A perfect ten

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Some pin palaces echo the tired, smoke-stained appearance of bowling's comb-over clientele from yesteryear, but that's not the case at Ten Pin Alley & Spike's.

Visitors to the Hilliard bowling alley are greeted by a smiling hostess who introduces them to the chic digs, chock full of sleek furnishings and HD televisions. It's enough to make many first-time patrons do a double take.

"We're a boutique-style bowling alley - something different than Columbus has seen," said owner Sarah Garland.

After guests check in with the greeter, they're escorted to a lane equipped with slick touch-screens and a pampering waitstaff. Groups can lounge on low-profile couches, sip some drinks and, oh, maybe knock down some pins.

Modeled after similar places on the West Coast, Garland describes Ten Pin Alley as the "new face of bowling." The tidy, retro-colored bowling alley and bar's lax setting encourages a broad spectrum of bowlers, including more and more women, white-collar types and twentysomethings.

Ten Pin Alley hosts bowling leagues during the week, from sanctioned to not-so-serious groups, but always keeps at least a few lanes open to the public. The $12 special - all you can bowl for two hours - is popular at night.

Bowling is just one of the joint's facets. A tropical-flavored outdoor bar, called Spike's, gives way to several volleyball courts and a fire pit. Sand volleyball leagues are big in the summer, although most of the excitement happens inside this time of the year.

The square, indoor bar area with tall chairs, slinky light fixtures and huge flat-screen TVs could pass for a Short North hotspot. The bar packs its own crowd of regulars, and events like live music on Fridays and karaoke on Saturdays keep things fresh.

The bar's small, above-average food menu is also available laneside. Thin-crust pizzas and subs make up the usual suspects, but BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders ($7) and Big Lebowski Nachos ($7.50) are standout, share-worthy options. A more robust menu is on the drawing board, Garland said.

Of course, beer and bowling go hand and hand. Domestic pitchers ($6.50) and buckets ($13) tend to be the most functional, while the late-night crowd feeds on Bill-Cosby nectar, aka Jell-O shots ($1).

And when boozing and throwing three-holed rocks tires you out, you can hit the arcade area to prove your Skee-Ball prowess.