Ah, the Irish. They’re known for many a good thing – the gift of gab, festive music, whiskey. But they’re not really known for their culinary prowess, save potatoes. But don’t tell the folks at Kelley’s Deli that. This unassuming but insanely popular family-owned diner located in a Westerly strip mall has been turning out sublime Irish breakfast and lunch dishes for almost 18 years.
I tend to judge the quality of an Irish restaurant on two things: the deliciousness of their corned beef hash and the quality of their Reubens. (Yes, Reubens are actually German, but an Irish place that doesn’t serve this classic sandwich is quite suspect to this second-generation Irish gal.) Corned beef hash should be crispy on the bottom (or top), tender elsewhere. It’s the ratio, though, of corned beef to potatoes to onions and peppers, where most restaurants get it wrong. The result is often a concoction that’s too heavy on potatoes and way too light on the salty, tender corned beef.
Kelley’s strikes that balance deliciously, refusing to skimp on the corned beef. It is tender-crisp in all the right places, and is featured in no fewer than a half-dozen breakfast items. We chose The Dubliner: two eggs, raisin bread French toast (raisin bread is a practical and tastier stand-in for Irish soda bread on Kelley’s menu), bangers and hash (which, mixed with jammy egg yolks, is heavenly), as well as the Cheddar Jack Stacker. Were I more adept at making hollandaise sauce, I would eat this every day of my life. Three scrambled eggs are piled on a hearty portion of hash, with hash brown patties, cheddar jack cheese, and toast, topped with a silky hollandaise. Holy Saint Patrick, it was delicious.
Kelley’s Reuben is a total classic. Grilled rye is topped with an inch-high stack of tender, juicy corned beef, melty swiss, kraut, and dressing. Reubens that annoy me aren’t warm all the way through. The bread and the corned beef may be, but the kraut might be cold, the cheese not completely melted, or the dressing not room temp when it’s slathered on. The result is an unpleasant temperature discombobulation. But Kelley’s gets this right, too. It’s crunchy and soft and warm in all the right places.
Kelley’s menu is expansive. Their classic Irish breakfasts (defined by the combination of eggs, potatoes, and lots of sausage and Irish bacon) include many hash and hollandaise selections, breakfast wraps and sandwiches, omelets, pancakes, and French toast. Lunch has a variety of sandwiches and wraps, hamburgers, and salads. And thanks to trendy items such as avocado and Sriracha incorporated into the menu, you don’t feel like you’re eating in a 1950s-style diner until it comes to the prices – most dishes are under $10. The result is that Kelley’s is especially popular on weekends (and yes, you might experience a so-worth-it wait).
Thanks to Kelley’s, I decided to add two more criteria when it comes to judging Irish restaurants. Do they have separate menu sections listing substantial “Potato Sides” and “Meat Sides”? Well Kelley’s does, which leaves these Irish eyes smiling.
Kelley’s Deli • 116 Granite Street, Westerly • 596-9896 • Tuesday-Saturday 7am-2pm, Sunday 7am-1pm