Syracuse, N.Y. — Chelsea’s Restaurant & Bar officially opens its doors Monday at lunchtime, 199 days after the last corned beef sandwich went out that same door when Kelley’s closed for good.
Kelley’s Bar & Restaurant shut down after 37 years when the coronavirus forced restaurants to stop serving food in-house. Jon Kelley decided then it was time to retire. Marty Richardson, a longtime restaurateur who owns Nestico’s…too! diner in Fairmount and a nearby coffee shop, bought it in July. She’s since been busy creating Chelsea’s.
She had the Tudor-style building repainted inside and out. She knocked down a wall to open up the first-floor bar area, hung new high-def TVs and strung lights from the ceiling.
The restaurant has maintained the atmosphere Kelley’s customers relished, but Marty added some touches that pay homage to the neighborhoods that surround the building at the corner of Velasko and McDonald roads. They include paintings by Kimmie Golden, the owner of Gossamer Designs, that represent each of those neighborhoods. She also painted a nearby zip code onto the trim that surrounds each barroom window.
She rehired nearly the entire Kelley’s staff, including Chef Terrence McRae.
The restaurant opens 11:30 a.m. Monday for lunch. They would’ve opened last week, but Terrence is getting married Saturday, and he didn’t want to leave Marty hanging on her first weekend.
He has spent several weeks developing the menu. About 95% of the food here is made in-house, mostly from fresh and local ingredients. That goes for the syrups used in the bar’s drinks.
Earlier this week, they put it to the test with small soft openings on Tuesday and Wednesday. After plating his final dessert Tuesday, Terrence walked into the bar and was greeted with a standing ovation from Marty, the bartenders and servers.
Here’s a look at some of the items on the menu:
The 12 beer taps feature some local brews, including Middle Ages’ Indulgence and an IPA from Meier’s Creek Brewing Co., the brewery that took over Empire in Cazenovia. It kept the Guinness tap and one for Labbatt Blue Light fans.
The staff came up with six fall specialty cocktails. The most popular drink on Tuesday appeared to be the Maple Bacon Manhattan ($10): Jim Beam maple bourbon and sweet vermouth garnished with a cherry, orange peel and a slice of bacon.
The Apple Martini ($10) also was just as appealing and tasty. It’s made with vodka, maple syrup, a splash of cider, sage leaves and an apple cinnamon garnish.
The staff reminded us that we had to have something to eat if we were going to drink at the bar while waiting for our table. It is, after all, state law during the pandemic.
The Duo of Dips & Chips ($9.99) is a plate full of freshly sliced fried potatoes between two dips. The spinach artichoke dip seems to be one of the favorites held over holdover from Kelley’s. The other was a smoked queso dip. That lasted all of 5 minutes.
This was plenty for our party of four to enjoy before heading to the upstairs dining room. Believe it or not, this app wasn’t overly salty.
Chicken wings top the appetizer menu. Aside from the normal Buffalo and garlic parmesan wings, Terrence added chipotle maple and Nashville flavors.
Other repeats from Kelley’s include the Utica Greens ($8.99) and the Soft Pretzels with the smoked queso and mustard sauce ($8.99).
Some new appetizers include Tempura Asparagus ($9.99), Shrimp & Grits ($12.99) and Crispy Crab Claw ($13.99).
Chelsea’s seems to put a lot of effort into the presentation of the food, right down to the cutting boards used to serve the Charcuterie ($14.99).
Marty bought 20 handmade cutting boards with the Chelsea’s logo burned into the righthand corner from Adam Van Hoose, the owner of Eastwood Woodworx. A couple of the cutting boards with the Chelsea’s logo sit behind the bar for slicing garnishes.
Chicken Riggies ($17.99) had always one of Terrence’s specialties at Kelley’s. Thankfully, they’re back. He’s tweaked his sauce and upped the appearance.
He uses chicken breast cooked with banana peppers, diced cherry peppers, a tomato cream sauce topped with asiago cheese and served with an inch-thick slice of garlic toast.
The entree menu included two steaks. The filet mignon ($24.99) comes with mashed sweet potatoes, hericot verts (thing French green beans) and bourbon maple bacon butter. The ribeye is dry-aged black angus served with roasted garlic butter and broccolini.
The Chicken Supreme ($17.99) is new to the dining room. The roasted fresh chicken comes with the spicy Utica greens with a 4-inch potato crisp in the center. This was filling, but it left plenty of room for dessert.
The Chef Scallops ($22.99) were among the favorite entrees from those at the soft openings, Marty said. They’re served with local ingredients.
The menu has four desserts, and Terrence makes them all. This week they were cr 1/4 u00e8me br 1/4 u00fblée, a seasonal New York-style cheesecake, a board filled with mini desserts and chocolate sauce.
We had La B 1/4 u00eate Noire ($7), also known as The Chocolate Beast. It’s a flourless chocolate torte with macerated strawberries, chocolate deco, whipped cream and raspberry puree.
To see the full menu, click here.
The restaurant: Chelsea’s Restaurant & Bar, 5076 Velasko Road, Syracuse. (315) 478-6773
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. 11:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday. Bar until last call.
Credit cards: Yes
Access to disabled: Yes
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