The world of reasonably priced, family-friendly restaurants has long been regarded by its trendier, Zagat-rated cousins as a soulless, post-apocalyptic wasteland devoid of decent food and recently laundered silk tablecloths. This has been one of the great frustrations of my professional life as I have thus far been unable to find a restaurant that appeals not only to my refined pallet but also to the baser interests of my adolescent sons.
Into this cavernous void struts Hooters, a delightfully self-aware family-style bistro that is sure to sate the cravings of hungry men and teenage boys the world over.
The understated interior – with its soft lighting, wooden benches, and lively music – works well as an ironic nod to the mess tents and burlesque dance halls of the old West, and it was gratifying to see my 13 and 15 year-old boys’ eyes get as wide as saucers as they surveyed the many tantalizing menu options. From the well-proportioned Hooterstizers to the ample burgers, this gem of a restaurant truly has something for all tastes.
My entrée, fried wing of chicken in a parmesan garlic samurai demi-glaze, was served pile-style on a metal Frisbee with an accompanying boat of ranch dressing. The whole ensemble was topped with a garnish of raw celery sticks. While I would describe my meal as somewhere between pedestrian and misguided, any disappointment with my dinner was more than compensated for by the restaurant’s unique blend of aesthetic appeal and customer servicing.
As for my boys , the stupefied amazement with which they regarded their burgers (Medium-rare USDA Choice beef served on a sesame wheat bun with a dollop of mayonnaise) reveals all I need to know about their meals. Suffice to say, their appetites were more than satisfied.
Ambiance? Check. Competitively priced? Check. Palatable food? Check minus. Not a bad start. However, the restaurant’s true strong suit, its “ace in the hole” if you will, is the service.
The restaurant’s website describes their servers as part All-American cheerleader, part Surfer Girl-Next-Door, and our Stacy was no exception. Her attention to detail and comically over-sized smiles added a human touch that is all too often absent in restaurant dining these days. She was a true professional. I especially appreciated the attention she lavished on my boys. The soft-spoken lads typically have to shout to be heard in loud restaurants, but Stacy avoided this embarrassment by leaning all the way across the table to take their orders. Well played, Stacy. Well played.
The boys remained respectfully silent throughout the meal. They also agreed to not mention any of it to their mother. I can only hope the business card, place mat pictures, and autographed copy of my book, “Good Grub,” that were left on the table in addition to my 50% tip, communicate to Stacy the high regard all three of us have for her work.
I have supped at many a table and savored many a soup du jour over my thirty year career as a restaurant critic, but all other dishes and diners are now obscured by the minimalist gratification of my Hooters dining experience. As I exited the restaurant that night – with a good deal of difficulty, I don’t mind telling you – there was but one thing left to say: I have seen the future and the future is Hooters.