By Sheridan Cyr
The tiny, hole-in-the-wall diner, Captain Al’s Kitchen, brings home-style comfort to breakfast and lunch. Located at 1003 East St. in New Britain, the restaurant has seen several owners over the years, but has stayed true to their heart: serving delicious food to patrons and keeping them coming back.
Current owner Penny Salerno described the Kitchen as “the place where everyone knows you by name.” When guests leave, they hear a personalized goodbye. Regulars are plentiful, and newcomers are always more than welcomed.
The classic breakfast fare is nothing too out of the ordinary, but the chefs behind the counter know how to make every bite feel like home. They serve all of the favorites: all sorts of pancakes, dozens of omelettes, eggs any way you’d like, assorted fruits, bagels, breads, pastries, bacon, sausage and continuous freshly brewed coffee to top it all off. They also serve lunch starting at 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday with several burgers, sandwiches, salads, soups and assorted sides.
A favorite dish of the restaurant is the Firefighter Special. It consists of three eggs cooked to your preferred style, served with choice of pancakes or french toast, choice of bacon or sausage or ham, choice of home fries or hashbrowns, and endless coffee, all for just $8.95.
The interior itself is a tribute to firefighters around Connecticut. Official patches from firehouses in New Britain, Vernon, Rocky Hill, Chester, Southington and so on decorate nearly every inch of the walls, along with giant flags, framed photographs, articles, firefighter hats and other equipment. Also, ask one of the servers for the daily trivia question that hangs on a clipboard by the kitchen.
Service at the Kitchen is pristine. The waitresses keep a close eye on guests, always making sure that they are content and happy. You will never reach the bottom of your coffee without someone coming over to replenish your cup, guaranteed. And if your particular server is tied up, another will be over to check on you.
During my own experience at the Kitchen, Salerno came over to me to make sure everything was alright, noticing that I hadn’t started on my eggs yet, concerned that they were getting cold. I assured her that I was simply taking it slow.
One Newington resident and student at Central Connecticut State University, Miranda Gallagher, is somewhat of a regular and firefighter herself. Gallagher described her experiences at the Kitchen.
“I finished the firefighter special once and my server came up to me and rang a little firetruck toy siren thing in my face,” Gallagher recalled that moment with a laugh. “Laura Cardoso – love her, best ever! She makes the place so happy and welcoming.”
Captain Al’s is a neighborhood staple. Salerno explained that guests come from neighboring towns regularly. Lots of firefighters come by for the firefighter discount. There is a discount for seniors, as well. The Kitchen sees many college students, as Central and many of the housing complexes are view-able distance from the parking lot.
The restaurant is open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Call (860) 224-7018 for more information.