From guest blogger Beauty & the Feast
As I glance from the trendily clad white-blond mannequin posing in the front window, to my waiter rushing past a diner-style order window with plates on both hands and skin-tight denim shorts painting his legs down to the calf, and finally back to the vibrant chili pepper salt and pepper shakers set before me, a single word fills my brain… saucy. Even in reflecting on my experiences with the restaurant later, saucy remains the only adjective to appropriately depict the place. Jauntily standing in the heart of downtown Dunedin, the name truly says it all; this is Kelly’s, For Just About… Anything!
Kelly’s; unique in that one could potentially land a full Saturday night escapade within her borders, consists of the actual restaurant, connecting to the Chic-a-Boom-Room Martini Bar & Lounge, with Blur Nightclub & Showbar finishing up the nightlife train. Needless to say, there’s always some sort of party hopping at Kelly’s. The vivacious drink list offered at any of the three venues features various imported premium and micro brews, along with some fun-loving selections on tap (from chocolate raspberry to dirty hoe to more traditional favorites like Guinness), a many many martinis, an award-winning wine list and a plethora of other specialties—margaritas, mudslides and mojitos, oh my! Once you’ve been sufficiently boozed with their daily happy hour, Kelly’s holds various entertainment events throughout the week, including Drag Queen Bingo, live music, trivia and karaoke.
Truth be told, considering all the extracurricular hoopla, I halfway braced myself for mediocre eats prior to ever stepping foot on the premises; however, a sidewalk crowded with hungry Sunday morning breakfast-goers would likely beg to differ. The breakfast menu consists of your classic morning fare such as omelettes and flapjacks, while the daily specials tend to better reflect Kelly’s signature flair. With an assortment of tempting twists on benedicts, quiches, French toast and beyond, I may very likely have taken a walk on the wild side, had I been given the option. Alas, I did not hear tell of such brunch exclusives from the neighboring server until after I placed an order. Pity.
The slightly lengthy wait for my meal given the packed house provided me with a chance to take in a few potentially calamitous issues present amongst the chaotic crowd. First was the dangerously tight walkway leading through the restaurant’s entryway, with an extremely narrow space separating kitchen from tables. A venture to the restroom is seemingly a train wreck in the making. Which brings me to point #2: this is obviously a popular eatery and yet, there is but one set of single-toilet restrooms in the restaurant. As I said, there’s not much room for a potty waiting line. Finally, my jovial salt and pepper shakers contained the incorrect seasonings; a small detail, but annoying all the same. Of course, by the time I began nit-picking the table accoutrements, a fine breakfast spread was laid before me.
The roast beef hash combination ($6.99) includes a generous portion of the hash, two eggs cooked to order, choice of potatoes or grits, and choice of pancakes or toast. Soaked in flavorful gravy, the roast beef hash is a fine ode to comfort classics. Though the typical rubber scramble you might expect from any Waffle House across America, the eggs make a pleasant addition tossed into the hash blend. I particularly enjoyed the two cushy pancakes spanning the size of my face, and would have enjoyed them even more had they come with warm maple syrup. Since pancakes do not require proper chilling before consumption, cold syrup is not a redeeming accessory. My cheddar grits arrived lukewarm and lumpy, but again, taken with a bite of hash, all was well.
Lunchtime proves significantly more placid at Kelly’s. Although plenty of seating stood available inside the vibrantly fabulous slapped diner, the spacious outdoor seating fringed with lush greenery and streaming sunshine appeared far too convivial to pass by. The open-air patio is far less apt to induce a claustrophobic fit and is equipped with a full bar and sound system. Despite the outdoor areas containing semi-obnoxious industrial fans, quite a few pesky flies insisted on attacking my lunch before I did. Much like the morning mix, the restaurant’s lunch selections boast nothing particularly distinguished with a range of sandwiches, soups, salads and snackers. For a perfectly satisfying, but not overtly weighty midday meal, the half club sandwich and soup combination ($7.49) is a recommendable pick. The house-made seafood chowder (which is an additional $1 charge on top of the typical soup-sandwich combo) certainly possesses character in its thick velvety base touched with a zesty spice blend and loaded with chunky vegetables and seafood bits. Kelly’s signature club is doubtlessly a well-constructed sandwich standard bearing thinly shaven turkey and ham, crisp bacon, three cheeses, lettuce, tomato and mayo double stacked on wheat bread. With it present as such a routine regular on the lunch menu, this sandwich could easily step to a higher level of enjoyment if erected on lightly toasted bread. The fresh coleslaw which accompanies a full club is a crisp relief from run-of-the mill, dressing-sodden slaws that many an eatery carelessly slop on your plate. Judging from the light brush on my club and the delicately-soaked slaw, Kelly’s apparently understands the magic of incorporating mayonnaise without creating a lard lake within one’s meal.
