When Aaron Krug first opened his restaurant 3 Squares a couple years ago, he said people would routinely come in at 8:30 p.m. asking for pancakes.
Krug’s response would be: Sure, come back in the morning.
“I think the impression was that I was a reincarnation of the legacy tenants,” Krug said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
3 Squares occupies the former home of an IHOP and a Bickfords. Krug’s restaurant might resemble one of those joints in the morning – but its atmosphere changes throughout the afternoon and evening.
“We serve breakfast, but our best meal by far is dinner,” Krug said.
A popular appetizer is the fried calamari, served with a sweet chili sauce and almond shavings. The fish is flash-fried and not over-battered, and the sauce adds a slight kick.
Krug said his goal was to serve “familiar food with a flair,” like his pork chop, which is topped with a chutney of apples, pears, and dried cranberries – a sort of substitute for applesauce.
There’s also his spaghetti bolognaise with lamb, veal and pork, a seasonal item that was so popular it’s being moved onto the regular menu.
Krug, who previously worked as a supply chain manager for a tech company and as a professional musician in an urban folk band, said he opened 3 Squares because of how he saw the restaurant scene in town change over the years.
Specialty restaurants had replaced joints like Howard Johnson’s, the Ground Round, and Friendly’s, he said.
“I feel like there was an obvious void for the type of food that inspires me,” Krug said. “It’s not fancy, but it has a certain flair. It’s familiar food, just done very well.”
Krug is a Needham native and current resident. His daughter is about to start school at Hillside Elementary School, his own alma mater.
“There’s no other community that I would feel as good giving back to,” Krug said, explaining how he sponsors local sports teams and has a weekly program for donating to local charities.
He aspires to have 3 Squares become part of the “fabric of the community.”
“We have done an incredible job of making first-time visitors repeat guests,” he said. “They’re not customers; they’re guests.”
Krug hopes his restaurant is family-friendly but also caters to those looking for a nice dinner out. He wants people to be comfortable bringing their kids but at the same time be interested in coming without them.
There’s a full bar, outdoor patio seating and live music on Thursday and Sunday nights.
“This is a place for everybody,” he said.