Kelly’s Bar and Lounge

By | January 31, 2006

Kelly’s Bar and Lounge
6012 Penn Circle South
East Liberty 15206
M-Sat: 5pm-Midnight

Kelly’s is an old diner gone dive bar, retaining its deco bar and checkerboard floor – just with darker lighting and Santeria candles at every table. It is a pretty neat little place where you can usually get a table (that is, if you arrive before ~10), and where the beer selection is pretty darn good (even for being around the corner from the Sharp Edge). But what I am going to tell you is a story about is the unusual bar food selection.

The menu is small and never changes. It kind of focuses on the regular things – fries, sandwiches, salads – but there is a propensity for the menu to tweak the usual suspects a little bit. Fishy type things are on the menu in a couple of ways, most notably the Shrimp Po’Boy (a po’boy is just a term for a sub sandwich that is used along the Gulf Coast, and it usually has some kind of seafood in it). They do serve ‘regular’ fries, but they also have a sweet potato fry that comes with a special dipping sauce. The sweet potato fries are more like giant planks, and I don’t think the sauce adds anything special, but they are sweet potato-y which is nice. However, these aren’t always consistent, as sometimes the planks are a little underdone or are just too dry. If you want something without any flair, get the burger, which is gigantic and juicy, and is a sure winner every time.

For me, the real feature presentation is the Macaroni ‘N’ Cheese. You can get a small or a large size, and it is creamy, bubbly, and has a nice browned crumb topping. Splash some Frank’s Red Hot in there and you are really talkin’! Of course, it takes FOREVER for it to come to your table. Literally, don’t be surprised to wait 45 minutes. My personal theory is that they take it right out of the deep freezer, stick it in the oven, and it just takes that long to get up to temperature. Nevertheless, if you are hungry when you come in, I recommend getting anything but the macaroni and cheese, because your stomach will be whimpering with hunger pains by the time it arrives.

Now, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad if the waitress came by occasionally and assuaged your worry about how long it is taking. This is customary treatment in most restaurants, but Kelly’s completely forgoes such niceties. In fact, the wait staff here could win a prize for “Best Able To Ignore Customers Who Are Waving Right At You In Desperation While You Pretend To Look Around The Room”. Seriously – it is next to impossible to get their attention. I have been to Kelly’s more than two dozen times and this fact has never changed. I’ve considered the possibility that I’m just not on the ins, or that they don’t like redheads, but I have heard that same story from other frequent visitors. The waitresses and bartenders are acutally way rad when you are talking to them, so I think it’s just part of a cool but aloof shtick. To be fair, I might develop the same shtick if all people ever asked me was “where the *&%# is my mac n cheese”.

Nonetheless, it is a pretty annoying shtick, especially when what you need is a beer. Regardless, the mac ‘n’ cheese is usually worth waiting for, though I have had it be too salty a couple of times. They also sometimes run out, so they might not have it if you go really late. As for the long wait, you could try ordering fries or a salad as a starter, to fill up in the mean time. There are definitely ways to work around it. They also have some pretty hot DJ’s on Thursdays and weekends, and when there isn’t a DJ the jukebox plays punk, rockabilly, and lounge, which pleases the crowd plenty. Ultimately, as a dive bar this place is A+, for the atmosphere and the beer selection. As a restaurant, more like a C, for the inconsistency and the pitiful service. But after all, these are the very same things that make a dive bar so deliciously divey! What should you take away from all this? Kelly’s is a dive that happens to have an exceptional menu – not a restaurant with a dive theme.

Macaroni and Cheese

There is a Tiki themed outdoor seating area in the back that is really wonderful in the summer (despite a train or two that might pass by). The furniture out there is really cool and retro, and I think you actually get better service back there. Just walk back and seat yourself!

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