There are only two words that you really need to know when you talk about Kelly D's Sports Bar & Grill: Reuben sandwich.
It's doubtful that you'll find a better one than is served in Kelly Davidson's southside Bend bar and grill. I love this sandwich. I ordered it on my second visit, and I don't know why I order anything else.
Picture two thick slices of marbled rye that measure a full 5-by-7-inches — or about the size of the photo of your spouse that you keep on your office desk.
Buttered and grilled, it's too big to hold in your hands unless you want to see it fall apart, even though it's sliced in two. Plan to use a fork and knife for this one.
At first, I didn't follow my own advice. The sandwich is layered an inch and a half thick with fresh (real) corned beef, sweet sauerkraut and a tangy Russian dressing.
The meat and kraut dripped out the sides and over my fingers. Swiss cheese, melted on top, oozed between the slices of grilled rye. I gave up and grabbed my silverware. I was in high-cholesterol heaven.
I wound up taking half of it home, to share for another lunch.
My server could not have been more helpful. The Reuben was the first thing she had recommended when I sat at the bar. She immediately brought me a menu and a drink, turned my order around in a matter of minutes, and personally boxed the sandwich before I left.
I got no fries with my sandwich. They aren't on the menu. Instead, I ordered the potato salad, whose chunky spuds, chives and crunchy celery are mixed in mayo-mustard dressing, creamy and just a little bit spicy.
Easy to be green
It's the Reuben that will keep me coming back to Kelly's, as honest an Irish bar as one might find in Central Oregon.
With the weekend of St. Patrick's Day upon us, I can think of no better place to celebrate the wearin' o' the green than here, a half block east of Third Street in the Cleveland Square complex.
Kelly's is doing its part, serving up hefty helpings of corned beef and cabbage along with other regular menu items, such as shepherd's pie and Irish stew. Davidson also promises green beer (a necessary evil, according to some) and plenty of live music all weekend long.
Green, outside of beer, is something the lounge displays all year round. University of Oregon mascot Donald the duck — this is a sports bar, after all — maintains a ubiquitous presence.
It seems that almost every square inch of its Kelly-green walls is covered with sports memorabilia. There are autographed pictures, multiple sport jerseys and golf-course panoramas (more green, of course), and lots of vintage memories of the New York Yankees. A half-dozen flat-screen televisions are continuously tuned to live sporting events.
A spacious events room adjoins the bar. On Tuesdays, it fills with a local ukulele club. One of my visits was on this night; the crowds negatively affected service on that evening, but at other times, I found the staff prompt, friendly and efficient.
My regular dining companion joined me at Kelly's on the Tuesday night. It was not the bar's shining moment.
The best thing about our meal was a generous shrimp cocktail, which we shared. A lavish amount of tiny bay shrimp were blended with finely chopped celery and a mildly spicy cocktail sauce, and scooped into a deep glass with an accompanying wedge of lemon.
I would have preferred the sauce on the side, as it truly eclipsed the flavor of the seafood. But I could not complain about the size of the portion.
Each of our entrees came with a salad — a house salad for me, a small Caesar for my companion. Both were satisfactory. My mixed field greens were tossed with bits of carrot, cucumber, tomato and red onion, with a cup of honey-mustard dressing served on the side. My friend's Caesar featured finely chopped romaine lettuce and a house dressing.
My companion opted for the 12-ounce New York steak. It would have been a real bargain at $12.95, had she not been forced to slice off about 6 ounces of fat.
She ordered the steak to be cooked rare. It was presented medium rare but did retain its juiciness. The promised baked potato had been replaced by a pair of small, boiled red potatoes.
Seeking to capture Kelly's Irish ambience, I ordered a shepherd's pie as my entree. Again, the portion was generous, but I was not impressed by the quality of the food.
A proper Irish shepherd's pie uses lamb and is baked. This lacked both elements. Instead, as near as I could tell, ground beef was sauteed with frozen peas, carrots and corn, scooped onto a plate and ladled over with house-made mashed potatoes. It was intended as comfort food, I'm sure, but I wasn't comfortable.
On a previous midday visit, I had tried Kelly's Irish stew. In a word, it was boring.
Chunks of sirloin were served in a beefy broth with carrots, potatoes and onions. I don't know what I was expecting — something with a little more adventurous seasoning, perhaps — but this wasn't it. And the two accompanying half-slices of garlic bread didn't contribute much.
When we ordered our dinner, we told our server that we would want to take out a Reuben to bring home to my friend's teen-age son. She assured us that we needn't order it ahead of time, that it would be prepared “in no time" when we were ready to leave.
It wasn't. We ordered again and waited 40 minutes after paying our bill. We finally asked the line cook what had happened to it, and he couldn't find the slip. The staff blamed the “unexpected" crowd for weekly ukulele night.
But the story had a happy ending: Said teen-ager loved the Reuben.