Bowling for strikes and heartburn

AAH… SATURDAY night, and you’re out to stretch your wings, dust off your pleasure centers and recharge those batteries of sensuality. You take a lusty bite of that golden burger (only slightly less attractive than the one in the lighted picture behind the bar). You suck on that translucent straw and take another hit of ice cold Coke.

You yawn and stretch your shoulders until they almost touch in front of you. You feel the tension oozing out of your toes and down the chrome legs of your stool. To your left a screaming dark-haired newborn is being rediapered on a white Formica table. To your immediate right, Mikey spills his second Coke. In the distance are the chirps, whines and whistles of a half dozen video games, spewing neon purples and reds all over the foyer. But above those pleasing sounds comes the rumble of plastic balls on polished wood and the explosive crack of bowling pins being knocked into the great beyond.

Welcome to America’s heartland, land of sweet, sweaty fellowship, of character sketches and of grease. No getting around that grease, at least not if you’re a dedicated snack bar aficionado. And even if you aren’t, we are. We’ve got the Rolaids receipts to prove it, along with a sheaf of snack bar dining reviews. Here are a few to consider, next time you can’t bear the thought of another quiche, escargot or chocolate mousse.

Don Carter’s East, 6343 E. Northwest Highway, 363-9418. Don Carter’s West, 10920 Composite, 358-1382. “You must be kidding,” is the usual reply to a lunch invitation at one of Don Carter’s bowling centers. But once there, you might have to fight for a seat under one of the TV screens showing soap operas. Muzak oozes from plush, carpeted walls. A red button beckons a waitress to your lane. In the upstairs lounge a live band plays country music. Adjacent to a lobby stuffed with plants, skylights and leather couches is a walk-up counter and several tables where you can order a meal that rivals any of the surrounding fast-food chains. The wide selection of sandwiches, pizza, Mexican food and the full breakfast menu is agreeable enough; the chalupas are tops ($1.15). Daily breakfast and lunch specials offer low prices. And just in case you forget the menu, it’s printed on your coffee cup. Full-service bar at both locations. East location open 24 hours Thursday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday; West location open every day 24 hours.

Jupiter Bowl, 11336 Jupiter Road, 328-3266. Inside this alley, subdued lighting creates a dramatic, den-like atmosphere. A walk-up counter offers sandwiches, platter specials, breakfast items and packaged snacks to be taken to an open group of tables. The usual sandwich offerings were adequate; some even contained fresh meat. The fried fish sandwich ($1.75) was flaky and not greasy, but no tartar sauce was available. Side orders included hand-cut french fries and fried squash. Two highlights were the vanilla (chocolate is also available) shake ($1.25) and the super nachos ($2.45), prepared with fresh pinto beans, hamburger and grated Longhorn cheese. Private membership for liquor $4. Open every day 9 a.m. to midnight.

Circle Bowl, 10011 Denton Drive, 357-4555. Under the blue and pink blinking marquee of Cotton Eyed Joe’s is a dark block of a building with a half-burned-out sign directing the way to the “Circle.” Inside there is no Muzak, no potted plants. Instead, vintage wooden booths with brass handles, old leather chairs and marble tables set off faded carpet and a nest of bowlers. Viewing tables are fronted with stained glass. The place smells of fresh paint and new ownership.

The food is even more of a surprise. Along with dependable sandwiches are daily blue-plate specials. Barbecue and chicken-fried steak are regulars, and either (with a choice of three vegetables) costs $3. The value is not in the quantity, but in the quality. The gravy on the chicken-fried steak actually did not coagulate. Sure, the green beans were canned, but the accompanying ham was not. Fresh french fries, chili and nachos with natural cheddar cheese ($2.45) are among the treats. Full-service bar. Kitchen open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., sandwiches until closing (when the last bowler leaves

Expressway Lanes, 5910 N. Central Expressway, 826-6930. In the “café” the Ex-pressburger ($1.40), bless its thin soul, was tasty once we added mustard, onion, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and ketchup. The accompanying salad (95
Valwood Lanes, 224 Valwood Village, 241-3791. The trick is to get these dinner specials before they run out. Beef stew ($3) was the special on one visit, a Mexican platter ($3) on another. The processed cheese was uniformly melted over grease-ensconced enchiladas and nachos ($3). a highlight was that the gravy accompanying the chicken-fried steak was served in a separate bowl. At $2.35, the chicken fingers may be a better bargain than the 53 chicken-fried steak, since they tasted identical. A healthy salad of greens, red cabbage and carrots complemented a truly fine salad dressing. No liquor. Open 9 a.m. to midnight, later on weekends.

