A new genre of bowling alleys across Central Florida is striking a chord with foodies.
Once the home of dried-out hot dogs on spinning heated rollers and cardboard-cradled pizzas, bowling alleys have undergone a culinary and design renaissance in recent years.
Today, places such as Splitsville Luxury Lanes in Downtown Disney and Kings Bowl on International Drive are touting chef-inspired menus. The souped-up settings include VIP lounges, sushi bars, signature cocktails and hip vibes.
"As an industry, we recognized that quality food is something our customers want," says Steve Johnson, executive director of the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America. "It's been a natural evolution."
Bowling is the No. 1 participation sport in the United States, according to BPAA research.
"We've seen a resurgence of bowling as a recreational sport and I think a lot of that has to do with our members meeting guest expectations and that includes better food and drink options."
At this year's Bowl Expo, the industry's annual major trade show, exhibitors included food vendors such as Oviedo-based Asian Food Solutions; Wholly Guacamole, a line of avocado condiments that has expanded to include salsa pineapple dip and roasted tomato dip; and Sysco, a global food distributor whose inventory includes organic foods and artisanal pastas.
Here's a look at three local venues where food has an impressive spin. Despite the new food temptations in bowling alleys, there is one etiquette rule that still has to be followed:
Food and drinks are not allowed in the area where players approach the lanes with bowling balls in hand.
Where: 8255 S. International Drive, Orlando (behind Ripley's Believe It or Not!)
What: In addition to the 22 lanes and a lengthy dress code, Kings has a full-service, chef-driven restaurant and two bars that serve signature cocktails and wines by the glass and bottle.
When: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily; must be 21 or older after 6 p.m.
Best bites: Cajun grouper sliders ($10 for two, $13 for three) and the kingpin club wrap ($11)
Impressive entrees: Brazilian fish stew ($18) with grouper, shrimp, tomatoes, peppers, onions, fresh cilantro, coconut milk, white rice and grilled bread; 16-ounce rib-eye steak ($26) with mashed potatoes, asparagus and fried onion strings
Contact: 407-363-0200; kingsbowlamerica.com/Orlando and Facebook
Bottom line: Kings Bowl started in 2003 in Boston. Orlando is the chain's fourth location.
Splitsville Luxury Lanes
Where: Downtown Disney, 1494 E. Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista
What: In addition to the 30 lanes on the two levels of entertainment space, the menu is guided by award-winning Boston chef Tim Cushman. There are two sushi bars.
When: 10 a.m.-1 a.m. Sunday, 10:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Monday-Wednesday, 10:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m.-2 a.m.Saturday
Best bites: The super tuna roll ($15) with ahi tuna, tempura shrimp and cream cheese topped with seared ahi, avocado, eel sauce, tempura flakes and spicy mayo; filet mignon sliders ($14 for two) dressed with onion rings and horseradish cream
Impressive entrees: Grilled mahi-mahi with "voodoo" shrimp ($24), a blackened fillet with grilled shellfish and a spicy sauce, served with fries and vegetables; grilled salmon ($22) topped with mango chutney and served with broccoli and sushi rice
Contact: 407-938-7467; splitsvillelanes.com and Facebook
Bottom line: Good option for beating the daytime heat or escaping the rain at nearby Disney World theme parks. Since opening in Tampa in 2003, Splitsville Luxury Lanes has grown to include locations in Miami; Fairview, Texas; and Fredericksburg, Va.
Three Point Bowling
Where: 7470 Hoffner Ave., Orlando
What: This recently renovated 16-lane center isn't as retro hip as the others but it does have a chef on staff and touts a "Chef's Table" for entertaining up to 20 people for only $20 per person (tax, gratuity and bowling not included) and a $5 wine corkage fee. The alley is locally owned and independent.
When: Noon-midnight Sunday, 11 a.m. to midnight Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Best bites: Flan dessert ($2.81) signature chili ($2.81 cup, $4.22 bowl); fried shrimp basket ($7.04), with 10 large hand-breaded shellfish and fries.
Impressive entrees: Grilled skirt steak churrasco-style ($8.45), with chimichurri sauce with grilled onions and sweet peppers on white or yellow rice; ropa viejo ($8.45), a platter of shredded flank steak cooked in a rich tomato sauce and topped with grilled onions and peppers
Contact: 407-273-1350, threepointbowl.com and Facebook
Bottom line: Three Point recently celebrated its 30-year anniversary.
These Central Florida bowling alleys have menus that go beyond sandwiches, pizzas and wings:
•Boardwalk Bowl Entertainment Center, Grille, 10749 E Colonial Drive, Orlando; 407-384-0003; alomabowlingcenters.com: The hefty wedge and chef salads make this location noteworthy.
•Fiesta Bowl, 890 Avenida Central, The Villages; 352-753-2747; thevillagesbowling.com: The Pub restaurant serves lunch (sandwiches and wraps) and dinner (fish and chips and more).
•Firkin & Kegler Family Entertainment Center, 12850 Waterford Lakes Parkway, Orlando; 407-373-7444; fkorlando.com: Classic pub fare, but entrees also include grilled salmon with a Jameson Irish Whiskey glaze and basmati rice.
•Lucky's, 2900 Bellevue Ave., Daytona Beach; 386-310-7978; luckysfl.com: Sandwiches take a gourmet turn on the grill menu and main-dish salads are impressive.
•Spanish Springs Lanes, 997 Alverez Ave., The Villages; 352-750-9441; thevillagesbowling.com: At adjacent McCall's Tavern, the fried chicken dinner and ribs are local favorites.
Source: ORLANDO SENTINEL RESEARCHCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun