Not every dinner out needs to be a fine dining experience. Sometimes when I’m out with the family, there’s no time to get home and cook dinner, and the girls are clamoring from the backseat that they just want plain pasta (with butter and cheese of course – we are hardwired from birth to crave carbs and fats). Those are the nights I seek quick, easy family-friendly dining. Recently, we were flying kites in Independence Park on the north end of Thames Street in Bristol when the girls’ clamoring began. As S.S. Dion was directly across the street, we figured we’d give it a try. It was a beautiful night and the restaurant has a large outdoor seating area where the girls can look across the street at the boats in the sunset. Scenic distractions are always a bonus with that quick, easy family dinner.
As you would imagine with a name like S.S. Dion, the restaurant has a nautical theme: lots of dark wood with hints of wooden ship wheels, seashells and nautical charts. It was a pleasant environment sitting outside on the covered deck and it seemed as if every patron dining that night chose to sit outside as well. We were greeted and sat promptly, a high chair for my youngest set up right away. The waiters were definitely on the young side, and they were very helpful.
The menu is extensive. I’m never entirely sure how a place can execute that many menu items, from seafood to Italian-American dishes to steaks, but S.S. Dion isn’t afraid to tackle the daunting feat. As we were sitting “aboard” the S.S. Dion, naturally we started with clam chowder ($3.95) and lobster bisque ($6.95). The chowder was good, but the bisque was a bit on the thin side without much noticeable lobster.
We also ordered the requisite fried calamari appetizer ($8.50). It was a welcome plate of squid: good breading, well fried and lots of hot peppers (which are optional). With the calamari came our salads. All dinners have salad included. It was little more than some iceberg lettuce and a few slices of vegetables with your choice of dressings, so it’s kind of a negligible inclusion, but also somewhat of a staple at family restaurants.
For dinner I had the Swordfish ($21.95) prepared with the “Spa” seasoning, which consists of olive oil, herbs and lemon. It was a great big swordfish steak and was very well grilled and nicely seasoned, though there was a bit too much oil, a theme that carried over to pretty much every entrée, including our daughters’ two pasta dishes. They both had ziti with butter ($4.95), lots of butter.
My wife ordered the Chicken Mancini ($17.95), a boneless breast sautéed with sweet roasted peppers, prosciutto, cheddar cheese and wine. How could something with ham and cheese not have good flavor?
S.S. Dion has a full bar and the dark wood interior gives it that classic bar look and feel. In addition to a dozen of wines-by-the-glass choices the cocktail menu contained a number of martinis and cosmopolitans. They’re not exactly cutting edge cocktails, but there’s an array of chocolate and fruit flavors to keep mom or dad happy. The bar also offers eight different specialty coffee drinks for a good choice of caffeinated nightcaps.
Some places, like S.S. Dion, firmly remain a fixture in the community. It’s comforting to have these tried-and-true establishments to rely on, bringing local seafood and a family-friendly environment for us all to enjoy.