Bronco Bowl, 2600 Fort Worth Avenue, 943-7473. This cavernous family entertainment center sports myriad pastimes: batting cages, archery, pool, pin-ball-not to mention bowling. A well-stocked snack bar will placate the most myopic addiction to fast-food sandwiches and breakfast items. And this was one of the few spots that offers dessert: thawed “homemade” apple or pecan pie (70¢).

A $5 bill will get you a drink and a membership in one of two private clubs (ladies free). The disco club is discreetly tucked between a bowling equipment shop and a blank door. Inside, the ceiling’s red lights burn dully, creating a shadowy atmosphere that makes it difficult to see. The payoff is not only the chance to disco nightly on a cracked linoleum floor, but also to devour a 12-ounce T-bone steak for $7.35. The “red” meat was tasty, the “red” country fries shimmered with a sheen similar to that of Oil of Olay, and the “red” garden salad had a certain wetness about it from a recent bath. The snack bar is open from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., later on weekends. The club is open 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. nightly and will soon be open for lunch.

Hart Bowl, 3641 W. Northwest Highway, 357-4358. Glass walls enclose soda shop booths and help muffle the noise of cracking bowling balls and loudspeaker chatter. We were disappointed to find that the daily specials (burritos, enchiladas, $1.75) had been put back into the freezer for the day, but we had an idea of how they tasted. We spotted meat halfway through the polish sausage sandwich ($1.90), which came with mayonnaise, of all things. The hamburger ($1.80) was swallowable, but the french fries were tasteless and the coffee was thin and old. Other sandwich offerings were in a similar state of the art. Full-service bar. Open Monday through Saturday 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 a.m.; Sunday until 11 p.m.

Town North Bowling Center, 220 W. Spring Valley Road, 235-7131. This coffee shop is special for two reasons: its unique names for sandwiches (“pimento cheese garden” is a cheese sandwich, $1.70), and its massive red-brick fireplace with built-in grill. The glassed-off food service facility specializes in pinball machines and frozen food, from chicken-fried steak sandwiches ($1.05) to fried shrimp ($3.35). No milk available. No liquor. Open 8:30 a.m. until midnight Monday through Saturday, noon until midnight on Sunday.

Preston Forest, 828 Preston Forest Shopping Center, 361.7187. Reputations die hard. This glassed-off counter and booth way station is still reveling in the year-old victory of best hamburger in town ($1.35). Its secret is said to be in the bun. It goes well with pink lemonade and another house favorite, ¢ tots (90). The addition of meat in the barbecue makes this a sandwich worth noting. No liquor. Open every day from 8 a.m. until midnight.

DINING AT skating rinks can be comfortable because once you have the floor plan and menu at one spot memorized, you will be able to find the same fixtures in all other rinks. The food is vintage institutional food service quality: rinkside stainless-steel tables and offerings such as hot dogs, cotton candy and soft drinks.

Broadway Skateland, 3022 Moon, Mes-quite, 279-0421. The setting for this fast-food mogul is blaring disco music and popcorn-strewn industrial carpeting. Orange plastic tables dot the edge of the rink, and crepe paper streamers wave overhead, amid red blinking balls.

The barbecue sandwich ($1), slippery and soggy, was microwave steamed. Other menu offerings include ballpark nachos ($1), frito pie ($1), popcorn ($1.25), cotton candy (50C), soft drinks (25? to $1), the “suicide” (a concoction that includes practically every drink in the house-a real kiddie favorite) and candy bars. All selections are available at every skating session.

White Rock Skate Center, 10055 Shore-view, 341-6660. The only close in-town rink. White Rock is a well-kept color-coordinated room that offers the gamut: skate rental and lockers, a wide expanse of wooden rink and a profusion of metal tables with red leather stools. Week-night offerings include steamed hot dogs (70C) with mustard and relish, popcorn (401), soft drinks (35C and 50C), giant dill pickles (35C) and packaged cupcakes (35?). The weekend menu enlarges to include hot nachos covered with melted Cheese Whiz (85c). Food is served only during skating sessions, which change periodically.

Other local rinks serve similar fare: the bare bones menu on weekdays and hot specials on weekends. With the exception of the Starlight (which goes so far as to serve frito pie, chili dogs and hot nachos at every session) other rinks, such as the Thunderbird, Westlake and Fifth Wheel, reserve these delicacies for weekends. A phone call to your local rink is recommended, as these menus may change.


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