I hate to admit that I knew absolutely nothing about this restaurant. I actually found it quite by accident. I intended to review another establishment, but when I got to the site, found it no longer there and a “Kelly’s Tavern” under construction. A few days later, while once again looking for another place, I found a Kelly’s in Newport News. My husband and I decided to go there instead. I’m glad that we did.
Located in the upscale Port Warwick section of Newport News, off Jefferson Avenue, “Kelly’s Tavern” is a totally charming restaurant, both inside and out. The well-constructed brick building has a wonderful corner location, making it easy to access as well as to look at.
The inside of the restaurant is absolutely delightful. It is divided into three sections: A homey, comfortable dining section, a bright and casual patio section, and a piece of old world charm in the bar. A hostess greeted us immediately upon our arrival. She welcomed us with a warm smile and asked our preference for seating. We opted for a booth in the cozy dining section, settling into an astonishing wood and tapestry booth that appeared to be the perfect English walnut. It was beyond lovely, extremely comfortable, and totally relaxing.
Our waitress arrived promptly, introduced herself as Christina, and delivered yet another amazingly warm smile. She handed us our menus, asked if we had dined with them before, and offered to answer our questions when she discovered it was our first time in the establishment. She answered all of our inquiries with utter charm and took our drink orders while we poured over the menu, which was wonderfully varied.
My husband headed directly toward the Rueben Sandwich, which is his favorite. He chose the classic home cut fries to go with his meal choice. I opted for the soup and salad, which looked amazingly delicious. I chose the French Onion soup, knowing that if they made that dish well, they definitely “had it going on.” I’m very picky when it comes to my soup.
As we waited for our meals, we soaked up the enchanting atmosphere of the restaurant. I was intrigued by everything about it. The beautiful bar area had the most intricate ceiling tiles which perfectly aligned to form a gorgeous embossed pattern that added more ambience to an already engaging “old world feel” bar.
The dining area, which consisted primarily of the striking booths, also featured Tiffany style subdued overhead lighting and antique looking ceiling fans. I fell in love with the somewhat abstract and imaginative shamrock wallpaper, which add warmth to the room.
The patio consisted of a handsome open work of wooden beams matched with tables and chairs that could be arranged in different sizes and shapes in order to accommodate larger groups and parties. The lighting, which was predominantly natural, made the area both bright and cheerful.
Our meal arrived within a reasonable amount of time. I will admit to being stunned by the presentation of the food. It was as visually appealing as the pictures in the menu and that is something you rarely see.
My soup was piping hot with a perfect coating of slightly golden amber cheese on top. I cautioned my husband not to tell our daughter how good Kelly’s French Onion Soup is because I’m selfish enough to want her to continue to believe that mom makes the best. The truth was, however, that Kelly’s soup was delectable.
My salad, which was perfectly chilled, was brought in a large and easy to access bowl which was decorated with perfect parsley flakes, inside and out. It was as fresh as if it had just been picked from the garden and beautifully prepared. The Ranch dressing was the best I’d ever tasted.
My husband reported that his sandwich was “the perfect temperature.” Although he wasn’t as fond of the texture of Kelly’s corned beef in relation to that of other restaurants he’d tried, it is important to note that my husband is a connoisseur of reuben sandwiches, making him hard to please. On the other hand, I – – like him – – pronounced the fries almost as good as my own.
Our waitress was attentive throughout our meal and brought our check promptly once we were finished. All in all, the visit was once of the best we’ve had since our return to the Virginia Peninsula three years ago.
I did a little research on “Kelly’s Tavern” once we returned home. It appears that the restaurant first opened its doors on Colley Avenue in the Hampton Roads area in 1983. Since I lived in Hampton Roads at the time, I can’t imagine how I missed this wonderful place. My only excuse is that I rarely traveled to that side of the water.
Since their initial opening, Kelly has grown to become a local favorite across Hampton Roads. It now has ten locations in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Suffolk, and Newport News. It’s newest site – – in Hampton – – took over the old “Grate Steak” location off Mercury Blvd., near what will soon be the Peninsula’s newest town center.
Known for is burgers, outdoor dining and excellent casual fare; Kelly’s has won a variety of community awards including:
Best Burger in Hampton Roads for 13 consecutive years;
Best Casual Dining;
Best Local’s Place;
Best Outdoor Dining; and
Best Restaurant for Lunch.
According to the Kelly’s site, they embrace certain principles, which include a “commitment to the highest quality, freshest ingredients.” They ensure that meals are “made to order every time and promise “a continual attention to detail.”
Here is a cross section of their menu:
Appetizers, ranging in price from $6.99 to $10.49, include:
Cajun Tuna Bites,
Hot Crab Dip,
Loaded Potato Skins,
Calamari, and a
Soups, ranging in price from $3.49 to $5.79, include cups or bowls of:
Red or White Chili, and the
Soup of the Day.
Salads, ranging in price from $5.79 to $10.79, include:
Chicken or Steak Cowboy Salad,
Oriental Mandarin Salad,
Buffalo Chicken Salad,
Chicken Salad Cold Plate,
Chicken Spinach Salad, and a
Soup and Salad Combo.
Specialty Sandwiches, ranging in price from $7.79 to $9.49, include:
Phillip Chicken or Tuna,
Chicken Caesar Wrap,
Chicken Fajita Wrap,
Steak and Cheese Sub,
Artichoke Turkey Sandwich,
Kelly’s Crab Cake,
Smoked Andouille Sausage,
Asiago Tuna Melt,
Chicken Salad Club,
Crab Cake Rueben, and
Cup of Soup and Half Sandwich Combo.
Burgers & Chicken, ranging in price from $6.99 to $10.99, include:
Kelly’s Tavern Original,
Bacon & Cheese,
Black n’ Bleu,
St. Patty Melt,
Mushroom & Swiss,
Honey Habanero Burger,
Cordon Bleu, and
All-American Cookout Combo.
Hot Dogs, ranging in price from $7.99 to $8.99, include:
All American Dogs,
Chili Dogs, and
Pasta, ranging in price from $13.99 to $15.49, includes:
South by Southwest Pasta,
Chipolte Chicken Fettuccine, and
Fajitas, Steaks & Seafood, ranging in price from $13.99 to $19.99, include:
Sizzling Chicken or Steak Fajitas,
10 oz Prime Sirloin,
Center Cut Top Sirloin,
12 oz New York Strip,
Steak and Seafood Platter,
Crab Cake Platter,
Fish ‘n Chips, and a
Desserts, ranging in price from $4.99 to $5.29, include:
New York Cheesecake,
Pecan Bourbon Pie,
Caramel-Cinnamon Cheesecake, and
Kelly’s Irish Bash.
The Red Hat Society was having a luncheon on the patio while we were there. The ladies were extremely happy with their meals. I heard comments of “delicious,” “outstanding,” “amazing service,” “fun,” and much more. I couldn’t agree more!
At Kelly’s you can eat in or take out. They offer curbside service for to-go items. They accept most standard credit cards. They also offer gift cards in any denomination and “Kelly’s Tavern” t-shirts, which are available at all locations.
Because Kelly’s is a locally owned chain of restaurants, the management and staff takes their community stewardship very seriously. They support local youth organizations, animal adoption agencies, and local food banks. More than that, however, Kelly’s also donates to “Operation Smile,” a worldwide organization dedicated to helping children with facial deformities all over the world.
I hope to frequent this restaurant a lot. I love the food, the atmosphere, the service, and the way that the company gives back to its community. What more can you ask. I give this place a solid four and one-half out of five stars.