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It's not the usual Irish pub

The Kilt serves excellent food and yes, great brews

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CHEERS :  Martin Beckett, the chef and general manager of The Kilt in Paso Robles (left) toasts the opening of the San Luis Obispo restaurant with his counterpart Chris Beckett. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • CHEERS : Martin Beckett, the chef and general manager of The Kilt in Paso Robles (left) toasts the opening of the San Luis Obispo restaurant with his counterpart Chris Beckett.
Stopping for dinner at the new Kilt in San Luis Obispo, I wasn’t surprised to find the eclectic menu offered many excellent choices. Most people think of the Kilt as an Irish pub, and the imported Irish décor makes it seem genuine. But owners and cousins Troy Larkin and Donovan Schmit want to get the word out that it’s as much a great restaurant as it is a great pub. I love Irish pubs, and always find time for a pint at Johnny Foley’s when I’m in San Francisco. But there, I’m a fan of the fine selection of drafts, not the food, which I tried several times but wasn’t impressed. At the Kilt, on the other hand, chef Chris Beckett’s excellent pub food has me craving more.

 On a warm July evening, my husband Dan and I drove to the new Kilt, the site of the defunct 1865 Restaurant on Monterey Street, to check out the new menu. Chris, sporting a manly kilt and chef’s jacket, greeted us at the door. I thought of William Wallace and his clansmen in Braveheart for whom one of the burger specialties is named. Sitting in the back section, near the new bar adjacent to the patio, we reflected on the old 1865 Restaurant. The original bar in the middle of the restaurant and the big wooden stairway over the kitchen still look the same. But it has been completely redecorated and there’s a different vibe: people are coming together for a good time and the ambiance is friendly and laid-back. Although it was early, there was a good-sized crowd enjoying frosty drafts and many were eating the luscious-looking Hearst Ranch burgers.

PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
Chris suggested we try the oysters and we were glad we did. He created a sampler of one of each of the three styles of oysters offered: fresh oysters with two tasty sauces, classic cocktail and horseradish ($12); oyster au gratin with a cheesy blend of Monterey jack, cheddar, and blue cheese ($14); and oysters Rockefeller with spinach, bacon, garlic, and parmesan ($14). We also tried the calamari strips ($11), which the menu describes as “locally famous,” served with cocktail and tartar sauces. We shared the delicious prime-rib sandwich ($12.50) on a ciabatta roll with melted provolone, garlic fries, blue cheese/horseradish sauce, and killer Guinness au jus for dipping the sandwich. Dan enjoyed his favorite draft, Guinness, while I savored my favorite, Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale.

Several days later I returned, driven by my craving for one their delicious-looking Hearst Ranch burgers. They come in various guises from the Blarney stone and Frisco to the William Wallace and Black and Bleu. I met Red Zeppelin winemaker Stillman Brown there so we could discuss his upcoming Wet Zeppelin II, a five-day “winery party” that will kick off at the Kilt on August 11. I’ll give you the rest of the story in Cuisine next week. Stillman ordered the “award-winning chili” with beans and chunks of prime rib. It’s described as medium spicy but it could have been spicier for my taste. I loved the heavy topping of shredded cheddar and freshly chopped red onion; the combination was delicious. Donovan won an award for this chili, which he created using his secret spice mix.

PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
When I ordered the burger, the server asked how I wanted it cooked. I took a chance, ordering it medium rare and it was perfect. They offer a build-your-own burger, so I chose the thousand island and cheddar cheese. The cousins laughed afterward that my cheeseburger wasn’t very creative. No, but it was perfect. Had I not shared some with Stillman, I could have scarfed down the entire burger. With garlic fries the burger is $8.50, 50-cents more for the cheese, sides range from 50 cents to $2. Some people have told me that the Kilt is too expensive, but I don’t agree. I dine out constantly and found the Kilt is priced quite fairly considering the quality of the food.

The Kilt menu was created by Chris, his brother Martin Beckett who’s executive chef and general manager at the Paso Robles Kilt, Donovan and Troy. They collaborated to create one really good menu that’s served at both restaurants. A newer version of the menu will be available starting July 29 and includes some old favorites Chris created when he started nine years ago as their chef at Schooner’s Wharf in Cayucos (they sold it last year to concentrate on the Kilt). They’re adding: fish tacos with your choice of  grilled or battered and deep-fried halibut, plus cabbage, guacamole, and housemade salsa ($12); and sushi-grade ahi eggrolls with a cabbage blend and Thai dipping sauce ($14). 

- CLOSER THAN DUBLIN:  The Kilt - 1865 Monterey St. - SLO, 543-5458 -
  • CLOSER THAN DUBLIN: The Kilt
    1865 Monterey St.
    SLO, 543-5458
Except for the bread that’s made locally by Farb’s Bakery, everything is made in-house by the Beckett brothers and their cooking team. Donovan explained: “We didn’t want to make it a burger joint. We wanted to make eating here a dining experience.” To which Troy added: “The key is the good Hearst Ranch burgers. Our food surprises people and they talk about how good it is; we love hearing that.” They quickly pointed out the many reasons to make the Kilt a hang-out: the convenient parking lot, happy hour, live music, it’s a regular SLO Trolley stop, and it provides a great spot for meeting people, whether it’s for business or pleasure.

When I told an acquaintance from Nipomo about the Kilt, she said she and her husband had the prime rib sandwich at the Paso Roble’s Kilt and loved it so much, they drove back the following week to have it again. With their south county fans willing to make the hour drive to Paso, it’s much more convenient to enjoy the good food and good times now that the Kilt has come to SLO.

You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com

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