these events is because of their move to East Liberty in August 2020.
“[The cafe] is a lot bigger, and we have space for catering events and private events,” Goldstein shares.
A big focus of Goldstein’s is to make sure her employees are taken care of, with fair wages, shared gratuity, and other incentives to ensure everyone is treated well.
Additionally, they pay out of pocket to recycle and compost, something that isn’t required in the City but is important to Goldstein and the staff.
“We pay attention to the whole pie,” she says.
For those who may be unfamiliar with Square Cafe, Goldstein shares a message.
“We welcome everybody,” she says. “We want to love people. Also, the staff, the employees are the real nuts and bolts as to why it works. Because people work hard and they care.”