Good food, service a long, Irish, tradition at Kelly's Diner

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PITTSFIELD — Located in the Allendale neighborhood of Pittsfield, Kelly's Diner, owned by the Kelly family since 1963, has been serving food since the 1930s. Present owner Dan Kelly recalls hearing about his grandfather's excitement about purchasing the property in 1963 due to Pittsfield's bustling transportation scene at the time. "When he opened it, there was so much trucking and commerce going on, and everything was booming, I was told that he threw the keys away! In other words, it was never gonna close."

John Kelly owned the diner for seven years before his death in 1970. After that, ownership went to Dan's uncle until the late 1970s, when Dan's parents, James and Dot Kelly, who also owned Brody Mountain in New Ashford, took over the diner. In 2000, Dan Kelly bought out his parents and has been the owner of the diner since, marking 20 years and the third generation of family ownership.

Since the early days of the business, the diner has experienced changes, but throughout has maintained a loyal customer base. "A lot of our customers are retirees. That's the support. We're grateful for the regulars who have been supporting the diner all these years, some of them for their whole lives," Kelly said.

Kelly's breakfast menu features traditional American diner favorites, such as a three-egg omelet and nine different styles ($6.50 to $8.95), corn beef hash with two eggs ($9.95), steak and eggs with home fries ($12.50), and the ever-popular over-sized buttermilk pancakes (3 for $6.95). Kelly recommends customers start with the short stack of pancakes (2 for $5.50) as they'll probably get their fill on one or two of them.

While Kelly describes breakfast as the backbone of the business, the lunch menu has evolved over the years, with Kelly focusing on homemade specials, which he refers to as "grandma recipes," such as shepherd's pie, meatloaf and stuffed cabbage, to feature on the daily lunch specials.

Popular lunch dishes include the turkey Reuben, French dip, chicken Parmesan with spaghetti, or if you want to go into the weekly menu: roast turkey day on Tuesday, meatloaf day on Wednesday, Friday is fish day featuring a potato-crust cod. "We try to get [customers] the best bang for their buck," Kelly said.

When Kelly thinks about success and perseverance, he said he thinks about his grandfather, John Kelly, who was an orphan at age 2 and grew up to run several successful businesses in Berkshire County. Kelly shared a Berkshire Eagle article from 1963, "How to Succeed by Actually Trying." The article stated his grandfather went into a new venture without fear because he made sure to "surround himself with loyal people, skilled in the field." It's also true for this third generation of ownership.

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Most of Kelly's team, a big part of what he says has made the diner successful, have worked at the diner for 10 years or more, with his managers working at the diner for several decades.

"The staff at the diner has been fabulous," he said. "God has blessed me with a wonderful staff."

While Kelly displays Irish-American pride through the decor — from the forest-green exterior to the shamrocks and leprechaun on the menu — St. Patrick Day traditions are more profound for Kelly. Well, Kelly said with a laugh "with a name like Kelly, obviously on Saint Patrick's Day, it's going to be the Irish, you know?" Kelly has fond memories of his family's week-long tradition of entertainment and celebration at Brody Mountain, suggesting that those events helped set the tone for how people in Berkshire County celebrated St. Patricks' Day.

"It's been a family thing since I was young, celebrating St. Patrick's Day at the ski area. My dad would dig a big slush pond and turn it green and make green snow," Kelly said. "It would just be a festival; for a whole week, it would be non-stop activities and fun times. Everything you could think of from the torchlight skiing at night to the bands brought right over from Ireland."

Today, Kelly's Diner gives the nod to St Patrick's Day by offering their traditional corned beef and cabbage, which has been offered since the diner's been in business, Kelly said.

Kelly said he uses the best Old Neighborhood corned beef that he can get. and that offering the iconic dish isn't about turning profits. "It's about keeping the tradition and keeping the customers happy," Kelly said. "So, we'll celebrate with a corned beef and cabbage meal, and sometimes we have a leprechaun come in and do a little jig around the diner." Kelly hadn't heard if that was confirmed yet, but in past years, the leprechaun has also stood on the side of the road by the diner, waving to people.

When reflecting on his goal for diner, Kelly turns to his faith for inspiration. "I just want it to be a light for God's love at that diner, for Berkshire County and beyond, and just want to do good with the diner and, hopefully, we can present a good, loving image to the county and be a good light for God, that's all," Kelly said. "That's why I feel as though he's blessed me. I want to try to do something back."


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