Food and the holidays go hand-in-hand.
Across Rhode Island, families are planning Christmas dinners centered on staples such as turkey and ham – or, in the case of many local residents of Italian heritage, feasts filled with seafood.
Area restaurants, too, have begun making preparations for Christmas and New Year’s culinary needs – and they’re ready to serve members of the community looking for additional, or alternative, dining options in the days ahead.
In many cases, holiday meals at local restaurants bring together staff and the regular customers they consider a part of their extended family. That’s true at M&M’s Diner and Pizzeria, located at 1031 Plainfield St. in Johnston, where breakfast will be a big draw on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Marios Kirios, the diner’s owner, said M&M’s will be open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on both holidays. It similarly opened on Thanksgiving, with 78 turkeys cooked to fill the appetites of a steady stream of customers – many of whom worked that day or had no other plans.
“This is where we have our holiday dinners and stuff, me and my family,” he said. “Everybody is welcome to come, everybody knows that. We’re having an employee Christmas party, but I’ve invited already 20, 30 customers because they’re part of the family, basically.”
The upcoming holiday breakfast hours will feature a menu that includes banana French toast – a “big seller,” Kirios said – and the everyday special of three eggs and toast for $1.49.
“Can’t beat that,” he added.
The diner’s focus on family extends to its staff.
“[Family] keeps us going,” Kirios said. “Our waitresses, some waitresses have been here 20, 30 years. We have one girl who, her mom worked for my father for about 35 years. She’s been working for us since she was 15. She’s now 38, never had a job anywhere else, and her son is starting to work with us this coming summer. So it’s three generations of the family working with us. You’ve got to treat people good. They take care of your business for you. Obviously, we’re here every day.”
At Han Palace, located at 2470 West Shore Road in Warwick, the Christmas tree has been up since Thanksgiving – a tradition that co-owner and manager Keith Lau said has been ongoing for 30 years.
The holidays are “always busy” at Han Palace, Lau said, noting that “a lot of families are too busy to prepare for Christmas dinner” and enjoy having a stress-free alternative. Like M&M’s, he said the restaurant has a strong base of regular customers.
“We are going to be closing on Christmas Day even though a lot of people have been asking if we are going to be open,” he said. “We close that day because we want to spend time with our families. New Year’s Eve is the most craziest day of the year. The Han Palace regulars have made coming here to eat as their tradition even when it’s extremely busy here. Christmas is a special holiday for us. It should be for everybody.”
Judy Chin, owner of Jade Dragon at 1982 Warwick Ave. in Warwick, said New Year’s Eve is the “biggest day of the year” for her business as well. New Year’s Day is a bit slower, she said – but it will be busier this year than a typical Wednesday. The restaurant will be open Christmas Eve but closed on Christmas Day.
Chin said her establishment also has a loyal, regular base of customers – and many have much larger orders during the holiday season as family members and friends come to visit.
“The orders are exceptional, much bigger,” she said.
Jade Dragon is decorated for the season, providing what Chin described as a “festive atmosphere.” Many customers contribute to that spirit, dressing up for the season during their visits.
“It’s a neighborhood place,” she said. “People walk in here and they know everybody.”