- Tess Vella-Collette
They say “you are what you eat,” and I tend to agree that what you choose to eat says a lot about who you are.
At a dinner party, when everyone’s sated and could not eat another bite, I like to bring up my favorite topic: food. Always more food. When I’m trying to get to know someone new, I always like to find out what would be their last meal. So maybe it’s a little morbid, but it’s a great way to gain some insight into a person’s life, what they like, and who they are.
In an effort to get to know a gal about town, I posed the question to one of Dayton’s favorite bartenders, Kelli Nikanowicz. Kelli is Century Bar’s only lady bartender, and she has been serving Dayton some of the most delicious, artful and considerately crafted cocktails since she moved here in 2010.
So what would Kelli have as her last meal? Tacos. But not just any tacos. The delicious Mole, Baja Fish, and Vejetariano tacos at Taco Luchador in Louisville, Kentucky.
“The vegetarian taco would almost make me contemplate giving up meat...but who am I kidding?” she said. This particular taco is served with corn-roasted poblano, grilled onions and peppers, black beans, sweet plantains, guacamole, and queso fresco. Playing with different layers of flavors and textures, these tacos hit all the right notes for Nikanowicz, who takes the opportunity to travel to Louisville whenever possible. She’d end her meal right with a Churro and a bourbon, because...when in Kentucky.
And given her role as leading lady behind the Century’s bar, she has spent plenty of time visiting the bluegrass state. Kelli is a Michigan native who has always had a bit of wanderlust, seeking out new flavors wherever she goes. She gets to flex those flavors working behind the bar at The Century. Kelli began diving into craft cocktails around 6 years ago, exploring twists on 100-year-old recipes, making them fresh and exciting. Since she joined the team at The Century Bar almost two years ago, she’s gotten the chance to learn from some of the best in the bourbon industry and experience the Kentucky distilleries first hand.
The Century Bar put her through her paces before she got to sling drinks. She apprenticed for six months under Tim Fry and Joe Head, Century’s co-owners and lead bartenders, soaking up their vast whiskey knowledge. Getting to learn from the Century crew and using her own knack for crafting cocktails, Kelli can certainly be considered a local expert of flavors. So I’d take it from a girl who is in the know -- her last meal is something worth savoring.