I actually took a course in bowling when I was in college. It might even have been in grad school. I don’t remember much about it but I know that it didn’t involve much more than just bowling the whole class hour. No instruction on technique or the physics of ball spin and the trajectory of flying pins. Just bowling. And yes, they had invented automatic pinsetters and ball returns by then.
I don’t know why I remembered all that when I visited Splittsville Luxury Lanes and Dinner Lounge, the new bowling restaurant at Downtown Disney. That’s right, I said bowling restaurant. A restaurant attached to a bowling alley -- I mean, bowling center (the professional bowling associations think alley is a derogatory term) -- isn’t new. In fact, it’s quite common. But Splitsville is different. Instead of a long line of bowling lanes and a diner off to one side, Splitsville, well, splits up its lanes into small groupings and places dining tables among them. And it does it over two floors, which is also something you don’t often see.
Splitsville occupies the space that was originally the Virgin Megastore, record stores being another business model torn asunder by the Internet. There are 30 lanes available for bowlers, but nonbowlers are welcome, too, to have a bite to eat with a view of a group of bowlers or away from the action. Frankly, I don’t know why anyone would want to come here and not at least watch the bowling, if not actually lace up a pair of rented shoes and play some frames themselves. The food is OK, but not destination worthy.
I had the nachos, which is almost a cliche of bowling alleys of yore, and don’t get on me for saying alley because the dish is called Alley Nachos. Splitsville’s version was a big pile of red and yellow tortilla chips with a cheese sauce, bits of barbecue chicken, pico de gallo and sliced jalapeños, plus sour cream on the side. It wasn’t a bad serving of nachos, but I would have liked to have had the option of beef instead of chicken. Plus 12 bucks was a bit dear for even this large a portion.
I also had the fish and chips, which were unlike any fish and chips I’ve had before (nor hope to have again). It was billed as mahi mahi, but instead of a fillet, the fish was in strips. And instead of the tempura, the batter was crunchy. The fries were just sad. The cost was $19. I wish I had tried one of the burgers, or even the sushi -- there are two sushi bars in the place.
I was disappointed with the service. I ordered a beer -- it’s a bowling alley; you drink beer -- and the draft I was served was completely flat. No head, no bubbles, nothing. It happens. But what was disappointing was that while I was trying to get the attention of my server to tell him about the beer, and being quite animated in my desire to do so, several other servers passed me by without asking if there was something they could help me with. That’s just bad training (not to mention poor common sense). However, the young women at the front door were quite welcoming, and another at the exit made a point of thanking us. That’s nice.
I liked the atmosphere at Splitsville. It wasn’t anything like I was expecting, and nothing I’ve ever seen in the world of bowling centers. I’d go back.
Splittsville Luxury Lanes and Dinner Lounge is at Downtown Disney, close to the Cirque du Soleil theater. It is open for lunch and dinner daily, including late nights. Here is a link to the Splitsville website -- warning: loud music and bowling sound effects, which apparently cannot be silenced. The phone number is 407-938-7467.