We had our first meal at “The Shriners” over 40 years ago, when Cranstonian Ken Fawthrop ran quarterly blood drives and fed the donors a hearty breakfast.
We have been dining there ever since, and now in an attractive building that sits on the corner of Broad St. and Rhodes Place, home to that wonderful fraternal organization with a charitable goal of operating 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children.
You have seen them in parades, with their colorful vehicles and clown costumes.
They also run a restaurant, banquet hall and catering service that is open to the public, serving quality food at reasonable prices.
Joyce has lunch there a few times a year with the retired nurses from the Scandinavian home. I’ve attended dinners for the Food Bank, Cub Scout Blue and Gold Dinners, a Game Dinner, this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Corned Beef Dinner, and a variety of other functions over the years.
Their Sunday breakfast and buffet, served 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., has also been a destination after church.
We also do take-out fish ‘n’ chips frequently on Fridays.
The staff is mostly local people who know everybody who has been there more than once, and treat all of their customers royally.
The Imperial Room atmosphere is first class, giving the feeling of dining in a fancy hotel or upscale restaurant, complete with high, cushioned chairs, white linens and chandeliers.
A large adjoining room accommodates larger groups and is available for rental for any occasion.
The restaurant and banquet facility have undergone some recent changes, hiring a talented executive chef, Christopher Kutzo, and assuring high food quality and consistency.
Director of Sales Hillary Williamson has been there for 18 years, and knows how to treat her clients. The kitchen can successfully handle an event for 200 people, serving meals hot and efficiently, while not neglecting their customers in the intimate Imperial Room.
Dinner at The Imperial Room
Living within walking distance, the Imperial Room is frequently a last-minute choice when Joyce doesn’t feel like cooking.
My brother-in-law said the Yankee Pot Roast reminded him of his mother’s recipe, tender with delicious gravy ($11.99). And you can get Beef Liver, Bacon and Onions for only $9.99.
They have gluten-free chicken dishes for $10.99, a variety of pasta selections, beef and veal, chicken, and seafood, with prices running a few dollars less than most restaurants. The most expensive entrée on the dinner menu is an 8 oz. filet for $19.99; the least expensive is Pasta Primavera (Bow-tie pasta tossed with fresh seasonal vegetables in a light garlic, olive oil, and white wine sauce for only $8.99. I’ve had it; it’s great.)
We’ve been to so many functions at the Shriners, but have never gotten around to officially “reviewing” it. It is like an old friend whom you never properly acknowledge.
Joyce and I decided that the time was right to recognize our old friend (besides, she didn’t feel like cooking), so we went to the Imperial Room for dinner last Thursday evening.
A political fundraiser was going on in the banquet room, and there were about five tables filled in the dining room.
I like it when the hostess invites us to “sit wherever you like,” and we did.
The basket of rolls was immediately brought to our table, along with water and menus. Kayla, our friendly waitress, took our drink order, which is our test of the bartender. The martini and Black Russian came as requested and were blended perfectly.
We are in a rut, usually ordering the calamari appetizer as our first test of the kitchen. Chef Kutzo passed with flying colors. The calamari was gently breaded, hot, tender, and enhanced with garlic butter, white wine, lemon, hot peppers and diced tomato ($8.99).
Joyce ordered a cup of “Our Famous Baked Onion Soup” ($2.99 cup; $3.99 a bowl). Topped with a crouton and blended Swiss and Provolone cheese, it was dark, sweet and famously delicious.
Joyce chose the Shrimp Scampi ($15.99) for her entrée. Five large shrimp were sautéed in a garlic white wine and lemon butter sauce with basil and fresh tomatoes, served over linguine. She loved it, and even gave me a taste.
I chose the Scrod Creole ($12.99), a generous piece of Pacific Cod topped with peppers, onions, spinach, tomatoes and basil in a garlic white wine sauce. Fresh string beans cooked in garlic, plus sweet potato fries added to the enjoyment of this great choice, spotlighting the ability of the chef to create not only a colorful plate, but a delicious combination of ingredients.
We usually don’t order dessert, but a sinful chocolate dessert and tiramisu seemed perfect to top off a delightful dinner. And it was.
Whether you are interested in lunch, dinner, a banquet, or a catered meal, the Shrine Club and Restaurant delivers. Kids eat free on Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 5 to 9.
Closed Mondays and Saturdays, and open for lunch Tuesdays through Fridays. Check their website for special events and times at www.rishriners.com, or call 467-7102.