This Rhode Island Restaurant Still Offers Family-Style, All-You-Can-Eat Chicken Dinners
Family-style dinners are a lost art around the SouthCoast. Sitting down at a restaurant and being served platters of food that you share with everyone else at the table seems like an antiquated idea of dining out.
Yet there is still something heartwarming about having the family sit around a table, sharing the same meal as if they were at home but without all of the preparation before and cleanup after bookending the time together. Johnson’s in New Bedford, Durgin-Park in Boston, Huckleberry’s Chicken House in Middleboro – those were just some of the many such places offering family-style dinners. Even more restaurants offered them just on Sundays.
One Burrillville, Rhode Island spot is keeping the family-style dinner tradition alive, but why are there so few of these style of restaurants left?
The History of Wright's Chicken Farm
Wright’s Chicken Farm has been serving up family-style chicken dinners since 1954, when chicken farmer Gene Wright took his popular chicken dinners he’d been serving up for community events and decided to open up an actual restaurant. Frank and Joyce Galleshaw purchased the business in 1972, expanded operations and passed it on to the next generation, which still operates Wright’s to this day.
A First-Timer Visits Wright's Chicken Farm
A few years ago, I went to Wright’s for the first time in decades, and nothing had really changed. That’s always a good thing when you’re looking for comfort food.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, my son Adam and I took the drive to Burrillville – about an hour and nine minutes from New Bedford, per Google Maps – so he could experience family-style dining for the first time.
Anyone who has followed our culinary adventures here knows that Adam is a hot wing connoisseur, but going back to the time when he was only a few years old, roasted chicken has always been one of his favorite meals. Even as his taste buds have evolved, he still enjoys a good chicken dinner.
We arrived a little after 5 p.m. and were told there would be about a 45-minute wait (we actually only waited about 25 minutes). We opted to spend some time walking around the gift shop, checking out all of the offerings.
Not only do they have a fudge shop, they also sell hot nuts and even sell bottles of Wright’s signature Italian dressing and their house-made marinara.
There are all kinds of toys, trinkets, clothing and more available as well in the 4,000-square foot space. I can’t remember the last time I ate at a restaurant that has a gift shop – probably the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, and before that, you’d have to go back to Bickford’s with its little toy selection at the register.
After exiting the gift shop, we sat down at one of the many tables in the lounge area designed for those waiting to be seated in the dining room. There’s a bar for those who want a drink while they wait, but I took the opportunity to introduce my recently-turned-18-year-old son to Keno. We played one game and I was pleased to see he’s just as disinterested in gambling as his old man.
Once we were called for our table, we were sat by a window in the first section of the dining room, but in total there are six dining rooms that all together seat 1,200 patrons at a time.
The Meal Arrives
Our server took our drink orders, dropped off a basket of warm rolls and butter, and then soon began bringing the food to our table.
First, it was a dish full of salad – your basic mix of chopped iceberg lettuce, carrots, purple kale and cherry tomatoes – topped with that signature Italian dressing that’s available in the gift shop. It’s the only dressing they offer, and it comes already on the salad, so keep that in mind.
Just a few moments later, she brought out the rest – big, thick french fries, pasta shells with marinara sauce, and Wright’s famous slow-roasted chicken, both white meat and dark.
The fries were well-seasoned, and the pasta was perfectly cooked. The marinara was tasty without becoming the dominant flavor in the meal.
The chicken was juicy and tender, and we tore through the platter leaving very little behind.
We were so full from the initial amount of food brought out that we didn’t ask for any more, but we could have had as much as we wanted.
All that was just $17 per person, a steal in today’s day and age, especially for an all-you-can-eat offering. Whether you visit Wright's or some of the few other remaining family-style restaurants, such as the Broaster House in Woonsocket, RI, give this type of dining experience a chance before it is gone forever.