I grew up in The Woodlands, so many birthday parties, Saturday father-daughter dates, and outings with friends were spent at AMF Woodlands Lanes on I-45 across from The Woodlands Mall. A lot of memories were made in this bowling alley, but all of the good ones never involved food. In fact, the only thing I remember tasting good were the French fries because they were thick, salty and much better than the greasy pizza that the cheese slid off of once you picked up a slice.
Recently, AMF Woodlands Lanes has been completely transformed and remodeled into a stylish, swanky bowling alley called Bowlero. And the visitors won't be coming just to throw bowling balls down the lanes. The food is the main attraction, and corporate executive chef Edward Porter wants to get people to eat rather than bowl.
The menu is divided into six sections: Go Small, Go Big, Go Crazy, Go Green, Go Sweet and Go Boozy. During a media tasting, chef Porter served bites of food from each section, proving that bowling alley food is not just boring hot dogs, cheese fries and chicken tenders, which at Bowlero, are one of the best items on the menu. According to Porter, there are nearly 11 herbs and spices incorporated into the soft, tender breading of these chicken strips. Dip each tender into one of the three homemade sauces: BBQ, sweet chili or honey mustard. There are small snacks, such as thick and crispy pita chips with avocado hummus, a simple combination of chickpeas, avocado, tomatoes and lime juice. Munch on a variety of stuffed meatballs made of a particular blend of pork and beef. Classic mozzarella cheese-stuffed meatballs are smothered in tomato sauce and taste exactly like a meatball sub minus the bread; spicy fans will enjoy the jalapeño and pepper jack cheese stuffed meatball covered in a white, creamy queso. For a more filling shared appetizer, opt for the "untamed tacos." Chef Porter says all of the components are made in house, from the corn tortillas to the 36-hour Korean brisket, which marinates for 24 hours.
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As if that's not enough meat, there's also a "Vegan's Nightmare" burger featuring a chorizo and beef patty, bacon and a fried egg. The meat is tender, juicy, salty and everything you could ask for from a meat-lover's burger. Oh and you can't miss out on the Behemoth Burger, a five-pound all-beef patty topped with 12 slices of cheese, 16 slices of bacon, and a whole head of lettuce stuffed between a giant Slow Dough bun. The surprise here is not the size of the burger, but the fact that the meat is not overcooked. Slice into it like a cake and share with your friends.
Speaking of sweets, there's an ice cream parlor truck inside serving scoops of ice cream and sundaes. Folks 21 years and up can order boozy milkshakes featuring Stoli vodka. The Salt & Caramel, Push It Real Good shake includes Stoli Salted Karamel, vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, caramel sauce and a fluffy topping of whipped cream. After the initial sweet sip, you're hit with the salty, sugary vodka - don't drink it too fast.
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Other sweet treats include the Monster Cookie Melt, a warm chocolate chip cookie served in a skillet topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. And Bowlero has its version of the "cronut," named "crodos." These croissant-doughnut treats look like doughnut holes, but the inside is flaky, crunchy and appears to be filled with a light cream and sugary glaze.
Whether you want to bowl and munch on small bites, or pop a squat at one of the high tables and have a late-night meal with friends, one thing's for sure, you won't be eating traditional bowling alley food.