Tartan it up
At the risk of conspicuously displaying my ignorance to the world, I must admit that I hadn’t realized that such a thing as a Scottish restaurant could exist outside Scotland. For what culinary treasures is Scotland, or any island-based country in the Northeast Atlantic, known? Ireland has corned beef and cabbage, except actually they don’t, since it originated in America. England has its boiled and roasted beef varieties and pasties. Lord knows what Wales has, but Scotland, as far as I know, is only famous (or infamous?) for haggis and Scotch broth. In fact, if I remember correctly, the best food in Scotland is Indian food.
But I have to remove my hat with solemn respect for the Scots and admit defeat on one major count. For despite my love of culinary adventure, despite the fact that I pride myself on my intrepid exploration of the world’s cuisines, I respectfully have to bow out of the race when it comes to eating a boiled sheep’s stomach filled with oatmeal, innards and mutton fat. With shame, I have to say that I just can’t do it. So, unfortunately, I suppose I’m doomed to fail in my attempts to be at once an undauntable human vacuum cleaner and a true aesthete of culinary artistry.
But anyway, this is all a digression, ’cause they don’t actually have haggis or Scotch broth on the menu at Highlander—although the extremely gregarious proprietor says he’ll make haggis if you give him a day’s notice. Dinner at the Highlander is a bit like at the Broiler, but with a hard-to-pin-down interior decoration protocol. But this, incidentally, is one of the place’s more appealing features. I hate to make the egregious error of likening the Scots to the English, but if, again, I remember correctly, I seemed to notice while in the U.K. a similar flair between both peoples for rather quaint, even overbearing, interior designs. Because of this memory, the juxtaposition of plaid wallpaper on one wall and a white sliding room divider on the other, balanced with bright red perhaps-leather chairs and a colorful carpet, made me buoyantly nostalgic for the days I spent in the U.K. a few years ago. In this sense, I’d say the haphazard feel of the dining room is truly authentic.
The formerly mentioned proprietor, too, deserves another mention, as his presence—sitting down at tables to chat, calling cheerfully through the dining room, shaking hands and just basically being really, really Scottish—makes for added fun and added uniqueness to the Highlander dining experience. These are people you want to support, people you hope will find success.
The important thing, though, is the food, right? Well, the place is straight-up, old-school meat and potatoes: prime rib, filet mignon, New York steak, lamb chops and pork loin, with a bit of fish and chicken thrown in as well. You know how it goes: baked or mashed and what kind of salad dressing do you want? In this arena of old-school meat and potatoes, though, the Highlander rocks.
Because the woman with the cute Scottish accent said it was the best thing, I ordered the lamb chops with orange mint sauce and a pint of ale. Three thick chops arrived and were perfectly cooked and delicious; and though I can’t remember any orange being involved, the sauce was a nice, minted brown gravy that tasted just as I’d hoped.
A New York steak with onion rings and a large slab of prime rib were similarly given the sweet treatment by the cook. Baked potatoes came with sour cream and butter, mashed potatoes were delicious and piped into rosettes and—perhaps most important—the vegetables were fresh, seasoned properly and not overcooked.
If you’re looking for meat and potatoes, or massive Cobb and chef-type salads, check out the Highlander and enjoy the friendly, lively Scottish treatment with your old-school food and pints of ale.