Just like when I was eight, launching balls down a lane is still a fun way to celebrate someone’s birthday. But things have changed significantly since my childhood with the opening of the slick downtown bowling alley known as The Ballroom (145 John Street at Richmond). Three weeks after its quiet launch, dear friend Bryan Brock of 1 Love T.O. gathered his nearest and dearest on a blizzardy January night for bowling, drinks and food. There’s currently an introductory menu available, so here’s a look at a couple of the snacks you can dig your fingers into, before sticking them into the ball. (That’s a bit gross, sorry.)
The last time I went bowling I was way north of Toronto, eating frozen fries with cafeteria-style gravy. The Ballroom steps things up significantly with a long plate of Loaded Nachos ($14/$22) covered with tomatoes, kalamata olives, scallions and triple cheese, with guacamole, corn salsa and sour cream on the side. It’s an extra $4/$6 for pulled pork, chicken or ground beef and in this case, the pulled pork was definitely a crowd pleaser.
Here’s their BLT ($14), stuffed with housemade peameal bacon, fried egg, tomato, avocado, chedar, arugula, garlic aioli and accompanied by some ’slaw and sweet potato chips.
The Almost Famous Grilled Chicken Wings ($13 for 10, $25 for 20) should perhaps be renamed the Almost Grilled Chicken Wings. My friend sent his platter back to the kitchen because the wings were served undercooked. Since improperly cooked chicken is pretty frightening in my books, I chose to also avoid the replacement. When I asked the same friend about the new wings, he literally replied: “Worst wings ever. Do not order them.”
The rest of the menu at The Ballroom is quite ambitious, even for an introductory offering. There’s dishes that are very untraditional for bowling fare like pea soup, organic quinoa salad and pork pot pie. But then again, this clearly isn’t your typical alley. Prices are higher than you’d expect for both food and bowling, but realistically, The Ballroom doesn’t hide the fact that it’s upscale and urban.
The space totals 20,000 square feet spread across two floors, with VIP booths, ping pong tables in the sports bar upstairs, and nine 10-pin lanes downstairs. They’ve already reacted to complaints of lane high prices and dropped their rates slightly. If you can play hooky from work, it starts at $35/hour from Mon-Wed before 5pm and reaches the maximum of $65/hour during primetime (Thurs-Sun between 5pm-2am), plus $5 per person for shoe rental. Chef Tawfik Shehata (previously of Vertical Restaurant) is overseeing the menu and will be introducing the official one in February, so let’s hope the chicken wing kinks are worked out by then. In the meantime, I’ll be digging into their pulled pork nachos and rejoicing that there’s finally a bowling alley in downtown Toronto.
The Ballroom / 145 John St., Toronto
416.597.2695 (BOWL) / Mon-Sun 11am-2am