THE FOODIE FILES: Pins, Pints and Panache

By on October 4, 2016

Boutique bowling alley fills valley void with delicious food, drinks and fun for all ages.

Far left: The bar at Hole Bowl is bright, hip and inviting. Left: It’s tough to choose a flatbread, but why not start with the Italian sausage and mustard greens? Right: The eggplant parmesan sandwich on a soft white bun is one of the author’s favorites. Far right: Last (but perhaps most important) are the housemade chocolate chip cookies. (Photo: Annie Fenn, MD)

Far left: The bar at Hole Bowl is bright, hip and inviting. Left: It’s tough to choose a flatbread, but why not start with the Italian sausage and mustard greens? Right: The eggplant parmesan sandwich on a soft white bun is one of the author’s favorites. Far right: Last (but perhaps most important) are the housemade chocolate chip cookies. (Photo: Annie Fenn, MD)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – I grew up hanging out in a bowling alley in upstate New York, owned by my dad’s best friend, Benny Calabro, and his wife Melina, my godmother. It was a Sicilian-American joint that served thick crust pizza with extra hot peppers on the side, real Buffalo wings, and draft beers for 50 cents. My dad, the only surgeon for miles around, had saved Mr. Calabro’s life after his gall bladder ruptured at work. For that, and because they were on the same bowling team, I was treated to free pizza and Cokes for all of my high school years.

When I finally made my way into Hole Bowl, the new boutique bowling alley in the Powderhorn Mall, most of my friends had already discovered it. For months I’d been hearing talk of strikes and spares, a tasty flatbread pizza with artichokes and olives, and putting together a bowling league. 

Having not stepped into a bowling alley since my teens, I had to wonder:  How could Hole Bowl measure up to Central Lanes, my hometown hangout, where I was always greeted by the owners with a huge bear hug and a slice of pizza?

Hole Bowl on a Friday night in the off-season is a bustling place. The lanes are packed with locals hurling bowling balls like their lives depended on it. Within sight of the bowling parents, little girls lounge in a pile on sofas, watching a movie in the arcade/living room atmosphere. A pack of 11-year-old boys fills the private two-lane party room, celebrating a birthday while their parents relax over drinks and pizza. I couldn’t help but regret there hadn’t been a Hole Bowl in town when my kids were young— all those years when going out to dinner was painfully expensive and not at all relaxing.

Hole Bowl is a happening, fun spot, with more going on than just bowling—there’s shuffleboard, pool tables, arcade games, a nice restaurant and bar. On my first visit, I only had food on my mind. Hungry from hiking in the Tetons all day, I wanted something hearty yet healthy-ish, a nice glass of wine, and a quiet booth away from the fray to visit with my husband and our friends.

The locally conscious Hole Bowl menu is not at all what I would anticipate in a bowling alley—like the presence of Vertical Harvest produce featured in many dishes. Sure, there are chicken wings and pretzel bites, as you might expect, but there are also some really unique items, like the eggplant parmesan sandwich. We had a tough time deciding, which is always a good sign with menus, but settled on starting with the braised short rib sliders and an order of loaded fries, which come topped with gruyere, fontina, and parmesan cheeses and shredded braised beef. We had to try a flatbread, Hole Bowl’s version of pizza, which comes in three varieties: the gruyere and caramelized onion, Italian sausage and mustard greens, and the prosciutto, artichoke and Castelvetrano olives.

For dinner I ordered an arugula salad with a side of Skuna Bay salmon. The greens were impeccably fresh, lightly dressed, and topped with crispy prosciutto and dried cherries. It was exactly what I had been craving. Not being a big drinker of beer or spirits, I was happy to discover a solid wine list, and I chose a glass of Jackson Hole Winery’s Rendezvous Red.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that the food would exceed my expectations for a bowling alley, or anywhere else for that matter. Chef Jason Mitchell, formerly of Spring Creek Resort, created the menu of crowd-pleasing dishes with input from director of operations Erin Oda, formerly of Fine Dining Restaurant Group. The team put their combined years of restaurant experience together to create a menu that aims to offer simple, delicious, consistent, locally sourced food with a price point that locals will love.

The idea of bringing a boutique bowling alley to Jackson was conceived almost three years ago by owner Jessica MacGregor. At home one frigid January day with her three small children bouncing off the walls, MacGregor told her husband to take the kids out of the house and find something to do. “They ended up going to Albertson’s to grocery shop for two hours,” she said. It was then that MacGregor realized there was literally nothing to do with kids their age in town.

“My dad always taught me you can complain about something or you can do something about it,” said MacGregor, who grew up hanging around bowling alleys in Indiana. So she googled ‘how to start a bowling alley.’ Within days she had a consultant. Knowing MacGregor as a nurse, a mom, and a card-carrying foodie, I should have realized that with her at the helm of Hole Bowl, there would be healthy, appealing food for kids and grown-ups alike. And it won’t cost a fortune to take the whole family out to dinner—well-balanced children’s dishes are just $6. (Fun fact: MacGregor and I worked together at Women’s Health and Family Care, she as a nurse and me as a physician.)

To make a long story short: We dined, we drank, we bowled, and we declared the flatbread to be a winner. Bumping into friends we hadn’t seen all summer, we were having so much fun we extended our lane time past 10 p.m., when the black light bowling starts. (Just for the record, I handily beat my good-at-everything husband, making bowling my new favorite sport.)

The next day, I went back for happy hour, sinking into one of the comfy white booths with a glass of rosé from Provence. Then, wanting to make my way through the flatbread options, I returned for a solo lunch of Italian sausage and mustard greens flatbread, cementing it as a favorite menu item, second only to the eggplant parmesan sandwich, which I also devoured. And for the grand finish: A plate of six small, perfect, housemade chocolate chip cookies.

Yesterday I learned my godmother Melina, matriarch of the bowling alley of my youth, had just passed away at the age of 91. I think she would be tickled to learn my fondness for bowling has been rekindled (and that I’m trying to track down my dad’s old bowling shirt in case I am invited to join a league). She’d love to know there’s a bowling alley in my adoptive hometown that is family owned, run by local moms, and serves up great hospitality and the most excellent flatbread pizzas. PJH

After delivering babies and practicing gynecology for 20 years in Jackson, Annie traded her life as a doctor to pursue her other passion: writing about food, health, sustainability and the local food scene. Follow her snippets of mountain life, with recipes, at jacksonholefoodie.com and on Instagram @jacksonholefoodie.

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About Annie Fenn, MD

After delivering babies and practicing gynecology for 20 years in Jackson, Annie traded her life as a doctor to pursue her other passion: writing about food, health, sustainability and the local food scene. Follow her snippets of mountain life, with recipes, at www.jacksonholefoodie.com and on Instagram @jacksonholefoodie.

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