319 Tenth Avenue, San Diego
It’s an amazing feeling, sitting up to a bar watching the Padres on a bunch of great screens, including one that’s 12 feet, while the actual Padres are playing in the actual ballpark about, oh, 20 yards away. Right across the courtyard and through the gate. You can hear the crowd’s roar before it comes through the electronics.
But that’s what sports bars are about. Taking reality and turning it into hyperreality. Seems these danged places are opening up all around town.
So when I was loping down Tenth, determined not to be led astray by the crowds milling around the ballpark, I just had to stop at the sign on this brand-new brick building with big yellow canopies that said “Tilted Kilt,” whatever da heck that meant. Because, I had to admit, there was something sexy about the name. Something sassy. Combining the whole Scottish-Irish thing with New World cheek. And, okay, the bonnie wee lassies at the door, kitted out in tartan plaid mini-kilts and bustiers with a white crop top tied around it just say it all: Scotland and Ireland as re-dreamed in Vegas, where this franchise started.
Of course, once I get inside I see that, to even things up, the barista guys all wear kilts too. Black kilts, but not short. And once I sit up to the bar, I see they have to handle plenty of customer teasing. From women, mostly. “What’s under the kilt, man,” says this corporate-type gal. “We need to know.”
“If the question is ‘What’s worn under the kilt,’ ” says Brian, one of the baristas, “the answer is nothing’s worn. It’s all in perfect working order.”
So, guess I’d better eat. Check the little glossy menu booklet. Pretty soon Douglas, guy next to me, is giving me the good word on the food. “It’s better than at Hooters,” he says. “The burgers are awesome. But watch for the pizza. Too doughy for me, and the ‘Five Quid Squid’ [a $9.99 calamari appetizer] was way too salty tonight. But their ‘Danny Boy’s Shepherd’s Pie’ [$10.99] is great. Has garlic mashed potatoes on top.”
First thing I’ve got to remember is, it’s a sports bar. We’re going to be paying sports-bar prices. I know that. Gotta pay for the — wow — 38 screens hung all around the walls. Brian says they’ve got every sport, plus, hey, they have Guitar Hero, if you’re into games.
I’m looking, looking…The cup of coffee I got cost $2.35 already. So I check the appetizers. Ulp. First up is Drunken Clams, $14.99, steamed in beer and served with garlic bread. Roasted garlic fries, on the other hand, sound great (“topped with a roasted garlic sauce”), and only $4.99. “They’re awesome,” says this guy Sean. Huh. He’s nursing a pint of microbrewery ale. Made right here. “It’s better than a Gordon Biersch.” Breaded onion rings are $4.99 too, but that’s the end of the bargains. Crispy clam strips are $9.99. And a chicken quesadilla? $8.99. Salads, like the Tilted Kilt house salad, which has “oven-roasted vegetables” and cheese, cost around $8.99. (If you want grilled chicken with that, you’re looking at two pennies shy of $12.) This is basically pub grub, only more sophisticated. Oh. See one more bargain. The $4.99 Tilted Kilt chili, with chopped onions and cheese.
Must say, they have a lot of good-sounding burgers and sandwiches and wraps. These are around nine bucks apiece. The pulled pork sandwich or the half-pound Black Angus hamburger (both $8.49) look delish, and the French Connection burger ($8.99), with mushrooms, sweet onions, Swiss cheese, and au jus, would, for sure, hit the spot.
“No, no,” says Douglas. “Try the Longshanks. It’s the greatest.”
I see it. Longshanks sausage sandwich. “The most ruthless sandwich you’ll ever eat,” says the blurb. I stew on that a moment, till I remember Mel Gibson and Braveheart. England’s six-foot King Edward I, “Longshanks,” was known as the “Hammer of the Scots,” right? Ruthless against Mel (aka William Wallace) and had him executed. Slowly. So the Tilted Kilt really is working on being a Scots-Irish pub. Huh. Now I’m way more interested in the Longshanks. It’s “braised sausage topped with peppers, onions, and provolone cheese” and costs $8.99.
I count my pennies and, what the heck, go for it.
Tilted Kilt server gal named Ceanne brings my plate, loaded with a logjam of fries and a big golden burger sandwich, with two “longshank” split sausages lying hidden under melted provolone and a slew of grilled onions and green and red bell peppers. But it’s the sausage that comes through. Strong, really zesty, and really salty. And filling. Man, if I wasn’t working tonight, I’d be into one of their microbrews too.
And here’s the other thing. It becomes a kind of communal feast. Just this ad hoc group clustered round my corner of the bar. “Mmm, pretty good fries,” says this gal Katie, pecking at my pile. So I have to ask. She strikes me as someone who wouldn’t put up with male sexism. Yet here are these babes dressed strictly to appeal to us ogling males. “Is that okay with you?” I say.
“Long as they’re not fat,” she says, and starts diving on my fries again.
Outside, I’m heading for the Number 11 bus. The real live crowd inside Petco Park whistles and hoots. Some poor Padre has done something wrong again. They’ll be whistling inside the Tilted Kilt too, but not for long. A word to Brian and they can all cancel the sad reality outside and be playing Guitar Hero. On 38 screens.
The Place: Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery, 319 Tenth Avenue, East Village (right by Petco ballpark),
Type of Food: American
Prices: Pizza pie (cheese), $6.99; “drunken” clams, $14.99; roasted garlic fries, $4.99; breaded onion rings, $4.99; house salad with oven-roasted vegetables, cheese, $8.99; add grilled chicken, $2.99; chili with chopped onions and cheese, $4.99; pulled pork sandwich, $8.49; half-pound black angus hamburger, $8.49; French Connection burger (with mushrooms, sweet onions, Swiss cheese, au jus), $8.99; Longshank’s sausage sandwich, $8.99; carrot cake, $5.99; cheesecake, $5.99
Hours: 11:00 a.m.–midnight, Sunday–Thursday; 11:00 a.m.–2:00 a.m., Friday–Saturday
Buses: 11, 901, 929
Nearest Bus Stop: 11th and Park Boulevard (northbound); 10th and Park (southbound)
Trolleys: Blue line, orange line
Nearest Trolley Stop: 12th and Imperial