Somewhere between my childhood and roughly…now-ish, bowling alleys went from being cigarette and prostitute stations with some pins arranged at the back to legitimate places to bring your kids and eat things. I was told about 10 Park Lanes by a friend who watches Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, a lovely show with down-to-earth, honest small restaurant owners being yelled at by a howling TGI Fridays commercial somehow kept alive by his unquenchable thirst for hair gel and nacho cheeze ™ substitute.
Sad/horrified as I am to admit it, the feel of the place goes right along with the afore-mentioned Douche Emporer’s schtick, and it strangely works. 10 Park Lanes manages to strike a nice middle ground between Jetsons-era retro and Helvetica-ish minimalism, giving it a more-than-tolerable atmosphere and, more importantly, distancing it from the grease-covered lime pits we knew as the bowling alleys of our collective childhoods. Emphasis on the “alley” part. The place is nice and inviting, with an especially nice open-air patio that lets you enjoy your food without being assaulted by a Smash Mouth song between every other bite.
And as far as the food goes, it’s spot-on as well. I started with the “Chachos” (yes, you have to call them that or the waitress will scoff and roll her eyes when she writes it down), which are basically nachos that have home-made potato chips instead of tortilla chips, and pulled pork. It’s a damn good idea, and it tastes damn good too, although it fails to fix the typical nacho hurdle of having all the cheese and toppings clump up into one giant pile approximately two bites into the thing. But, no matter, the chips are seasoned perfectly and I’m pretty sure only one nacho artisan in the storied history of nacho has ever solved that problem.
Their most famous dish is a mason jar filled with various BBQ stuffs, something that seems like laziness (and probably is), but turns out to be pure expedient goodness. After all, you’re probably gonna slap all that stuff together on your plate anyway out of boredom and fatness…you might as well have them all in the same place. They’re also smart enough to make the mason jars the size of a normal, 8 ounce glass instead of a Big Gulp, so you can actually enjoy your food instead of having to shovel it down your gullet to keep pace. The Smoke Jar, which has brisket burnt ends, smoked jalapenos, and mac and cheese, was pretty much a perfect combination. Burnt ends are amazing by themselves, the mac and cheese was tasty, and smoking the jalapenos helped to cut down the spiciness a bit…even though you’re still eating a jar of 1/3 jalapenos at the end of the day. Those things still pack a punch, smoked or not, and it’s a bit overwhelming. Other than that it’s delicious, and they have jalapeno coffee BBQ sauce. That’s all I need in this world.
The dessert was also in a mason jar, something called a “Lane Buster” since presumably you trip and throw up on their bowling alley after you get done eating it. As a purely engineerical feat of food assembly, the thing’s a work of genius. They put the ice cream and brownie on the inside of the jar, and the hot fudge on the outside, so the fudge doesn’t immediately melt your ice cream into an unrecognizable pile of goop, and you can get exactly how much fudge (and roasted peanuts, nice touch) you get in each bite. As far as the flavor goes…it’s ok. Not groundbreaking, and the brownies were a bit weak and cardboardy. You can do better at home.
All in all though, it’s worth a look, and a few rounds of bowling to boot. Also they have a moonshine bar, which is the real reason you should go. You can find 10 Park Lanes at 1700 Montford Dr., Charlotte, NC 28209.