Mary Kathleen Kelley-Hammond never thought she’d run her own restaurant. Not that it wasn’t in her blood. In 1945, her grandparents assumed ownership of an old pub and renamed it Kelley’s Tavern, both to stake their claim and, presumably, to remember their own name in case another plague of amnesia swept through the United States of Something. Though the tavern stayed in the family for some time, it eventually closed its doors, becoming—ironically enough—an office for Alcoholics Anonymous.
Meanwhile, Mary Kathleen’s years passed by untouched by beer taps or commercial kitchens, at least until she married Dick Hammond, a chef and restaurateur trained at the famous Le Cordon Bleu in France. After successfully running an eatery under Hammond’s name, the couple founded Mary Kelley’s Restaurant & Pub—named for Mary Kathleen’s entrepreneurial grandma—in 1998, finally acquiescing to fate. The rest of the family soon gave in too. Today, Mary Kelley’s son greets restaurant guests, and her own granddaughters work on the wait staff, prepping hand-pattied turkey burgers and freshly broiled seafood from recipes that are, after all, encoded in their DNA.
A science lab calls to mind test tubes, bubbling flasks of chemicals, maniacally laughing men in white coats—but rarely ice cream. But that's exactly where Curt Jones, chairman and founder of Dippin' Dots, came upon the inspiration for the tiny flash-frozen beads of ice cream. A microbiologist, Jones spearheaded the flash-freezing process of cryogenic encapsulation, a method capable of trapping flavor and freshness.
Beginning as a retail shop in Lexington, Kentucky, the ice cream quickly began to quell the tantrums of Fortune 500 CEOs all over the country. Having won numerous awards since he created a new way to enjoy an old treat, Jones stays true to Dippin' Dots’ roots, making the ice cream at the company headquarters in Paducah, Kentucky. New additions to the Dippin' Dots family include Dots ‘n Cream, a treat similar to traditional ice cream.
Warm, natural woods, terra cotta, wrought-iron fixtures, and exposed ceiling beams lend the upscale eatery an Old World charm studded with pops of contemporary green chairs, red lamp shades, and ethereal purple lights glowing above the bar. Overlooking scenic Big Walnut Creek and its surrounding park, the dining room is a romantic and comfortable spot for first dates that's free of the stuffy atmosphere and snooty waiters commonly associated with date-night fare. For an even better view and more intimate outing, hit the outdoor patio, where a fire pit casts flattering light and warm fuzzies on couples, old friends, and former P.E. teachers.
Made with natural milk, minimal cream, and a whole lot less air than ice cream, the Italian-born gelato also boasts fewer calories and no artificial flavoring to get in the way of its smooth, rich flavor fireworks. Pino Gelato's 20 gelato genres include minty chocolate, coconut, Reese's & cream, rhum & caffe, tiramisu, stracciatella, Monica Bellucci, and more. Gelato grabbers can transport their treat by cup ($2.50 for 2 ounces, $5.95 for 8 ounces) or cone ($2.75 for kid size, $5.50 for waffle). And while filling your pockets with scoops of gelato is a fun way to ruin pants, the friendly staff will gladly provide storage for to-go gelato ($10.95 a pint, $16.95 a quart).
Whit's Frozen Custard whips up rich, velvety frozen concoctions using some of the finest cream, eggs, and toppings on the market. Prepared each and every morning with a virtually heir-less blend of fresh ingredients, Whit's custard-crafters top cake cones ($2.25/1 scoop, $3.25/2 scoops) and hand-dipped waffle cones ($3.25/1 scoop, $4.25/2 scoops) with vanilla and chocolate custards, as well as a special weekly flavor that keeps the bowties of salivating snowmen spinning. Whit's custom Whitsers ($3.50–$4.50) swirl house vanilla custard with a staggering array of syrups, candies, fruit, and nuts (one included, $.50 for each additional topping). Daring visitors can indulge in a crafted creation such as the Buckeye Madness ($3.50/small, $4.25/regular), which blends Reese's cups, chocolate syrup, and peanut butter for a taste-bud bull’s-eye.
The FoodSmiths Catering specializes in culinary services that span from drop-off lunches and carefully arranged platters to parties tended to by wait staffs and barmeisters. Hors d’oeuvres platters mollify mumbling digestive tracks with comestible classics like the smothered brie ($27), rich phyllo tartlets ($65), and chicken cordon bleu skewers ($97.50). Pack away lunch cravings into tasty boxed-salad samplings, such as the bistecca salad ($9.50/guest), a gorgonzola-crested wedge of iceberg lettuce caught in an avalanche of tomatoes, bacon, and parmesan dressing, or bread-bound hand weights like the traditional club sandwich with a deli side, chips, or pretzels and a cookie or brownie ($8.50 for half sandwich/guest, $10.50 for full sandwich), also known as the world’s most delicious blunt weapon. Guests can also quench parched tongues with a variety of made-from-scratch iced teas and lemonades, including basil and raspberry or strawberry citrus herb.