Signs of summer: mosquito bites on ankles; that shimmery haze floating above every inch of asphalt in the state; the smell of BBQ; and kids. Kids at the mall. Kids at the stores. Kids at the lake.
Speaking to my boss about potential targets for my palate, he thought it wise to cover something related to what many families will be doing in the coming weeks. Sure, makes sense, right? After going through the list of potentials, he began grinning like a maniacal psycho and scribbled my next mission onto a piece of paper before collapsing onto his iron throne of swords, overcome with rampant roars of self-congratulatory laughter.
Well, that’s how it played out in my mind. Anyway, I was told I had to go to the bowling alley.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
The bowling alley is NOT somewhere you choose to go eat. In fact, eating at the bowling alley is merely a byproduct of the bowling experience in the same way a gas station hotdog is only to be consumed when adequately inebriated after a night at the Rack and Grill.
Brunswick is always busy. Yes, it was the middle of the week and the middle of the day, but there were kids everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Sure enough, they were wearing matching t-shirts and a few authoritative women were standing around keeping the kids’ fingers in the bowling balls and out of their nostrils. Camp groups, yay!
Couple of things about this review – first, I do love the bowling alley. It holds many fabulous memories for me. Mostly of dropping my girls off there for parties so I can get some “me time”, but also – way back in the day – it was the only place you could go drink pitchers of “beer” and passively smoke a few packs of cigarettes without showing your ID.
Second, I cannot truly critique a place that has limited control over its menu, suppliers, or staff. The place is owned by Bowlmor AMF Corps.; individuals may make a difference, but you are going to get the same type of food regardless of the location. This is where that stupid phrase “it is what it is” actually makes sense.
So I’m just here to share my experience, because so many of you are going to go through it too. Suckers.
Once again, I had my youngest with me. The kid was not happy with the fact we weren’t bowling, but after I bribed her with a lollipop and a promise we would soon return for a game, she was fine. Hungry, but fine. Problem being, we couldn’t order anything. Three groups of camp kids got there before us and they all wanted pizza. My math skills told me this meant the one guy they had in the kitchen would need to make something like 200 pizzas in 15 minutes, so I told him I’d wait to order until he was more available.
Turned out to be a mistake. What I thought was a nice thing to do – being considerate and waiting – only became an opportunity for the other 350 bowlers to step up to the counter to complain or demand their food. As I watched the cook silently freak out in his head, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.
Folks, think about your own cooking experiences. Why would you think a single person could handle an avalanche of food orders at once? Can you? I can hardly manage to get dinner out for five people within half an hour and you expect him to make 12 pizzas, a dozen orders of wings and 40 baskets of fries in five minutes? What planet do you live on? And, if you are so talented, can you please come cook dinner for my family?
We waited and watched the bowling. And the Women’s World Cup match between USA and Australia was on, so I was very happy (USA won 3-1, by the way. And yes, you should know that.) The screens were showing all kinds of things and somehow the speakers were blaring out music, too. Pair that with the noise of a gazillion people bowling/shouting and you have a sensory overload that rivals Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties and the mall at Christmas. I began cursing my boss under my breath. Repeatedly.
Speaking to one of the ladies at the desk I discovered Brunswick needs cooks. Well, no duh. But, even under the kind of pressure that would crush me, the cook was really nice to us. Fielding complaints from customers, he was professional and straight forward. He even smiled when I thanked him, which I didn’t anticipate – really, for the hour or so I was there I half expected him to start hurling plastic food baskets across the counter, but he didn’t.
Anyhow, 35 minutes later, I was able to order from the extremely standard menu. Bizarrely the selection is varied enough everyone can find at least one meal they would eat. Yes, burgers, hot dogs and pizza are a given but the “healthy options” were a surprise – not that I could ever eat a chicken salad wrap when breathing in the aroma of 300 people’s feet, but it was comforting to know I at least had the option.
It was fairly standard pricing, too. Ranging from a few dollars for snacks and appetizers to about $9-$10 for a combo meal – slightly more than I’d care to spend, but again, it is what it is.
Naturally, they have a kids menu. Pizza, hot dog, mac & cheese bites (wut?), grilled cheese. The usual. My daughter chose chicken tenders and fries. Altogether the mini-meals cost about $5 including a drink. Served with a generous cup of honey mustard, the portions are plenty large enough for an adult, let alone a child.
The same could be said for my food, which I got about 20 minutes after I ordered. I went for the “Crowd-Cheeser” – a $9 combo of fries and a “classic burger covered in chees and grilled to please.” Note: do NOT order it by name. Just say you want a cheeseburger, or the woman helping the cook will issue you with a blank look, a slight sneer and then correct you with the question, “You mean a cheeseburger?”
Oh, you got me, don’t I feel silly for ordering it by its name. Sorry you don’t like your job.
The burger bun was toasted and slightly melted butter was spread on the inside of the bun. The burger itself was grilled enough I couldn’t really taste anything but ketchup. The fries were perfectly edible. The milkshakes were not actually shakes, but they were cold and sweet so I was happy slurping mine. If I’d been bowling, I wouldn’t have focused so much on the quality, but not being swept up by knocking pins down allowed me too much time to think about what I was eating.
We’ll be back, and we’ll eat the food – after all, the kid decided it’s where she wants to have her birthday party next month. But, I don’t think I’ll be eating a whole meal there again. It took about 7 hours for my stomach to digest that burger. No kidding. I couldn’t eat dinner that night, and the repercussions are not something I discuss in polite company, but I will say the following morning I was relieved to discover the abdominal swelling had disappeared. Funnily enough, it had kinda resembled a bowling ball…