Remember when you went bowling as a kid? You padded around the slick floor in laced-up clown shoes, knocking down pins, and avoiding gutterballs. You feverishly kept score, tiny pencil in hand, and when hunger struck, you were comforted with greasy fries and messy chili dogs. Today, tallies are done electronically, and many of those nostalgic mom-and-pop bowling joints have been replaced by state-of-the-art alleys whose pulsing lights, deafening soundtracks, and high-priced vodka cocktails could easily make them double as nightclubs. But perhaps the surest sign of a new era in bowling is food served at lanes.
Thanks to creative chefs and well-known gourmands like the Bromberg brothers from Blue Ribbon restaurants in New York and Vegas lending culinary expertise to now-hip bowling hangouts, you no longer have to settle for well-done burgers and lukewarm chicken tenders. Instead, at the Brombergs' Brooklyn Bowl, for example, gourmet burgers and lauded fried chicken are joined by Atlantic salmon, brisket, vegetable "k-bobs," and salads (salads!).
It's not just hipsters in Brooklyn who get to eat well between frames. While bowling at The Ballroom in Toronto, you can dine on smoked cod cakes, Ontario Cheddar tater tots, and house-smoked brisket sandwiches made by chef Tawfik Shehata. Portland's Bayside Bowl has more than a dozen beers on tap, and serves green salads, grilled pizzas, falafel, burritos, and chimichangas. Celebrity chef David Burke has lent his culinary whimsy to The Stadium Grill in the massive Bowlmor location in Times Square, and at Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis you can dine on Star Prairie smoked trout fillet with grilled baguette and fennel.
The presence of brisket, Greek salads, upscale po'boys, and fried catfish on ciabatta may be just the new inspiration you needed to buy a pair of bowling shoes and start a league. These creative menus may finally, finally be making bowling cool beyond The Big Lebowski.