Kealy’s Kafe has been a local favorite in Janesville for many years. Situated at the top of the Memorial Bridge in the Mercyhealth Mall plaza, the eatery is well-known for its all-day breakfast. It also is often recognized as having one of the city’s best fish fries, so the owners are obviously doing something right.
Sunday morning breakfast can be a busy time to find a table, but we arrived at around 11 a.m. Although the place was packed, we were lucky enough to be seated right away.
Simply decorated, a local artist’s photographs adorn the restaurant’s creamy gold walls. About 10 booths and 10 tables fill the dining space, and modern pendant lights hang above each booth. We learned Kealy’s underwent an extensive remodeling about four years ago.
The booth was comfortable, and even though the restaurant was crowded and the staff was bustling, we were still able to talk at a comfortable level. We appreciated the muted volume and casual atmosphere.
A friendly server greeted us and took our drink orders. I’ll admit up front that I’m a coffee snob. I managed the nondescript cup ($1.89) because coffee goes well with sweets, which were on my radar because I had heard Kealy’s makes its own cinnamon bread. Also, I don’t think I could do breakfast without coffee.
Helene ordered a cold-brewed coffee ($2.59) which was much tastier. Cold-brewed coffee is steeped like tea, but instead of brewing it in hot water, cold water is used, and the brew is steeped for a minimum of 12 hours. One benefit is a less-acidic coffee.
Does a cinnamon roll qualify as an appetizer? For us, it did. Helene ordered one to share across the table so we wouldn’t spoil our appetites.
Made in-house, it wasn’t much of a beauty. But what it lacked in aesthetics it more than made up for in taste. Warm, bready and fragrant with cinnamon, the roll was served with a generous dollop of cream cheese frosting. More buttery than sugary, it quickly slid off the warm roll.
With autumn coming to a close, we considered some of Kealy’s seasonal specials.
The roasted maple sweet potato skillet ($8.99) sounded interesting. There also was the ubiquitous pumpkin spice, making its appearance on the menu in the form of French toast.
The latter sounded appealing, but I decided instead to try the homemade cinnamon roll French toast ($6). Served as a huge portion, it is the perfect treat when you crave a sweet breakfast. For protein, I needed a side of bacon ($2), which came nice and crispy.
Perusing the menu, Jennifer eyed the Kafe Skillet Korner section. She picked the garden skillet ($8.29), which proved to be a colorful plate of food.
The beautifully layered breakfast skillet arrived with broccoli, mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, tomato and two eggs cooked to order (Jennifer chose scrambled). The dish then was covered with shredded cheddar cheese and arranged on perfectly prepared hash browns. Her skillet also came with an order of homemade toast. The combination of flavors was impeccable.
For her main meal, Helene chose the half-plate biscuits and gravy ($4.49 half/$6.29 full). While not homemade biscuits (the description states Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits are used), the biscuit was huge with plenty of sausage gravy to make it a hearty breakfast.
Nikki decided to order off the lunch menu. It felt like a good day for comfort food, so she tried the hot-top meatloaf ($7.99). Served open-face, the meatloaf was cut into thick slabs and had a wonderfully crusty edge, as if it had been tossed for a minute on the grill. It was delicious.
The dish came on a slice of white bread with a side of mashed potatoes and some stuffing, all covered with rich, brown gravy. The only thing missing was a vegetable, but we discovered later that one of the lunch side orders is a vegetable of the day ($1.79).
It wasn’t hard to see why Kealy’s Kafe is a hometown favorite, with friendly service and great homemade food. I plan to return and try its famed fish fry.
The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.