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These three words do not inspire confidence: bowling alley food.
Memories of wrinkled hot dogs coming off a spinning wheel, room-temperature French fries and oddly crunchy "soft" pretzels come rushing back.
That was then. This is now.
A new generation of beefed-up bowling alleys have been spreading across the country over the past 15 years or so starting with Lucky Strike in Hollywood, California, which also has a Philadelphia location.
Offering fine dining experiences, on-site DJs, ping pong, shuffleboard, big screen TVs and more, this new breed of bowling alley has begun to move from big cities to other locales.
One of the newest is here in our area -- the $9.5 million Lefty's Alley & Eats (36450 Plaza Drive, near Lewes), which opened over the winter with a built-in arcade and laser tag area.
"Lucky Strike has a much more adult flavor to it than we do," co-owner D.J. Hill says of his family-friendly alley, which is more of playroom than nightclub.
Summertime vacationers have a new refuge for rainy days -- a 35,000-square-foot, 16-lane alley with local fingerprints all over it.
Owners Hill and Chad Moore live in the Rehoboth Beach/Lewes area and partnered up with beach-based La Vida Hospitality Group to take care of the "eats" portion of the hybrid entertainment center.
Instead of underwhelming concession stand food, the guys behind restaurants like Fork + Flask at Nage, Crooked Hammock Restaurant & Brewery, Big Chill Surf Cantina and the Taco Reho food truck are behind their 50-item menu.
Sure, the basics are there for bowling traditionalists who like to eat items like warm pretzels ($11) or hot dogs (Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, fried jalapenos, chipotle crema, $9) while competing.
But then there is the rest of the menu filled with soups, salads, appetizers, pizzas and nighttime entrees such as grilled pork loin ($18), braised short ribs ($21) and a New York strip steak served with mashed potatoes, green beans and a red wine demi glace ($28).
"It's basically a restaurant within an entertainment center, as opposed to bowling center food," says Josh Grapski, managing partner of La Vida Hospitality Group, whose restaurant group isn't only in charge of the food, but are also partners in the business. "The food is not an afterthought."
Since nothing like the higher-end Lefty's Alley & Eats has been tried in the area, it was a bit of a gamble. And Grapski concedes he was initially a bit skittish.
"But after looking at it for about two years, the numbers made a lot of sense and we decided to make an adventure of bringing something fun to the beach," he says.
Hill decided a business like Lefty's would work in the area based on plenty of factors, seven of which being the combined number of children in the Hill and Moore families.
While you would think there's plenty for kids to do at the beach, that is certainly true in the summer. But in the off-season, the outdoor options evaporate.
"We know, along with all of our friends, that it can be difficult to find things to do as a family," Hill adds. "Especially if you're looking for something interactive that forces everyone to put their phones down and talk to each other.
"It was borne out of our own personal frustrations, really."