Poking Holes in the Tilted Kilt

Originally published in the August Issue of Dispatch Magazine 

Historical evidence would suggest that the kilt, a rugged garment that originated in the Scottish Highlands and Isles, symbolizes many things to many people. For some, it conjures images of wrapping oneself in a warm, woolly tartan blanket near a peat fire on a cold winter’s day — while others are haunted with visions of Korn frontman Jonathan Davis belting out bagpipe solos in “Shoots and Ladders.”

Hence, when I caught wind that the Tilted Kilt had opened its doors, I had hopes that a warm hearth, a proper plate of haggis, and a dram of Caol Ila 18-year-old scotch (with a drop or two to pour on the haggis) was in my future. However, upon perusing the menu at this “Pub & Eatery” near the Maine Mall, it would appear I was mistaken.

Nowhere to be found are Abernethy biscuits, Cock-a-Leekie Soup, jam roly-poly, Tweed kettle, or Tantallon cakes. At no point does the Kilt present the option of completing my repast, or beginning it, with a dish of St. Fillan’s fruit pudding.

In fact, there are only four Scottish references — only one, the Scotch Eggs (which were 86’d that evening), actually being relevant to food. The other three include “Fat Bastard’s Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese” (taking its namesake from Mike Myers’ comic portrayal of an obese Scotsman in the Austin Powers films), rampant use of the word arse instead of just saying “ass,” and the “Highlander Sampler Platter,” featuring boneless wings, fried pickles, pub pretzels, mozzarella sticks served with ranch dressing, marinara sauce, and jack cheese sauce. All of these snackables would be a fine accompaniment watching The Highlander, but no one would think they would ever actually be Scottish cuisine … until now.

In fact, the menu at Tilted Kilt frequently conjures the Irish — surely also a kilt-wearing folk, yet a people who’d probably not agree that a dish containing potatoes needs to be labeled an Irish one. Just like adding marshmallow charms to breakfast cereal does not actually convey the luck of the Irish. Nonetheless, the “Irish Nachos” feature potato chips (rather than tortillas) covered with melted cheese, tomatoes, and your choice of ground beef or zesty-hot ground sausage blend. The “Wicked Boston Big Arse® Burger” takes all kinds of liberties, the “Boston” element being a caramelized onion relish made with Samuel Adams Boston Lager that shows up in the entire catalog of “Wicked Boston” menu choices, and leaves you wanting to bust someone in the eye and then take the chump home. I came to get down, goddamn it!

Often, Tilted Kilt takes the liberty of changing the name of a dish, seemingly for the hell of it. Enter “The Irish Dip,” a sandwich piled with thinly sliced beef and melted cheese that comes with a side of “au jus for dipping.” Or the “Kick Arse Queso Dip,” which is a blend of melted cheese sauce, with zesty-hot ground sausage blend, green onions, and freshly made tortilla chips.

After numerous helpings of my own Celtic favorite — a heaping shot of Jameson — I take a look at the cocktail offerings and am left scratching my head at the “Erin Go Braugh,” which combines apple-flavored Canadian whiskey with … gulp … RumChata. Drinks that seemingly pay homage to violence perpetrated for years by the IRA, such as the “Paddy Bomb,” seem to venture off to a tropical island where they encounter a Russian gulag of ingredients like Smirnoff Orange Vodka and Blue Curaçao, dropped into a half-glass of Red Bull. By the time you get to cocktails that actually make a whisper of sense, like the “Irish Old Fashioned” (where Irish is subbed for American whiskey), you’ve just about had it.

Confused as I am — and still without my plate of haggis — I’m glad I know what the hell is going on here. As the Scottish poet Robert Burns once wrote, “Suspense is worse than disappointment.”

200 Gorham Road | South Portland | (207) 613-9715 | tilted kilt.com