As a landlocked Idaho native, my choices for fish and chips were understandably limited. If I was lucky enough to find a place that sold them, what they were offering were varying shades of palatable, but always expensive. Averaging $12 for fish and chips at any given restaurant, the dish became a super rare treat that I didn't think could get any better. Perhaps I was expecting too much....
Then one day in 2012, I was driving around near Overland and Maple Grove and saw an unfamiliar food truck. It's bright red paint contrasted sharply against the brown and gray background of the Overland Market, but then above all the exhaust and noise, the heavenly smell hit me and I had to have it!
After a quick jaunt down the street to get some cash (they weren't setup for debit/credit back then), I ordered a 2-piece meal and hung out by the trailer, taking in the delectable smell of battered fish as it teasingly rolled around in the fryer. The owners, Greg and Kelly Gempler, couldn't help but chuckle at my obvious fangirling, but I was past the point of caring. With a smile, they handed me my order in a generic white container, which paid absolutely no justice to the deliciousness within...
So How was the Food?
Up until this point, I never saw fish and chips that looked like that. The crisp and nonuniform breading clung firmly to a nice-sized filet of Alaskan Cod, and contained an amalgamation of seasonings that could be seen with the naked eye. And when I took that first bite, I was hooked (and no, I won't ask for a pardon on that pun!) Alaskan Cod has this tendency to flake off in layers when it's cut or bit into, and I fully expected the breading to come tumbling off once I began eating. Funny enough, this never happened. The breading clung to the filet the entire time, treating my palate with an even balance of mellow, tasty cod and crunchy, delectable batter.
But that wasn't the end of my culinary journey by any means! The fries, or chips, that accompany the fish are a treat in and of themselves. Perhaps I'm biased towards shoestring fries, but it doesn't make much sense to cut them too thick. Even when they're well-done, too-thick fries have a tendency to be crispy on the outside and noticeably cooler and soggy on the inside. When I saw that The Kilted Kod used shoestring fries, I was excited and after that first bite, they earned a customer for life.
The rough and deliciously seasoned exterior of the fries gave way to a crisp center that didn't disappoint. The Kilted Kod is very generous with the amount of fries they offer with each meal, which is great news for a guy like me who's not afraid to drop his modest eating conventions once in awhile. My favorite way to eat these absolutely amazing fries is to dunk them in the accompanying homemade tartar sauce along with some malt vinegar. More exotic options for malt vinegar were available at the table and on the truck, but I was happy with the initial offering, wanting to absorb every aspect of the first visit.
I left that day in utter amazement. Everything about that meal came together, from the hot crispness of the food to the ice cold bottled water I got with it, I had to have it again and again.
As time wore on, The Kilted Kod has only gotten better. My debit/credit card is now welcome, more times and locations have been added, and in addition to the already awesome tartar sauce, they now provide a line of homemade, local BBQ sauce called Chivers.
The mastermind couple behind this amazing line of sauces, Ray and Ramona Chivers, were even interviewed for the September 2014 feature of Idaho Entrepreneurs. Though all four of these are delicious, my favorite by far is Spicy Apple, which features a fruity sweetness at the top of the mouth with mild heat in the backend.
Even better, current owner Kevin McIntosh sells these delicious BBQ sauces at no profit to himself to help spread the word on this amazing brand, while the couple busily participates in various expos and shows across the Treasure Valley. Delicious food is great, but delicious food that's local is even better, especially when they start teaming up!
Great! Where's the Beer At?
And speaking of local collaboration, one of the new locations added to Kevin's weekly itinerary is Slanted Rock Brewery in Meridian, Idaho. With the brewery nearby, Kodsters (the nickname given to fans of The Kilted Kod) get the chance to pair their meal with regular brews like the highly approachable Afternoon Delight or the hoppy and amazing Initial Point IPA.
For those who want something different, they can also select one of the many seasonal brews on tap (my personal favorites are Slow Ryed Rye Ale and After Midnight Imperial Stout). Having a beer with your fish and chips is a great way to spend your Saturday evening, and just when it couldn't get any better, out comes the live music.
With Slanted Rock Brewing's close proximity to Majestic Cinemas, hanging out here on a Saturday is a great way to unwind with some amazing food and entertainment. With the brewery's relationship with The Kilted Kod, multiple tastes and needs can be addressed in one location in an area of town that practically screams "day vacation".
Kevin also enjoys similar relationships with other local establishments, namely other local food trucks. Every Wednesday, at The Cathedral of the Rockies-Amity Campus, The Kilted Kod and other food trucks, like Fresh Betty Spaghetti and Waffle Me Up, converge for the great Southern Idaho Food Truck Feast. In essence, it's like a tasty carnival for local foodies who simply can't make up their minds. When I showed up for my interview with Kevin on February 17th, 2016, he was casually chatting and laughing with his fellow food truck entrepreneurs. What I witnessed was true collaboration between local business owners engaging in an event that benefits everyone involved.
Nowhere Left to Go But Up
Over the last four years, I've continued to visit The Kilted Kod, and have witnessed first hand its explosive growth during that time. From being open only a few days a week to forging local relationships (and wowing customers from Seattle and Australia along the way), The Kilted Kod has completely changed the way I look at fish and chips. Even recent visits to restaurants along the Oregon Coast can't compare to what I'm already getting back home. Amazing fish and chips at an affordable price is about all I can ask for after a long day. So if you'll excuse me, I'll just be over here all like...