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Voyageur's Best Generally Speaking Columns of 2002

Chicken Dinner

It's still the Wright Place Cafe!
Doreen Young is the new owner of the Wright Place Cafe
by Lynne Gilfus  | June 11, 2002

It was "Ruby's Diner" years back, then, with new owners, it became the Wright Place Café. Early in May, all of us were waiting to see what it would become with its new owner, Doreen Young, and her other half, Bernie Sinnott.

"It's going to stay the Wright Place Café," says Doreen. "I knew it as Ruby's when I was growing up, but it's been the Wright Place for a while now, and everyone knows it as that."

Besides, what's in a name? The food by any other name would taste as great. Just how great? That’s exactly what six of us were trying to figure out when we went ot the Wright place Cafe’last Thursday. The new 8-page menu is still being printed, but Doreen prepared some of the items now, prior to its debut. While we were contemplating the new menu, Doreen let us in on some of the other new things she has going on.

"After the bakery ovens are back up and running, we'll be doing all of the baked goods for the Trolley Store in Cromwell," she said. Our party unanimously expressed approval of that, as none of us are very big on cellophane-wrapped baked goods.

The use of the ovens won't be limited to outside supply and demand, though. Doreen is planning her own line of baked goods for sale at the Wright Place Café, including muffins, muffin bread, donuts, cakes, cookies, pies and brownies. So, no more grabbing a candy bar to satisfy a sweet tooth!

"I also make all of my own soups - no boiling bags here!" Doreen stated. Her list of soups includes creamy chicken wild rice, Wisconsin cheddar, cream of broccoli and lumberjack vegetable. She will also be serving homemade chili every day.

Doreen's future plans for the Café? The list is long and based on making her customers as comfortable and happy as possible. In addition to adding a bakeshop, Doreen will add a deli case and a takeout menu for family-style meals. She is also planning to renovate and enlarge the dining area and add to the kitchen.

"For now, we're starting with a new layout of booths and tables and a change in color scheme," she said. "Then we'll go for the big stuff, including a laundromat and carwash."

As part of her plans for both the expansion and for making a home for herself and Bernie, Doreen recently acquired the tract of land surrounding the Wright Place Café. Right now, she is living at the Lakeview Motel in Cromwell, and quarters are pretty cramped.

"Next week, you'll be seeing a concrete slab behind the café," Doreen said with a smile. "The week after that, our new home will appear. Then, we can stretch out and feel at home."

While we were discussing all of this, Doreen managed to get our orders, make recommendations and set us up with beverages and table settings. In a very short time, our tables were brimming with steaming food: two orders of chicken parmesan with homemade sauce overflowing the plates, a 1/4 broasted chicken done to a golden turn, a large plate of the meatloaf special, the Chef’s Surprise (14 oz. T-bone with all the trimmings) and, my entrée, fettuccine alfredo primavera with grilled chicken. In addition, Doreen came to the table with a platter of garlic bread slabs and a small pot of her homemade sauce. When the last dish arrived, we all had to speculate about just how much weight the tables are designed to handle.

The fettuccine alfredo primavera I chose is a favorite of mine from my early days of exploring Italian cuisine in New Jersey. Doreen has managed to capture every aspect of the dish: texture, appearance, taste and aroma. No one could have been happier than I was with the first forkful. The sauce is creamy, delicate, mildly parmesan-flavored, and has just the right aroma and flavor of nutmeg. The fettuccine was al dente (not mushy), and the veggies still had their green flavors and firm texture. The chicken was well seasoned, but didn't overwhelm the delicacy of the other flavors in the dish. For the first few bites, I was in a time warp back to my 20s at the Jersey shore. Then, back to reality with the comments of everyone else in our party.

The chicken parmesan? "To die for" and abondanza. The meatloaf? Solid. The chicken? I'm not sure, but all of that finger licking HAD to mean something. The "Chef's Surprise"? "I'll be back for more!!"

After we had all stuffed ourselves, Doreen starting talking about the desserts she had ready in the kitchen. Our waitress, Karla with a 'K', mentioned chocolate cake, ice cream, muffins and brownie bites. The last item brought two eyebrows way up at the table.

"I'll have two brownies, heated in the microwave, with two scoops of vanilla ice cream," said the brownie fan. "Wait - heat the brownies NOT the ice cream!" And they arrived at the table - ice cream was properly cold and the brownies were steaming, and we didn't hear much more from the fan until the bowl was clean.

I chose a favorite of mine: German chocolate cake. All present were given the opportunity for a tasting, as the slab I was served was big enough to satisfy the most demanding sweet tooth. Everyone had two bites, and all of us were smiling. From appetizers to dessert we found heaven on earth in a little over an hour.

My recommendation? Stop in for dinner and check out the special and the soup. Then, have an adventure and try one of Doreen's Italian meals. You truly can't go wrong. You'll also have plenty of time to eat there in the evenings. The Wright Place Café is open now from 7:00 a.m. till 7:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 7:00 a.m. till 2:00 p.m. on Sundays. No, Doreen doesn't do ALL of the cooking. Jerri Haugen is there doing her share. Doreen has expanded her other staff to include Laurie Sowkowski, Karla Kropp, Rusty French and Jackie Bloemendaal on the waitstaff. Dustin Renta is helping out with cleanup a few days a week, and after the school year starts again, Doreen is looking forward to having Michael Jobe return to help out in the kitchen.

So, stop in and introduce yourself to Doreen and Bernie, and be prepared to relax and enjoy your time there. By the way, when you go to Wrong Days in Wright (July 19 and 20), look for the Wright Place outdoor ice cream stand. All of your favorites will be available outside! If you have a chance to peek at the new menu, be sure to look for the bear.

Buen provecho!

This article first appeared in the June 11, 2002 issue of the Voyageur Press.