I had to do an early morning training in Peoria earlier this spring, so I ended up spending the night at the Hampton Inn at Grand Prairie, a new hotel next to the Shoppes of Grand Prairie shopping and entertainment complex on the northwest side of town. I noticed a sushi restaurant on the east side of the mall and decided to eat there that evening. However, after I checked in at the hotel and went back over to the restaurant I found it wasn't open yet as there was construction equipment inside. From the outside, it looked open. It was time to go to Plan B. Right next to the hotel was a place called the Tilted Kilt. It looked sort of like an Irish pub and I thought I'd just cut my losses early and go there for a bite to eat.
I'll have to say that the Tilted Kilt is quite interesting. I would categorize it as a three-sided combination of a Buffalo Wild Wings, an Irish/Scottish/English pub and a Hooter's with waitresses running around in short tartan skirts, matching tops that lift and compress their boobs until they look like they're ready to pop out, and white knee socks. It was easily a ratio of 19-1 men vs. women in the place, and I'm not too certain about the sexual preference of the women that I saw dining in the Tilted Kilt that evening.
I also wasn't certain if I'd ever heard of the Tilted Kilt before my visit there. The first Tilted Kilt opened in 2003 as part of the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and was founded by Mark DiMartino, the owner of the Tillerman in Las Vegas (for my visit to the Tillerman, click here). DiMartino, along with business partners John Reynaud and Shannon Reilly, conceived the Titled Kilt to be a "contemporary, Celtic-themed restaurant staffed with beautiful servers."
Not long after the Las Vegas Tilted Kilt opened, an Arizona businessman by the name of Ron Lynch visited the Rio and fell in love with the restaurant's concept. He approached DiMartino and his partners about the possibility of franchising the Tilted Kilt theme. Lynch bought the franchise rights to Tilted Kilt in 2005 and opened his first franchise location in Arizona the next year. The restaurant began to grow as DiMartino and his partners began to sell franchises. Many Tilted Kilt's have gone into what were old Bennigan's location that closed when that chain of Irish-themed restaurants declared bankruptcy in 2008 and closed 150 of their corporate-owned locations. Tilted Kilt is one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the nation with 53 locations in 18 states. And more are in development. They hope to have 300 Tilted Kilt locations across America and Canada within five years.
However, one city didn't think that Tilted Kilt reflected the core values of their residents. Evanston, IL recently rejected an application for a liquor license for a proposed Tilted Kilt location in that city. City leaders had been presented with a petition of over 2000 names of people who opposed the opening of a Tilted Kilt in Evanston based primarily upon the suggestively clad young ladies who worked in the restaurant. Given that Evanston was a dry city up until the early 70's, there is still a large temperance movement in the city. Adding a bar that appears to glorify sexy women while selling booze was too much for some. The owner of the Tilted Kilt franchise is now looking to open a location in nearby Morton Grove. In fact, Tilted Kilt looks to have 10 locations in the greater Chicago area by the end of this year.
The menu at the Tilted Kilt locations are virtually the same with a combination of Scottish, Irish and English dishes such as Irish Stew, Fish and Chips and Shepherd's Pie. But the majority of the menu features your normal American-style bar food items and American-ized British Isle food. Actually, the menu is better than what you'd find at a Hooters.
But the girls are the clear draw at the Tilted Kilt. I'm not trying to be disparaging, but most of the girls at the one in Peoria looked like they had been recruited from local gentlemen clubs as they all seemed to have over-sized breasts, helped in part by the push up tops that revealed a canyon of cleavage. (The picture at right is a stock photo I found on the Internet and are not of girls from the Peoria location.) But, they were all cute, yes, including the female bartender who waited on me that particular evening.
One of the "company policies" that Tilted Kilt employs is that the girls must be "personable" and be able to chat up the customers. If time allows, Tilted Kilt even encourages their female servers to sit with their customers and carry on conversation. I suppose this is to help garner more of a tip for the girls.
Not all of the servers at Tilted Kilt restaurants are female, however. They do employ a number of men servers who wear man kilts. They aren't as suggestively dressed as the female servers, but I suppose by having the waiters wear kilts, the restaurant somehow thinks that it will quell any outrage by feminist groups over the waitress' skimpy outfits.
Pro basketball was prominently played on the number of flat screen televisions that hung from the walls all through the Tilted Kilt location in Peoria, which opened in late summer of 2010. I sat at the large wooden bar and the bartender dropped off a menu and I ordered up a Smithwick's, one of what looked like a couple dozen different types of beers they had to offer at the Tilted Kilt.
I could see right off the bat that the selection, while broad at the Tilted Kilt, was somewhat limited as to what I would call haute cuisine. They had burgers and your normal appetizers on the menu. About a half dozen different types of salads were available, as were a number of sandwiches including something called Fat Bastard's Meatloaf Sandwich. They also featured flat bread pizzas and entrees that included battered fish tacos, fried chicken and an Italian-herb seasoned chicken breast dish. I didn't necessarily see anything that really tripped my trigger and I was having a hard time trying to figure out what would be good to have that evening.
I finally decided upon the pastrami sandwich - you had your choice of traditional pastrami sandwich with Swiss cheese and spicy mustard, or reuben style with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing. I've been on a reuben kick for the past few months and I got the reuben style pastrami sandwich. As a side, you got your choice of sweet potato fries, garlic fries, onion rings, cottage cheese or a side salad. I decided to try their garlic fries.
The bartender, in addition that she wasn't bad to look at (below left - I know, I need a new phone with a better camera, and I recently got one), was very attentive to my beer levels and was also very accommodating when I forgot to ask for an extra side of Thousand Island dressing when I initially ordered my sandwich. She was cheery and friendly, chatting up the middle-aged businessmen who were not looking directly in her eyes. There seemed to be a number of local regulars at the bar, but there were also a number of guys from the two hotels that were walking distance from the Tilted Kilt.
Another waitress brought out my sandwich and it as your standard reuben sandwith on toasted swirl-marble rye bread (above right). The pastrami was thick, yet tender and pretty flavorful. It was a pretty good sandwich, actually. The garlic fries weren't all that garlicky, at least not as much garlic as I'm used to. They were pretty average, overall. But that was fine with me as I concentrated on the sandwich and not so much on the fries.
My first visit to a Tilted Kilt location was average, at best. The eye-candy is definitely the draw to the restaurant/pub, the food is your average bar food and they do have an abundance of televisions to watch any type of sporting event that is on at that time. The beer selection was sort of impressive, but typical of what you'd find at other places that have that similar sports bar/Irish pub theme that Titled Kilt had. I don't think my wife would like going into the place, but I know a number of friends who would and who would probably think the food was outstanding. But quite actually they'd be blinded from culinary reality by those short tartan skirts and those tight tops.
(Update - This Tilted Kilt didn't make it past May of 2014 and closed their doors. I see other Tilted Kilt locations around the Midwest that are still open, but based upon this visit I generally pass them by like I do a Hooters.)