Kelley's Deli has a new home: after 14 years in downtown Westerly, the space was getting tight (lines out the door in the summer), the customers' hike to the restrooms in the historic multi-use building was circuitous (to the say the least), and regulars had been begging for years for Sunday hours. Now the chef (Kevin Kelley) has elbow room in the kitchen, diners have more tables and booths, and a regular Sunday breakfast crowd has already established itself.
The "Deli" part of Kelley's name refers to the restaurant's take-out and delivery business, from the extensive list of sandwiches, soups, salads, and breakfast specials. Locals and tourists such as ourselves (we do live 20 miles away, after all) are thrilled that Kelley's, as a hometown café, is alive and well and still turning out tasty Irish specialties, all-American sandwiches and salads, a few items with an out-of-New England twist, old-fashioned ham-and-egg breakfast plates, and new-fangled omelets, such as one with spinach, roasted peppers, feta, and kalamata olives.
Now here's what made Kelley's a notch above an ordinary diner the first time we visited. On that particular day, we were trying to keep a low profile on the carb side of our diet, and Bill could handily satisfy his appetite with a grilled chicken breast with jerk seasoning atop a tossed salad ($6.95). I ordered a California turkey wrap special ($6.95) with avocado, because I could pull away much of the wrap, and I could choose cottage cheese (the dieter's friend, or nightmare, depending) as my side dish (other options are French fries, macaroni salad, coleslaw, or chips).
On that first visit, we also tasted Kelley's Irish potato cakes, made from a recipe based on his grandmother's potato cakes (the low-carb idea went out the window). Though Kelley mashes the potatoes, there's still a bit of texture inside. He mixes them with just enough salt, pepper, and herbs so that it brings out the potato flavor, and he pan-fries them to a golden crispness.
Other Irish-themed offerings include eggs scrambled with corned beef, eggs with bangers (Irish-style steamed pork sausages imported from Brooklyn), and corned beef and melted cheese sandwiches. On our second visit, Bill chose one of the latter, though he went for the Reuben ($7.50), with corned beef, Swiss, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing.
He was quite pleased, commenting, "I can't imagine it better!" He could barely wrap his yap around the pile of corned beef, and he also noted the "great tang of caraway" in the rye bread. His "side" was also generous: macaroni salad with a dash of mustard in the mayo dressing.
We both started this meal with a cup of soup ($2.95). I had to try "Kelley's famous baked potato soup," and Bill got the Cajun chicken soup, so packed with shreds of chicken that it was hard to discern the black beans and corn in there. The broth was nice and tomatoey, but not overly fiery. My soup was topped with lots of cheddar, and was also delicious, with large chunks of baked potato.
After much indecision on my part over the sandwiches, our friendly waitress suggested that the raisin bread chicken salad melt ($6.99) was a customer favorite. The homemade chicken salad was good, and it was perked up by sundried cranberries and the raisins in the bread. It was nicely grilled before fresh baby greens were tucked inside. My side was creamy coleslaw, sparked with a bit of mustard.