The Kilt is open and aswirl in activity. Really; you should have seen the place the other night. Packed. Jammed. You’d think the playoffs were on.
Oh, yeah, they were. Still, I won’t be surprised to see the Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery at 3155 E. Silver Springs Blvd. becoming a favorite hangout whether the playoffs are on or not. It opened officially on Sunday, and is open every day at 11 a.m. in the completely redone building that used to house a Bennigan’s Irish Pub.
This Scottish-themed sports pub adds a new eatery element to the east side of Ocala that has seen too many places go away.
“We live on this side of town,” says Wendell Martin. “It’s nice to have a place like this on this side of town.”
Not that there aren’t enough TVs scattered about to outfit an h.h.gregg store or that there are 28 different types of beer on tap, including some exotic and European lagers and ales. Don’t want to watch the game? Easy enough; just ask your server and she’ll get a manager to change to some other sporting event, or even “Spongebob Squarepants” — if you really insist on it.
Of course, I don’t go to a sports bar to watch Spongebob; I don’t care what kind of games he and the rest of the gang at Bikini Bottom are up to.
Of course, everyone on the serving staff wears a kilt; yes, even the guys. “I like the guys wearing kilts,” notes Connie Wilcox, at a pre-opening soiree Saturday evening with Martin.
And not to belabor the kilt thing, but the guys’ kilts are pretty demure, while the shorty shirts and kilts the female servers wear are certainly not at lengths worn as school uniforms.
Let’s just say that if one of these young ladies has a tattoo anywhere but on the most intimate of body parts, we’ll know it; I counted a number of tattoos the other night, but please don’t tell my wife. Um. we really don’t need to go into any more detail.
But that’s not why I go to a sports bar … for the kilts. Usually, I’m there for the food, believe it or not. And the food here at first bite seems worth the visit.
The Tilted Kilt is likely to make an impact on the area in another way, too: Jobs!
When this newest chain to open in Ocala was first announced last summer, co-owner Larry Stone vowed the pub would bring a bit of needed “stimulus” to the east side of town. He wasn’t exaggerating.
There’s some 100 youngsters — well, they’re youngsters to me! — on staff; and at least three of the senior managers are rehired from Bennigan’s. “This Bennigan’s was one of five in the whole United States that was making money when the chain went bankrupt,” says Larry Chauncey, a co-owner reveling in the pre-opening crowd. “Of course, we’re going to recognize and hire that kind of excellence.”
At the pre-opening preview Saturday the full staff was on duty, all eager to get in a little serving time. At least four different waitresses worked my table alone. However, once the Kilt gets into its seven-day, lunch-and-dinner groove, the staffing should settle out a bit.
Meanwhile, there’s more here than typical sports bar grub. To be sure, there are wings and burgers and quesadillas. Yet for a Scottish pub, there’s not a hint of haggis, and that’s a good thing. Still, the Tilted Kilt does offer fish & chips, a wicked meatloaf sandwich and a great shepherd’s pie; all that’s missing from it are turnips, and that too is a GOOD thing.
The shepherd’s pie comes in a small kettle.
And they make their own kettle-cooked potato chips, both for serving as sides and the base for nachos.
Moreover, there’s a lot of whatever that’s brought to your table. For instance, the shepherd’s pie — 20 ounces of it! — is served in a kettle. It’s almost a sure bet you’re taking some home. I did.
In fact, that’s probably the only drawback, says Bob Stone, Larry Stone’s brother. “The portions are too big!”
Chauncey says he tends to agree, but that’s what they’re supposed to serve. “Hey,” he adds, “if you leave here hungry, it’s your own fault.”