The name Tilted Kilt has always sent my mind spinning a bit. Knitted Kiln? Tilted Windmill? Jilted Kitten? A quick Web search shows that offbeat pub names abound across the Pond, like the Jolly Taxpayer, The Bucket of Blood, The Nobody Inn, The Bull and Spectacles, The Quiet Woman (portrayed by a headless female server), The Hung Drawn And Quartered, and the unfathomable I Am The Only Running Footman.
What is Tilted Kilt, you might be wondering? Founded in 2004, it’s a rapidly growing chain with about 90 outlets that started in Las Vegas but is currently based in Tempe, Ariz. Think Hooters but more wholesome, with red tartan Celtic schoolgirl outfits instead of orange hot pants with white Lycra tank tops, comparable exposed leg and décolletage, and possibly more midriff. How you feel about such outfits should probably be the primary factor in whether you try out a Tilted Kilt. I attended several months of high school in Glasgow, Scotland, in the 1970s and would have killed for these uniforms to be mandatory, but you’ll actually see a lot more skin at the beach.
Although some disparage such dining concepts as “breastaurants,” Hooters has always positioned itself as a family chain. Christine Cordray, from Tilted Kilt’s corporate office, has been quoted as saying, “We are PG-13. Our brand is not for everyone, but we have parents that come in and bring their children. A lot of these girls are in college, they’re friendly, they’re nice, they’re intelligent. We like to say they are sexy fun and sexy classy.”
During two visits to Tilted Kilt in Wethersfield and one to the newer outlet in Milford, my buddy and I found our servers outgoing, proud of their jobs and comfortable in their own skins. Sometimes, servers plunked down in an empty chair and chatted briefly with their customers, but the quality of service never seemed to suffer for it. We were beautifully taken care of by Amber in Wethersfield and Joelle in Milford.
The ownership of the Wethersfield and Milford outlets is apparently the same, with rights for all of Connecticut granted to it. More Connecticut outlets are planned. My buddy and I like Tilted Kilt and would welcome more outlets for the following reasons: First, the friendly servers, who come across as confident, not exploited. (Reportedly, there are guys on staff who wear kilts, too, but if so, I didn’t notice.) Second, the Celtic theme, reflected in interesting, mostly Scottish, memorabilia displayed throughout the restaurant. Third, the large, well arranged TVs (especially in Wethersfield) that allowed us to watch our sporting events of choice without eye or neck strain. Fourth, the terrific draft beer selection. And fifth, the affordable and delicious food.
I haven’t been to a Hooters in eons, let alone since the company’s recent announcement that it was going to remake its menus with more fresh than frozen food. But the food we tasted at Tilted Kilt was not only better than at most sports bars, it was definitely at the high end of the genre. My buddy and I lubricated our meals with Lagunitas and Ten Penny Ales, respectively.
Fried calamari ($10.50) was served with an overly sweet sauce, but we were also able to get marinara sauce. A roasted garlic chicken flatbread ($12) with basil pesto, artichoke, red onion and mozzarella was somewhat crackery and mighty tasty. A sampler platter ($14) included six wings, four mozzarella sticks, a slew of onion rings and two skewers with sausage, mushroom and red and green pepper served with ranch dressing and marinara sauce — a nice assemblage. But our favorite starter was the drunken mussels ($12), two dozen bivalves in a wonderful beer broth laced with garlic and Creole seasonings.
We tried two sandwiches, a French dip ($10.50) renamed Irish, and a mushroom and Swiss burger ($11.50). Both were good. The Caesar salad ($5, or $3 with an entrée) was generous and better than average (if still far short of the standard set by namesake Caesar Cardini).
But our real pleasure came when we reached the entrées. The shepherd’s pie ($11.50) was a little soupy but otherwise delicious. The classic fish and chips ($12) showcasing a trio of beer-battered cod pieces served with tartar sauce, French fries and coleslaw was terrific. We also liked the Gaelic chicken ($14.50), with pan-seared chicken breasts served in an Irish whiskey cream sauce with sautéed mushroom and onion over red-skin mashed potatoes. But our favorite main dish might have been a 12-ounce grilled rib-eye ($23) served with French fries, mixed vegetables and garlic toast.
Excluding alcoholic options, Tilted Kilt’s dessert menu comes down to a brownie ($6.50) or partially cooked chocolate chip cookie ($6) or white chocolate macadamia nut cookie ($6) topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel or chocolate sauce. Like our servers, the chocolate chip version put smiles on our faces.