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Characters Welcome at Character's Cafe and Theater

By Jake Levin

With a unique menu and top notch service, the entire staff at Character's Café and Theater 82 takes great pride in what they do.

This attitude is reflected from management on down. Waitress Hailey Salemi implied that great service isn't mandatory; rather, it's simply provided because it is enjoyable for the staff to ensure a memorable visit for each and every customer to the Cranston, R.I. locale.

"We provide great service because we want to, not because we have to," Salemi said. "We love what we do and we keep loving it no matter what gets thrown at us."

The only nonprofit restaurant in Rhode Island, Character's Café is an extension of Artists' Exchange, another nonprofit visual and performing arts collaborative. That same group is responsible for the décor of Character's Café, with hand-painted furniture designed by the artists themselves.

Theater 82 contains 100 seats and runs a lively schedule including events such as stage productions, live music, comedy acts and more. Once a month, the theater is opened up to provide lunch for the homeless.

Dining options are courtesy of Chef Alex Caimano, the creator of a menu which is inspired by theater terms. He recommends the "Drama Queen" to any first-time visitor; the dish is comprised of homemade corn beef, hash and eggs and served with a choice of toast home fries or "whatever fixins' you'd like," according to Caimano.

Salemi said that Caimano is known as the "Hash Master," with intricacies such as chorizo hash and sweet potato hash among his specialties.

Salemi also described the atmosphere of Character's as artsy, with music always playing over the sound system. A live jazz trio is always on hand Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Fellow waitress Livi Yeaw described the restaurant as a family, where relationships are built between the customers, staff and each other.

"It's a home, as cliché as that is? Whereas a lot of little cafes and diners tend to be more corporate and cold, ours is family," Yeaw said.

"I'd like to convey how friendly we are, our staff is the best," Yeaw added. "Our staff is beyond welcoming. The atmosphere of the cafe is very warm. It's a very inviting place where you will always hear laughter, great music, and happy people."

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