She acknowledges her route to restaurants is nontraditional.
Teresa Baker, who recently opened Kelly’s Café and Espresso on Jackson Avenue SE, did not grow up in the business or attend culinary school.
When she met her husband, Gene, both were electronic engineering students at Western Washington University. Once the couple settled in 2003 in Gig Harbor after more than a decade in Hawaii and Colorado, Baker began thinking about a restaurant of her own.
Her older brother, Joe Fugere, long has owned the successful Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria, which is expanding to a fifth location, in Seattle. The other impetus came from Baker’s upbringing as she said her mother was half Italian.
“I have the passion to help people,” she said.
In 2006, Baker opened the first Kelly’s in downtown Gig Harbor. The previous tenant at that location was Kelly’s Toy Store. Because it was an “iconic name” in that area, Baker decided to retain it. And because the restaurant has been branded, she said it made sense to carry it to Port Orchard when the café moved into the former Tully’s Coffee location.The Port Orchard menu is similar to Gig Harbor’s. The menu leans heavily toward breakfast specialties, which are served throughout the day. That ranges from Kelly’s Green Eggs & Ham, which features eggs scrambled in homemade pesto, fresh tomatoes and diced ham, to biscuits and gravy. The restaurant also features a variety of omelets and other popular breakfast staples, such as french toast and pancakes.
Kelly’s has been voted as the best breakfast in the South Sound in each of the last two years by South Sound Magazine. But its menu is not limited to that. The restaurant also offers several salads, sandwiches, soups and burgers.
Baker also endeavors to stray from norms when crafting her menu. She notes that the fish and chips, which are fresh tempura cod, are hand dipped rather than coated in beer batter. The omelets are not mixed, but made in a pan. And on the dessert menu, the cinnamon rolls are made with brioche.
“It’s a sweet french bread,” Baker said. “It has a different flavor than one you would get from the grocery store.”
While the former Tully’s location, which was built in 1996, has been remodeled since it closed in October, one element remains similar. Kelly’s has a full coffee bar, where it serves Cutters Point Coffee. Baker’s application for a liquor license also is pending. Once that is approved, she plans to sell alcohol from Gig Harbor’s 7 Seas Brewery along with wine.
Baker said she learned about the location through a friend and thought it had potential partially based on the volume of traffic driving past it en route to the Southworth Ferry. Also, Kelly’s formerly ran a coffee stand outside of the Gig Harbor Home Depot until the hardware retailer decided to close those operations last year. The culmination of those events led Baker to expand into the South Kitsap market.
“Port Orchard and Gig Harbor are so close and they get closer every day,” she said. “I just think it’s the next step.“I think it will be fun and interesting to get to know the community.”