So I guess this whole bowling-alley-cum-restaurant is a thing.
The second such facility opened its doors last week and is now accepting guests with a ten-pinterest to bowl and eat at the same time. Or not.
We recently visited Splitsville, the whimsically named bowling restaurant at Downtown Disney. (Well, it’s whimsical unless your date takes you there to actually break up, thinking you’d enjoy the irony, in which case you’re better off without the jerk.)
Kings is smaller than Splitsville, and is spread out over one floor. It occupies a space on International Drive that used to be a Gooding’s grocery store. So now there are alleys instead of aisles.
Although there are a couple of private rooms with their own lanes for party groups, most of Kings' 22 lanes are grouped together. You may not notice them at first because there are so many ultra large television screens hanging over them. Hope you’re not easily distracted as you try to roll the ball to his that sweet spot that will knock all 10 pins down.
Also like Splitsville -- there’s really no way to do this without comparing; we’re talking about a genre here -- Kings strives to offer its guests more than your average old-style bowling alley food. I can still taste reheated frozen pizzas from my youth eaten with the same fingers that had just been placed in the holes on the balls where so many other fingers had been. And this was the pre-Purell era. But I digress.
Kings’ menu is extensive (perhaps too much so). It has sandwiches and wraps, it has burgers, it has pizzas, it has sliders (different from burgers), it has salads and it has steak, chicken and seafood entrees. What it doesn’t have is focus.
There’s barbecue, there’s Asian, there’s Southwestern. How about a little Hawaiian? Or British? Cajun, why not? And of course a Brazilian fish stew.
I’ve only sampled the food at Kings while attending a media preview, so consider this only a first-bite assessment. Most of what I tasted was perfectly acceptable. I especially liked the pulled pork sliders -- very moist meat with a delightful smoky aroma. And the barbecued ribs were good, too, quite tender. And I liked the chicken wings, which are available in a variety of flavors. The pizzas I tried were a bit too thin.
Unlike Splitsville, Kings encourages guests to dine apart from the bowling lanes. Dining while bowling is not forbidden, but the main dining area is on the other side of the complex, out of view of the lanes. I was told that Kings expects people to come in for dinner, then put their name in for a lane as they finish dining. This of course is what they’d prefer because it would mean a better flow and alley turnover with less waiting. I preferred Splitsville’s setup that had dining areas spread around the complex so that even non-bowlers could watch others while they ate.
I like the decor at Kings, which features touches of nostalgia from the ‘50s and ‘60s, such as the pendant lamps, Brunswick crown logo and the diamond-sparkle pattern in the tabletop designs.
Prices are quite reasonable -- more so when you consider the Tourist World locale -- with most entrees in the mid teens.
There are two large bar areas, including one completely apart from the bowling action. They’re very big on their specialty drinks, including one section of the bar menu labeled Kings (sic) Big Balls, because you never get too old for moronic frat-boy humor.
This might be a good time to mention that no one under 21 is allowed in after 6 p.m. That may be one of the smartest moves of all.
My thought on both businesses is that it is the entertainment -- the bowling -- that will bring people in, not the restaurant entity. I like and encourage the endeavor to provide good food, more ambitious food. But I don’t see anyone saying, “Hey, let’s go to Kings tonight because I’m craving some Cajun-Asian-British-Brazilian food.” They’re going to say, “Hey, let’s go bowling,” and then realize they can eat there, too. Once you have your priorities set, it all falls into place.
Kings is at 8255 S. International Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch, dinner and late night dining daily (adults only after 6 p.m.). Here is a link to kingsbowlamerica.com. The phone number is 407-363-0200.