Millennials and hipsters might give Stuckeybowl a 1 star yelp rating, but if The Dude walked in, he would raise his White Russian filled glass and abide with a couple of strikes.
Stuckeybowl, a dilapidated bowling alley in Stuckeyville, Ohio was bought for the bargain price of a half million bucks in 2000 when it reopened its doors. Since then, little was done to renovate or remove the rank cigarette smell. And that’s okay.
It sits in the Midwest state near Columbus but has more of a New Jersey feel. The parking lot remains unpaved and cracked. The whole place seems untouched since its heyday in the 60s and early 70s. The shoes are worn in, the house balls have just the right amount of lack to give you that irresistible curve in your hook, and the prices are dirt-cheap. There are a few pinball machines, uneven pool tables, and a busted karaoke machine.
Stuckeybowl is different than both the old and new school bowling venues. It’s not due to the owner but to the eclectic employees that inhabit the place. No matter what today’s outsider viewpoint thinks of what a bowling alley should be, how it should be ran, and what it should serve its customers, the employees here don’t give a rat’s ass. You won’t find Four Seasons Hotel or Nordstrom customer service levels, but you will discover these few folks are the lifeblood of this entertainment hub whether it’s in business or not.
Food in a bowling alley is rarely looked upon. Aside from the creative types on Trip Advisor they are never critiqued. It’s hard to fathom one would walk into a bowling alley for the food just like it’s hard to fathom one would go to a strip club for the free buffet. Like most alleys of this caliber, you’ll find a counter grill and a bar. The menu features the typical fried slop: Nachos, fried pickles, fries, mozzarella sticks, wings, burgers, grilled cheese, fried chicken sandwiches, etc. The difference is not the quality of the grub. Stuckeybowl doesn’t put any focus on the food, but the attention the food gets. The employees enjoy making it. They enjoy serving the few customers they have. It gives them the excuse to perfect the little craft there is as well as give them a chance to get-to-know their fellow Stuckeyville peeps.
Take the nachos for example. The ground beef, processed cheddar cheese and refried beans are scattered perfectly on each chip. It’s put under the heat lamp just long enough to sizzle. When bowling and the cheese coagulates, the employees return the nachos back under the lamps to keep it as fresh as it could be. A dish served at an 8-course, 2 Michelin Star restaurant could be utter terrible if it’s not made with TLC. One can tell if there’s love put into cooking, no matter if it’s a Lunchable stacked cracker sandwich or beef bourguignon.
Stuckeybowl has secret menus too. On one visit, a Philly Cheesesteak was served with grade A5 Wagyu Beef illegally imported from Kobe, Japan. Some will say it’s sacrilegious to cook the ultra fatty pieces of heaven on a plancha next to the grease from yesterdays frozen burgers, but after it’s thinly sliced, smothered with wiz and placed in between mayo heavy fried pieces of French bread one will find out this is how it’s meant to be. Morning and mid afternoon bowlers will find high tea and lemon scones. Once again, they’re nothing to write home about, but it’s the thought and attention that perks one up. Stuckeybowl isn’t fancy like this all the time. Most days, one will be served open-faced burgers with funny condiment drawn faces into the patties.
The Professional Bowler’s Association is in Akron, Ohio. It’s questionable whether they would be pleased or displeased with the likes of Stuckeybowl. But it’s a bowling alley that’s still running. It’s serving the community, and the folks who run it, they’re not out to make a profit or change the bowling business, they just want to do something that makes them happy. Even if it doesn’t show in the care or maintenance of the balls, shoes, scoreboards, machines, parking lot, bathrooms, at least it shows in the food.
ATMOSPHERE: Norman Rockwellian quaint, wholesome fun filled with the friendly neighbors and families one will find off of Main Street.
SERVICE: As good as service at a bowling alley could be
SOUND LEVEL: One just has to talk over the crash of pins and balls dropping.
RECOMMENDED: The Kobe beef Philly Cheesesteak and Nachos
DRINKS AND WINE: Beer will do
OPEN: 7 days a week 10am-10pm
RESERVATIONS: You could, but there are always lanes open