Munch goes to Kelly O's

The first thing you'll notice about Kelly O's is the decor. Outside of the city's stadiums and the inside of Franco Harris' gym socks, this might be the most 'Burgh place there ever was. You'll be greeted by a life-size cutout of Jerome "The Bus" Bettis. Trade union seals adorn the Steelers gold walls along with metal siding -- the kind you find in machinery shops. Then there are the innumerable pictures -- here's the Kelly O's staff with Hillary Clinton. And here, again, Guy Fieri.

OK, there's more than one photo with Guy Fieri. Munch is no good at math, but it's safe to say there are at least a baker's dozen -- maybe two -- of Kelly O'Connor herself and the Kelly O's staff posing with Mr. Fieri.

If you don't know who Mr. Fieri is, you might assume that he is the co-owner of Kelly O's and start to feel terrible pity for the bleaching accident he suffered that left his hair that way. In fact, Mr. Fieri is the star of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," a Food Network show that champions the nation's greasy spoons. At least three places in Pittsburgh -- including Kelly O's location in Ross -- have been featured on the show.

Admittedly, Munch has mixed feelings about Mr. Fieri because he looks and dresses like a guy prone to get into a drunken bar fight on the South Side. Maybe its his off-color goatee or the fact that he wear sunglasses on the back of his head. (Does he have eyes back there?) But on the other hand, both Mr. Fieri and Munch have similar agendas: telling the world about the tucked-away diners, the mom-and-pop shops, the hole-in-the-walls that you might have otherwise missed. So for this piece, we'll put away our partisan (and aesthetic) differences and just say it: Kelly O's is delicious.

On a particularly rough morning after chasing pumpkin thieves (all three jack-o'-lanterns poached) and several beers with Jager shots, Munch and two sports writers -- Buffalo Friend of Munch and Singing Scribe of Munch, a Florida-based karaoke champion -- checked out Kelly O's in the Strip District. Like any good-to-its-soul diner, there was no host or waiting list. No, it merely relied on the honor of its hungry patrons to fill the tables as they were emptied to go in the order they arrived.

Our group snagged a table after about a 15-minute wait. The service was swift, friendly and totally nonjudgmental after our table of three ordered approximately a million calories' worth of grease-laden food. First up: a cup of the turkey pot pie soup ($3.99). It was all the best parts of a turkey pot pie, minus burning your fingers trying to coax it out of the microwave. It was a creamy, hearty delight topped with real crust, like a pot pie, but in a bowl.

We then split an order of haluski ($7.99), a far cry from the stuff Munch is used to from food festivals. Rough-cut cabbage was mixed with soft noodles and bacon and topped with cheese. "How could I dislike something with so much grease?" BFOM asked rhetorically.

Munch settled on the polenta with bolognese ($8.99), a gargantuan platter of ice-cream-scoop-size balls of polenta smothered in bolognese sauce. It was not as good as the haluski but still a fine dish, equal in its heartiness and meatiness.

BFOM put away a sausage omelet ($7.59) that came with a generous stuffing of spicy sausage and cheese. Feeling poetic, he described it in haiku: "Sausage hot, not sweet/Haluski help hangover/Day begins anew." SSFOM enjoyed the heck out of his steak omelet ($7.99), which he augmented with onions and green peppers at 50 cents a piece for a Philly cheesesteak wrapped in egg.

So much to Munch's chagrin, Munch gave Kelly O's a hearty thumbs up. If your stomach needs to be filled, this is the joint for you.

Kelly O's has two locations: 1130 Perry Highway, Ross, 412-364-0473 (6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily); and 100 24th St., Strip District, 412-232-EGGS (5 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily);


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