Plenty of restaurants put up Christmas trees this time of year.
Tom Kelly’s in New Lenox is the only place I have seen to put that Christmas tree above the bar.
I guess you have to have a uniquely shaped building to pull off that feat, but it was definitely something I noticed soon after walking into the well-lit open room with the centerpiece of a huge bar and family-style tables around the exterior.
For starters, the building looks like a house, or maybe an office building/train station. And it’s open, bright and welcoming on the inside.
They’ve got a ton of unique beers on tap and, on one wall, a huge display case of taps that used to be used about a sign that reads “There are no strangers here, only friends you have not met.”
Opening up the menu, it didn’t take me long to decide what to order. The beer menu, however, was more difficult.
I’ve had reubens. I’ve seen and eaten reuben rolls.
But I had never had a reuben burger. So I had to try that, with sweet potato fries.
As for the beer, I wasn’t ready to fully commit yet. So I tried the flight sampler with four 5.5-ounce choices.
The beer menu changes quickly and the Bent River Jingle Java was out, so I went in a different direction with Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion, Three Floyds Alpha King, Founders Backwoods Bastard and the Brickstone American Pale Ale.
The Backwoods Bastard, a Scotch ale that’s been barrel-aged and pours brown with a bourbon aroma, was definitely the prize of that foursome, but I knew that going in and saved it for last along with my burger.
The burger was exactly what you would expect, given the name. Essentially it was a reuben on top of a burger, and it was huge but also delicious.
I decided to take a knife and cut it into quarters, so I didn’t make too much of a fool out of myself trying to take a bite.
After finishing the first quarter, I decided I would also might look like a fool if I tried to eat the whole thing in one sitting.
So I went after half of it and downed the fries, which weren’t as over-sweetened as at a lot of places. And I appreciated that.
It was also Monday night, so I appreciated being able to watch “Monday Night Football” and the Blackhawks game on the multiple TVs mounted above the bar as well.
One thing I can’t forget to mention was the service.
The bartender was there promptly and came back to check plenty during the meal.
I wasn’t always able to talk with my mouth full of reuben burger, but the attentiveness was much appreciated. She even noticed I was saving the Backwoods because, you know, I wanted to make sure to enjoy it. And the Alpha King, an American pale ale with caramel and citrus flavors, was enjoyable as well.
After boxing up my food, I was ready to hit the road until I was asked about dessert. About 98 percent of the time, I say “no thanks,” but, for some reason, when the turtle cheesecake was mentioned, I couldn’t say no.
So I ordered it and hung around to watch some more of the football game.
When the cheesecake arrived, another person at the bar even commented on how my eyes lit up.
It was absolutely worth it. The presentation was fantastic, but the actual cheesecake was the real deal.
Let’s just say I didn’t save any of that for the next day.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at The Herald-News. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Tom Kelly’s Chophouse & Pub
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: 495 Degroate Road, New Lenox