From the outside there is little to distinguish this newest of two Kilroy's restaurants from other fast-food emporiums. Tiffany-style lamps hang in windows that are shaded by a dark green awning with white stripes.
Inside, however, the decorating theme turns unabashedly patriotic. Once you see the colorful profusion of posters from both World Wars I and II crowding the walls, the name clicks -- Kilroy's, as in the old U.S. military graffito, "Kilroy was here." Even the food sports a patriotic look. A small American flag on a toothpick waves from each dish, even from such imports as the French onion soup and the chicken teriyaki.
The lively atmosphere seems to attract singles as well as families. On one visit, service was prompt and friendly. But another was a test of endurance.
After a long wait, we discovered one of our appetizers had been thrown out by mistake and had to be made up again, and the chicken salad tasted rancid. Had it been that long since we ordered? But even under better circumstances, the best of the food was not exceptional.
Kilroy's goes out of its way to make its food seem like a bargain. In the first example I've seen of comparison shopping on a restaurant menu, Kilroy's price for prime rib, $8.95, is compared with an anonymous "competitor's price" of $11.95. Sounds like a good deal, but Kilroy's cut is thin and not very flavorful. Ditto for the Hawaiian rib eye and a smaller slab of prime rib -- the latter making frequent appearances on surf and turf specials with fried oysters, crab meat imperial, or shrimp and scallops mornay.
The most successful entree was a tasty chicken Cordon Bleu stuffed with smoked ham and swiss and mozzarella cheese. The chicken breast teriyaki and the stuffed flounder were ordinary, but not objectionable.
For lighter fare, the tops in quality for the price was Kilroy's chili. At $3.25, this nicely seasoned appetizer was enough for a meal, served with a generous portion of tortilla chips. The mexi-skins were all right, but more like a stew of chili and potatoes topped with melted cheese. Sliced potatoes were used instead of the expected hollowed-out halves.
Less exciting were the steamed spiced shrimp -- uneven in size and taste -- and some onion rings with thick batter coatings. A soup-of-the-day seafood chowder was heavy on okra but little else.
Even the burger was disappointing. It was overcooked and arrived broken, like a three-piece pie chart. A cheese steak sandwich was better, but some of the beef slices were tough. Kilroy's version came with mushrooms and mozzarella instead of the usual Cheese Whiz.
On a second try, the chicken salad proved to be a fresher mixture of chicken, walnuts, and celery, although the mayonnaise was excessive, a shortcoming of the shrimp and tuna salads as well.
One night the tossed salad greens looked tired, but on another they were fresh and crisp. The spinach salad was tried only once, and it was terrible. Most of the large, tough leaves were left intact -- yellow sections and all.
For dessert, the ordinary cheesecake and fluffy chocolate truffle cake were undistinguished, as was the overly sweet cinnamon apple and oat sundae with gobs of whipped cream. Two nonalcohol "frozen exotic" drinks, strawberry patch and berry berry, were like slush drinks and not worth the $2.25.
The surroundings at Kilroy's are pleasant enough and the service, when not overwhelmed, is helpful and cheery. But in the battle to keep the lid on prices, quality is an all-too-frequent casualty.