A salute to Kelly’s

Kelly Bauer never expected to run a full-scale restaurant, let alone one of the best in Enumclaw.

If you ask Kelly Bauer where she came from or where she was raised, you’ll receive a playful little smirk, indicating the question is rather meaningless. I’ve encountered that expression before, usually from military families, but it was different with Kelly. Her father was a trouble-shooting exec with Ford Motor Company and every two or three years the family moved all over the country. Nevertheless, in 1992 they paused long enough for her to graduate from high school in New Jersey.

Finally, they found themselves in Tennessee and shortly thereafter her parents retired and moved to Seattle, leaving Kelly behind to pursue her own life. Three or four years later, she came out here to visit them and fell in love with our mossy corner of the world and her future husband. She married Donn Bauer in 2008.

Strange enough, she’d never had any experience with the restaurant business. Indeed, she’s never even worked as a waitress. And yet, she and Donn currently operate Kelly’s Restaurant in that large brick building on Cole Street across the Chamber of Commerce and Arts Alive! (I can’t find anyone who remembers, with certainly, what used to be in that building.)

When they first opened the place in August 2014, it was nothing more than a coffee-shop with an espresso machine and a few pastries. Joe Thaler and I used to sit in the large, front windows, sip our lattes, and gaze upon Enumclaw’s passing parade, while wondering what-the-hell we were doing there. From such humbled beginnings the place gradually evolved into the restaurant they have today, even though Kelly claims she never really planned to have such an extensive operation.

The lounge opened a year ago and it’s a fine, comfortable little alcove with living-room sofas and easy-chairs. Just kick back with a drink, quiet conversation, and sink into the soft surroundings. Furthermore, I’m happy to report, the bartenders are quite skilled.

Owing to the sparkling glasses, polished wooden tables, and white china, the restaurant itself looks very attractive, refined, and even rather formal, though that certainly isn’t meant to imply a stuffy, condescending atmosphere. There’s a small stage where regional, usually single musicians perform on Friday and Saturday nights. They offer all kinds of music, including Blue Grass and jazz and everything in between. (Needless to say, it’s damned unusual to find jazz music in Enumclaw.) But rest assured, the sounds are quite calm and harmonious and mellow so they don’t interfere with conversation.

On one particular evening I enjoyed the pan seared salmon served on an absolutely delicious bed of corn and squash succotash. My lady-love had the filet mignon with vegetables and mash potatoes. Though I occasionally eat red meat, it isn’t my preferred cuisine so I’m not especially qualified to evaluate her entrée, however — for what it’s worth — the sample she gave me was one of the finest steaks I’ve ever tasted. My compliments to the chef, Dennis Barnes.

Kelly’s is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and weekends until 10 p.m. or later, depending on the crowd. It’s an excellent place to share a splendid meal or a warm drink on a cold, winter evening with that special someone you’re trying to impress.

Cheers!

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