I have to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to eating at a crowded, noisy bowling alley, even if it was supposed to be a semi-classy “boutique” bowling experience.
We were seated in a booth near the bar and, before our waitress came over in her rollergirl-inspired uniform (sans rollerskates), we had some time to take in the surroundings. The décor was something out of a chic nightclub, with long cushioned benches (instead of the typical fiberglass bowling chairs) and big round lamps that provided dim lighting. Heavy velvet curtains between lanes creating a semi-private environment for the bowlers, but we had to raise our voices while they cheered and the pins crashed. A soundtrack of Top 40 hits played loudly.
Our waitress brought two menus. One was the regular dinner menu and the other was Toro’s barbeque menu with just five selections. From the Small Plates section of appetizers, the Chicken Pillows ($7) — pan-seared chicken dumplings with sweet chili sauce — sounded like something I’d like, but we ultimately decided to try the Tomato and Cheese S’Mores ($6.50). Six warm mini sandwiches arrived, each with two crispy toasted pieces of bread sandwiching roasted tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella. They were straight-forward and flavorful; we enjoyed them.
The rest of the menu consists of pizzas, sandwiches, mini-burgers, salads, sides and desserts.
The options are mostly typical bar and grill-style American fare minus the neon orange cheese, but some more creative additions to the menu provided options beyond run-of-the-mill pub grub. The Turkey Brie sandwich, for example, comes on a ciabatta roll with apple butter, sliced turkey and melted Brie ($9). The pizza options include plain cheese, pepperoni, barbeque chicken and “meat lover’s” ($8-$11).
I was intrigued by the Spicy Fried Chicken Salad ($9.50) because it sounded so crazy it had to be good. It’s a feast of a salad, with romaine lettuce, chopped bacon, avocado, tomatoes, cheddar cheese and fried chicken chunks topped with ranch dressing and buffalo sauce. The buffalo sauce was a little much at times, but the salad was really good and fun to eat because of all the elements (though I could only finish about half of it). The Asian Salad also sounded good: chopped romaine lettuce, Napa and red cabbage, diced chicken, shredded carrots and fried wontons with a ginger dressing and hoisin sauce ($9.50).
All girls think miniature objects are super-cute, which is probably why my girlfriend ordered from the Mini Burgers section of the menu. You have the option to choose one for $4, two for $7.50 or three for $10.50 (with a $1 up-charge for the Tuna burger). She chose three: the Turkey, the Sausage and the Buffalo Chicken. Each came on toasted mini garlic buns, which meant that they didn’t have that typical soggy bottom that inspires the moniker “slider.” The Turkey burger, my favorite of the trio, was moist and flavorful with a drizzle of balsamic syrup. My girlfriend liked the Sausage burger best, with its mild Italian sausage patty, roasted red peppers and roasted garlic mayo. The Buffalo Chicken burger (topped with lettuce and blue cheese) was simple, straight-forward and merely OK. The side of fries was surprisingly good — fresh, hot, salty and crispy.
Stuffed from dinner and Blue Moon beer, we didn’t have any place to put one of the five dessert offerings. If I had, I probably would have tried the Chocolate Insanity ($6.50) — warm chocolate cake with a melted chocolate center and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Despite the noise level and occasional red or blue laser light flashing across our faces, our casual dinner was comfortable and fun. I expected the whole experience to be chaotic, but the servers did a good job and the food was good and reasonably priced. If you’re not into bowling, the same food is served at the neighboring Toro, with slightly different operating hours. And no clanging pins.
Go: Newport on the Levee, Newport
Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday
Entrée Prices: $9-$11
Red Meat Alternatives: Salads, poultry, sides
Accessibility: Fully accessible