Thursday, December 23, 2010

A “Star” Is Born In Newport. Yum….

One of my favorite lines in all of American cinema is from the 1981 comedy “Arthur.” There is the scene where Dudley Moore introduces Liza Minnelli to his butler, played by Sir John Gielgud and Sir John replies, “It is a pleasure to meet you madam. Usually one must go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature.” Well, this isn’t your granddad’s bowling alley.

We received several invitations to come and try the new menu at Star Lanes located on the lower level of Newport on the Levee and actually had to be harassed into doing so. I mean, who really wants to eat at a bowling alley?! But it turns out, Star Lanes is the new place to go in Greater Cincinnati–not only to bowl–but also to eat, drink and make merry! Star Lanes features 16 lanes and a bar as long as 12 of them… not to mention the food.

With the offer to eat and bowl, I took my 70-year-old uncle to try out Star Lanes before taking in Denzel Washington’s “Unstoppable.” We were greeted by the lovely Brooke and served by the equally lovely Courtney. For the next 60 minutes we were subjected to more food than a human should be allowed to eat. But when the food is good, that’s not bad!

After asking for suggestions, we first took on the macaroni and cheese. This wasn’t the gooey slop that comes in the box, this was shaped in to bite-sized triangular finger food and deep fried! I’m not a huge mac and cheese guy, but served with a side of tomato based pasta sauce, it is a very cool and yummy twist on an American classic.

Unsolicited, we were also sent their signature chicken salad with goat cheese. Chilled pieces of white meat chicken served atop fresh baby spinach with cranberries and a pomegranate vinaigrette was fresh and sweet. It’s a great lighter alternative to some of the more substantial offerings.

I had to try the onion rings and they did not disappoint. The large breaded rings are obviously made fresh, not frozen. I shared a couple of the small ones with my uncle, but needed a mint afterwards because I ate them all!

My uncle chowed down on grilled–not fried–BBQ chicken wings, which are also available in Buffalo sauce. He proclaimed how good they were, but he didn’t really need too as he hoarded them for himself! Payback for the onion rings, I guess.

I wanted to try a meat option as well as the fish, so I started out with mini-burgers. It is really difficult to prepare these so that they don’t come out as miniature hockey pucks, so I asked for them to be prepared “medium” and by gosh, that’s the way they came out! You can tell this was fresh beef as it was tender and juicy. Cheddar cheese was melted on the burger and topped with crisp applewood bacon. The buns were soft and fresh as well. This is by far the best slider I’ve ever had.

The fish sandwich was equally as yummy featuring two hand-battered fish filets on toasted focaccia bread. Lettuce, fresh tomato slices and tartar sauce accompanied. Usually in such a setting one is served frozen fish, but not at Star Lanes. This fish actually had flavor!

Fries were shoestring in orientation served Jeff Ruby style in a stainless cup and housed in folded parchment-like paper. Hot, crisp and not over salted, they are a great accompaniment to their meat, fish or poultry.

Finally, we were offered both their chocolate cake and chocolate sundae for desert. But feeling like Henry XIII after a half dozen turkey legs, we said we’d like to try the cake. They sent it along with three scoops of ice cream.

Unfortunately, this was the one weak link in an otherwise perfect chain. The piece is actually a quarter of a cake. It’s huge!–enough to easily feed three or four people. It was frankly stale and tasted as if it had been sitting out overnight unprotected from the elements. But after an otherwise great experience, I surely wasn’t going to complain.

As for bowling… well, it’s has been about 9 years since I have bowled and it showed. Using the bowling ball I dug out of my parents basement that I purchased about 35 years ago when I was a wee lad, in regular light it is a beautiful burgundy. In the black light of Star Lanes however, it was a dingy gray. (But our clothes had a neat glow!) My uncle–who had not bowled in 10 years–spotted me two gutter balls in the first frame of game one, but still beat me. However, youth prevailed in game two as I handled him easily. We’ll just say we both broke 100 in both games. “Unstoppable” was predictable, but well acted and entertaining.

So next time you are looking for some good eats and entertainment rolled into one, roll to the bowl at Star Lanes in Newport. A good time should be had by all!


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