November 15, 2010 | BITE: My Journal

Brooklyn Bowl: A Garden of Earthy Delights

Between off-Broadway gigs Sarah totes chicken with fixins’. Photo: Steven Richter.

        Yes, it’s true that I experienced the thrill of this decade: I was carded by the doorman at Brooklyn Bowl.

         “You must be kidding,” I said to the guy blocking my way.

         “I gotta card you. I gotta card everyone,” he said.

         I gave him my senior Metrocard with the photo that looks like I’m 40. He grunted. “You can go in.”

Pickled peppers and fried oysters top these “egg shooters.”Photo: Steven Richter.

        But the fact is I had already spent an evening at Brooklyn Bowl not quite a month ago and I persuaded my friends to go back this Saturday night because I wanted more of the fabulous eats. Junk food. Comfort food. I craved that burger. And a crusty fried chicken thigh. And those “egg shooters” with pickled peppers and olive oil mayo and a fried oyster on top. Is it any wonder a simple classic deviled egg means nothing to me now?

         “We have to have the pigs in a blanket again,” Steven said as we exited the Williamsburg Bridge passing by Peter Luger’s.

Mini pigs in a biscuit blanket are actually beef, server Sara notes. Photo: Steven Richter.

        “Yes. Yes. Of course. Pigs in a blanket.” A passel of mini dogs in biscuit dough to dip in mustard. Just like those I wrapped in Pillsbury biscuit dough as a new bride 100 years ago. I’d promise the man anything for another round with the stellar macaroni and cheese.

         “Do you want to bowl?” asks my friend who knows one of the owners. He insists on comping her family and friends as a “thank you” for an extraordinary favor she extended. (It was about down cushions and drapes, not sex, if you must know.)

Dinner at the alley is an option we’ve ducked. Photo: Steven Richter.

        “Are you kidding? Me, bowl?” I reply. “If you want to bowl, we’ll happily eat dinner at the lane with you,” I offer. That’s the choice here: bowl-and-eat at the alley or just eat in the dining zone.

         Brooklyn Bowl is a carnival of music, live and canned, dance and arm-waving, bowling, bar-hugging, flirting, canoodling and nostalgic comfort eats. “Brooklyn Bowl: Eat With Your Non-Bowling Hand,” it suggests on the menu.

         And it’s green in a 23,000 square foot former warehouse next door to the Brooklyn Brewery, the world’s only LEED certified bowling alley. That means walls and floors of reclaimed wood, cork and recycled truck tires, LED stage lights, 100% wind power and beer and soda only on tap to save recycling bottles and cans.

Sign in to be next in a booth or find a perch at the bar. Photo: Steven Richter.

        “I can’t tell you how happy I was when you didn’t want to bowl,” Penny confides as we tuck our foursome into a front booth - far from the action and canned rock. It will go live with a cover later. The booth’s tall wooden partitions actually provide refuge from the cacophony. That first visit was a revelation. Comfort food in a bowling alley, okay, no surprise but real comfort, real food. I want to try everything. Our waitress, the adorable Sarah Stockten is not so wrapped up with thoughts of impressing Martin Scorsese should he come in that she can’t find time to audition as a dream server for us, reading minds, timing our excess in manageable waves, fetching condiments.

A carnival fortune teller flanks the bowling shoe rental counter. Photo: Steven Richter.

        Have we overlooked any delicacy? A sublime potato onion knish appears, sent by the manager. Can it be true? This far from Delancey Street? It’s nothing like any knish you ever ate and regretted before. It’s more like a delicate potato and onion tart, a knish for Marie Antoinette before she uttered the fatal, “Let them eat cake.” And that’s not 1000 Island dressing with the fried calamari, it’s lemon, cayenne and chilis.

“Who ordered the rare burger?” Sarah asks. “Mayo or mustard?” Photo: Steven Richter.

         Yes, Bruce and Eric Bromberg of Blue Ribbon fame are the kitchen consultants here and they lend sophistication and authority to this neighborhood hangout. You might think the Brombergs would be embarrassed by the French bread pizzas. It’s as awful as you’d expect of French bread trying to pass as pizza. Even the San Gennaro, with sausage, mozzarella and peppers doesn’t make it. It doesn’t matter anyway because I need to save room for a $10 burger deluxe with fixins’ (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle) and fries. Add cheese or bacon for a dollar more. And $5 for excellent cole slaw. Everything is so reasonable – starters $5 to $12, sandwiches $11 to $16 (an oyster po’ boy), entrees all less than $20. It’s not the money you need to save, it’s the room in your jeans.

         Bring a few friends because you’ll want to taste a “Really” Sloppy Joe too. It is, indeed, really sloppy, deckled with cole slaw and peppers and an elusive not unpleasant sweetness. It comes on a bun but the menu suggests a knife and fork too. A spoon will help shovel up what slurps onto the plate.

          Since three of us are dark meat chicken-eaters and one will only eat the breast, we have to order a whole fried chicken dinner with bacon-dotted collards and mashed potatoes no one even notices. Normally three of us would be dueling over the two thighs. But after doubles of those blanketed pigs (actually they’re beef not pork, Sarah advises), Steven can barely do justice to a leg. It’s not the best fried chicken I ever ate but fried chicken doesn’t really have to be the best when you’re in a fried chicken mood.

The best macaroni of the season so far – cheesy but not too, just $12. Photo: Steven Richter.

         And of course there’s the primal macaroni that haunted my dream, a generous bowl listed as an entree for $12 - big fat shells oozing goo -- aged cheddar and aged provolone is the secret -- properly crumbed and crusted on top. Ohmigod. Somebody stop me.

         Stupefied, we let the staff clear the debris and bring us chocolate chip bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge, because when you’ve done this much damage in one evening there’s no point being demure when you hit act three. The house sends out brownies à la mode too. And Fred is boldly slurping a “Bourbon Street Shake.”

         “I had to see how bourbon went with Nutella,” he explains as if he were getting a doctorate in physics.

You can reserve for bowling but not for dinner. Photo: Steven Richter.

        The guys wander off to watch the football game on a giant screen. We make sure our server gets the tip and wander toward the door to watch the crowd piling in. It is Guns ‘N’ Roses homage night on stage, it seems, and Halloween. I could fall in love with a lean, long-haired Musketeer if his adoring Carmen had let go for a minute. Alas, I have a sense I am invisible. But if anyone does actually look at us, he or she might think our costumes amusing, especially my old lady mask.

61 Wythe Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets in Williamsburg. 718 963 3369. Monday through Thursday 6pm to 2am, Friday to 4am, Saturday, noon to 4am, Sunday noon to 2am.

Family Days, all ages, Saturday and Sunday noon to 6 pm. Sunday through Thursday weekday bowling rate: $20 per lane per half hour. Weekends $25.