My wife's going to kill me when she finds out I got a speeding ticket on the way to Hooters.
It's not like I was excited or anything, just late for lunch with an old fishing buddy.
Anyway, like most people already know — at least those of you not living under big rocks — Idaho's first Hooters opened in April on Franklin Road near Boise Towne Square mall.
Hooters is well known for serving Southern-style pub fare like roasted oysters, hot wings and gumbo. But it's best known for its scantily clad servers bedecked in tight tank tops and '70s-style orange nylon shorts.
Hooters' dÃ©cor, as well as the Barbie Doll servers, speaks to the male sensibility: A beach-themed design with lots of hanging surfboards and televisions that perpetually flash sports. Photos of Hooters girls past and present hang on the walls next to signs that read "Hooters girls are flattery-operated."
Surprisingly, the food at Hooters is not an afterthought.
One night, we came in with seafood on our minds: Roasted oysters ($10.99) and a sampler platter ($16.99) to be exact. The platter boasted an arrangement of gangly snow crab legs, chilled you-peel-'em shrimp, crispy buffalo shrimp and some breaded chicken wings doused with hot sauce. It was served with warm, drawn butter and an average tasting cocktail sauce — not enough horseradish for my taste. Fresh celery sticks and chunky blue cheese dressing rounded out the platter.
The Carolina-style oysters, meaning they are roasted in the shell, are a must-try at Hooters. We ordered 18 oysters (half order) and cold pints of Sam Adams ($4.35). Soon our friendly server was sliding into our booth with a bucket of steaming bivalves and a shucker in her hand.
She elicited small talk as she popped the top off the cooked oysters, which were plump and sweet and from the Pacific, served with lemon wedges, drawn butter and cocktail sauce. I quickly reached for the bottle of Hooters hot sauce, after she wiggled away.
We tagged on bowls of chili ($3.68) and Bayou gumbo ($3.99) — a red stew packed with celery, broken rice, red bell pepper and the occasional piece of andouille sausage.
The ground-beef and bean chili was reminiscent of a roadside diner's, topped with chopped onion and melted cheddar.
We turned down the night's final temptations: Dessert and the Hooters merchandise (T-shirts, beer mugs, shot glasses, etc.) that the servers are expected to sell.
On a lunch visit — the one where I was unexpectedly detained before my arrival — we were pleasantly surprised by the smothered chicken sandwich ($7.69/think Philly cheese steak with poultry) and Cuban sandwich ($7.29), a Miami-inspired creation built on a chewy roll with layers of tender pork loin, smoked ham, sliced dill pickles, provolone cheese and stone-ground mustard. Also good was the mustard-laden potato salad, with a hint of sweet pickle relish.
The natural-cut curly fries were a hit, as well, simply seasoned with salt and pepper.
We weren't as impressed by the New England-style clam chowder ($3.29) because it was strangely perfumed with dried herbs and pocked with excessively chewy clam pieces.
The BBQ sandwich ($6.29), made on a sesame seed bun, had lots of pulled pork meat bathed in spicy barbecue sauce and melted provolone, but it also had big chunks of fat, causing my dining partner to nearly choke. This sandwich came with a status quo carrot-cabbage slaw.
All in all, Hooters pumps out above average pub fare, and service is attentive — to say the least. As for families, I did see a few toddler-aged kids eating burgers and fries on both visits.
It must be the cool owl logo.
James Patrick Kelly is The Idaho Statesman's restaurant critic. E-mail him at jpkfood@ earthlink.net. Listen to him at 7 a.m. Saturdays on "Weekend Idaho" on KBOI 670-AM.