Ed. note: More than one person threatened to leave the group if the post did not have this exact title.
Often in our noble pursuit of casual dining excellence, we are called upon to visit an establishment that is, in principle, distasteful and unfortunate (see: Old Country Buffet). But almost as often, we are pleasantly surprised by said establishment in one way or another. You know what they say about assumptions, and ours were proven right and also wrong when we visited that most notorious casual (b)re(a)staurant, Hooters.
Like a few others on our list, the last remaining MN location of this chain is at the Mall of America. We wouldn’t say that it’s getting less annoying to go to the MOA for these types of visits, but the griping by our group has gotten considerably quieter. Duty calls.
Hooters’s brand is divided cleanly between two key identifiers: Boobies and chicken wings. We’ll get to the first one later. The second one showed up early and often on the menu in various forms. (Come to think of it, the first one also showed up early and often…)
John says: The loaded tots were fine. My bone(r)less wings were excellent, spicy but flavorful.
Sarah says: The Lotsa Totes were perfectly fried – crispy on the outside, nice consistency on the inside. Just the right amount of toppings. my Chicken strips were a little bland and dry [Ed. note: She ordered the sauce on the side, so take her opinion with a grain of chicken] but the buffalo and ranch sauces were good.
Jenna says: The evening began with a Lots-A-Tots appetizer. Warm, bacon-topped, crispy, creamy. These tots were REAL good. I went into this Casual Encounter with the lowest of expectations, like on par with OCB, and with this appetizer we were off to a delicious start! I ordered a chicken taco salad, and it was….fine. And that’s okay! Because tots.
Rachel says: I, too, was pleasantly surprised by the freshness and deliciousness of the food. Things came out quickly, but not suspiciously quickly. I had the fried chicken tacos for my entree, which were exactly what you’d expect and there’s nothing wrong with that. They were good! The chicken was somehow missing the coating of buffalo sauce I’d ordered. I didn’t feel like sending it back, so I availed myself of both Sarah’s side-sauce and the bottle of hot sauce on the table, and it worked out. Their fries are unseasoned curly fries, which rank as a Top 5 fry form (say that five times fast) for yours truly.
No suggested pairings a la Red Robin, but a decent selection, as well as Coke products.
John says: I got the “Pink Passion.” It was sufficiently flavorless but full of booze. Everybody wins!
Sarah says: Coors Light on special – just what I want at an establishment such as this. Super casual!
Jenna says: My Summit was ICE cold.
If there’s one thing people know about Hooters, it’s the servers. Our table had a lively discussion about hiring practices (legality, etc) as well as uniform requirements (e.g. servers are required to wear pantyhose no matter what), when we weren’t making purposeful eye contact with our server Naomi. She’s a human being who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, folks. Eyes up here.
John says: Naomi was attentive and nice. Didn’t check in often enough, though. Mild disappointment.
Sarah says: Naomi was friendly and was very accommodating when I asked for two dipping sauces. Her recommendations for dessert were clutch.
Jenna says: Naomi was super casual. Like sit-down-at-the-table-while-she-took-our-orders casual. And also one of the friendlier servers we’ve had. Gave a nice intro, and was quick to make recommendations on the menu.
Rachel says: Naomi was very friendly and helpful with our ordering, especially when it came to dessert. It’s a tricky thing to be as woke as we are when visiting a restaurant known for scantily clad servers, but we navigated the “where do we look?” admirably.
This Hooters was nestled in a recently renovated part of the MOA, so everything seemed shiny and new. The setting is a typical sports bar, jazzed up with lots of orange and sometimes camouflage(?) accents.
John says: So many TVs with sports! For it being th eMOA, it was surprisingly quiet.
Sarah says: I kind of like the TVs here. None of them had the sound on and they’re just enough to keep your attention without being distracting. #thatssohooters
Jenna says: Very dude heavy clientele means posters of Hooters girls on the walls. And SO many TVs. The TVs sucked me in man, I couldn’t stop watching. I don’t even know what was on, probably SPORTS.
Rachel says: Even as a non-sports person, I appreciated the placement and abundance of TVs. I thought to myself that my husband might enjoy watching basketball games here, before I realized that proposing a date night at a Hooters might not be advisable. [Ed. note: Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.]
John says: Most casual restaurant we’ve been to yet. And it wasn’t because of the lax clothing policy.
Sarah says: I wore my “nice” sweatpants and Naomi complimented me on them!
Jenna: A revelation was made at Hooters by the Casual Encounters team: This might be the most casual experience thus far. You might be thinking, wait, isn’t Old Country Buffet peak causualosity? I mean, I could have easily got away with not paying at OCB, that’s pretty causal. But at OCB I saw people wearing nice church clothes. Naomi literally commented on how awesome Sarah’s sweat pants were. Sweat pants. At dinner. Also they used carts to clear plates, c’monnnnn.
Our dessert course was Naomi’s time to shine. First, she told us that there were mini “shooters” to be had. Then, she steered us towards the good ones and away from the bad ones (for the most part). The desserts themselves had their ups and downs. We got three kinds of shooters: Chocolate mousse, strawberry cheesecake, and cinnamon apple (sorry Aaron).
John says: We ordered several dessert shooters, which sounds so sexy, but it wasn’t. The chocolate mousse was really good! I went home happy.
Sarah says: OMG the chocolate shooter was my favorite dessert we’ve had so far! Apple was the worst.
Jenna says: Chocolate mousse shooters???? YES YES YES. The cheesecake shooters, not so much. The berries tasted like cough syrup.
Rachel says: My god do I love some mini desserts, but these were tragically hit-or-miss for me. The cinnamon apple one was literally Mott’s applesauce layered with graham cracker crumbs. The cheesecake and its accompanying strawberry sauce clearly came from a can. Edible, but generic to the point of insulting. The chocolate mousse one was good, but I moved too slowly on ordering and only got to try someone else’s instead of having one all to myself. Big mistake, according to the rest of the table.
John says: The server complimenting Sarah’s sweatpants.
Sarah says: Naomi’s dessert recommendation!
Jenna says: Having a very lovely Thursday evening at Hooters in the MOA, of all places! Also discovering the “right” kind of casual.
Rachel says: The surprise of the evening’s overall pleasantness. I was truly dreading this encounter, but my expectations were flipped upside down by the food and service.
Least favorite part:
John says: Being in the MOA.
Sarah says: John Ward trying ot waste my flava when I got excited about something. Not cool, John.
Jenna says: The water in the bathroom was scaldingly hot. Rachel will probably say I was just too lazy to turn on the cold water. Whatevs.
Rachel says: The desserts, or maybe just my choice of desserts. Also, learning that a close friend of mine doesn’t understand how mixing cold water with hot water makes the water less hot.
Next up: Olive Garden!