If you feel inclined to bypass the fork and knife into evening hours, numerous hot and hearty stacks beyond the realm of clubs earn a spot on both the lunch and dinner menus, such as a chili lime chicken ($7.99) and fresh grouper sandwiches ($9.49). The restaurant’s rendition of a “grown-up” grilled cheese, the grilled brie ($8.99), packs a powerful punch of richness not for the faint of stomach. A buttery crisp sourdough shell encapsulates a steaming lava-like center of gooey brie, whose creamy mild character serves to fully absorb aromatic roasted garlic, succulent tomato, and a heavy load of wilted spinach. This sandwich is by no means child’s play; and justifiably so, comes with a baby lettuce and diced tomato salad accented with tangy sweet dressing and fresh-cracked black pepper.
Though you wouldn’t foresee it based solely from a weeknight visit to Kelly’s, weekend dinner in this scene is an absolute madhouse. Personally having one of those days where sweatpants and junky television look insanely more appealing than brushing off the strange looks you receive in ordering enough food for three, I opted to sample Kelly’s dinner menu via Friday night take out. After a lengthy experience as a sardine packed in the establishment’s petite entry way, I finally received my food only to arrive home and discover that the boxes of now chilled chow were not what I had actually ordered. Each dish was indeed a close variation; but I later found that the online menu and paper to-go menus are not in sync with the updated dinner menu offered at table. Even if not exactly what I expected, I honestly can’t complain about the food itself. It twas excellent. Kelley’s dinner allows for a much looser flow of culinary creativity compared to breakfast and lunch.
Slices of Kaffir lime crusted tuna come delicately seared with a side of spicy house-made kimchi and black sesame sauce in the menu’s Ahi tuna appetizer ($12.99). A well designed plate, the flavorful rare tuna matched with a hot kick from vibrant crisp kimchi and cooled with the delectable sweet sesame sauce makes for an Asian-inspired bite of pure taste bud invigoration. I suppose now is as good a time as any to return to my previous point concerning Kelly’s sauciness. Yes, the place definitely asserts a bold demeanor; but on top of that, Kelly is affluent in rocking the sauces. Receiving an introduction with the lip-smacking roast beef hash gravy, reiteration through the skillful use of mayo, and ultimate confirmation in the sauces served alongside each of my dinner appetizers and entrée, I confidently attest that this kitchen has a way with condiments.
As is demonstrated with a taste of the grilled blue crab cake dipped in tasty jerk aioli, the crab cake small plate ($10.99) bears two cakes consisting primarily of tender lump crab meat interrupted occasionally with a pleasant crunch of red pepper, along with the tantalizing cinnamon-specked aioli and a tart cilantro green apple salad. While the apple salad provides a rather bright cleansing effect on the palate, it was overwhelmingly bitter for my own taste. Of course, delightfully crabby neighbors on the plate were more than enough to occupy my mouth sans said sour apples.
The entrée portion of the menu features an array of styles and tastes– from southern smoky sweet barbeque to daily fresh fish specials and a weekly prix-fixe 3-course vegetarian dinner ($19.99), served on Friday and Saturday. A new bite on old favorites, Kelly’s cinnamon Cajun-rubbed pork tenderloin ($16.99) includes a lovely arrangement of farm flavors with a sweet potato and green chili gratin and fresh green beans, accompanied by choice of soup or house salad. The evening’s soup, Manhattan chicken chowder was homey, but no souper hero. Cubed chicken, potatoes and a garden of other veggies afloat in the tomato broth was highly reminiscent of Campbell’s Chunky Chicken and Vegetable straight from the can.
Grandly crusted with tantalizing spices, the tenderloin is a smoky burst of full-bodied pork glory; and when dabbed with the robust cherry chipotle bbq sauce… oh buddy, look out. Although I enjoyed the slightly new south jive going on in the undeniably tasty gratin, the majority of the naturally sweet nuance present in earthy root vegetables is lost under the overpowering chili cheese zing. However, such cannot be said for the perfectly crisp green beans, as their light seasoning embolden the pure spirit of the bean, rather than mask an overcooked vegetable.
After placing my main order, I was positively fish-hooked upon receiving a pitch for Kelly’s cheesecake of the day ($5.49). The description seemingly extending for hours, this dessert boiled down to banana, chocolate, hazelnut liquor and Milky Way candy… in cheesecake form. Naturally, I expected nothing short of bliss. Sadly, I can deem the cake nothing more than good. The banana presence atop a weak chocolate cookie crust was nicely complimented with chopped macadamia nuts and a thin layer of caramel, yet the cheesecake overall purveyed a slightly off hint similar to Play-Doh. To be fair, the cream cheesecake was indeed creamy, and the garnish of fresh whipped cream and white chocolate twist were most excellent.
A proper survey of Kelly’s restaurant is far from complete without due observation of a downright fantastic staff. Consistently exemplifying genuine affability and an astute dedication to customers’ needs and maintaining cleanliness, the Kelly’s family is a delight to interact with. Despite the wide range of customers that walk through the eatery’s doors, servers preserve considerate ties with their patrons. Even amidst a brunch rush, I observed a server stop to greet a regular couple, ask how their diet is coming along, and thereafter aid the two in creating a completely custom meal to suit their needs. Such goes to show that from genial servitude to quality food, Kelly’s has got your back… for just about anything.
Kelly’s For Just About… Anything is located at 319-325 Main St. Dunedin, FL 34698