Medical experts believe that modern Americans' tendency to constantly clean and disinfect our environment is hurting our immune systems. Denied an external enemy, our bodies' defenses turn inward, spawning autoimmune or psychosomatic instances of diseases like asthma, fibromyalgia, IBS, and even depression. The simplest solution is to stick your fingers in some germs, and then lick them. To facilitate this, a European government is considering placing germ receptacles in public parks with easy-to-understand pictorial directions. But here in the US we are suspicious of government programs for public health. Our best solution might be private initiatives that encourage people to eat while they are bowling. The finger holes of the shared house balls are ideal for the purpose.
Where this plan founders is that bowling alleys rarely serve good food. That is why the pub at the Bayside Bowl is such an exciting development. It is the rare alley that takes its menu as seriously as it does lane wax. You know you are in a different sort of bowling alley dining room when you inquire about a mushroom and the chef swings by with a box of his favorites for show and tell. He gets them from Maine's Tibbetts Mushroom Company, and the current crop features some great enokitake, among others.
Bayside looks great for a pub inside a bowling alley. The room is pleasant and uncluttered, but not overly polished in a way that would be inappropriate to their purpose. You eat at picnic tables, but they are high-end ones with an elegant little curve to them. A huge square bar dominates one side of the room, and a stage for live music the other. The sound of rolling balls and the smack of pins is a surprisingly pleasant background music for your meal.
The bar has a good mix of beers on tap, and the menu shows range — from Mexican to classic pub food to sweet breads (a special the day we visited). Two staples of the regular menu are pizza and mac and cheese, each of with can be done with your choice of 20 or so add-ons. You should go with those mushrooms, of which the chef is rightfully proud. We found a juicy, funky bunch of them at the bottom of a big bowl of elbow noodles. The pasta was more toothsome than your typical mac-and-cheese mush, and the cheese was mostly a mild, creamy ricotta. Crumbled Ritz crackers on top added a touch of both crunch and nostalgia.
Veggie chili also came in a huge serving, along with a piece of dense, buttery, crisp-bottomed cornbread. The broth is much more resonant of the ample black and kidney beans than it is of any tomato that might have been added. There was just some mild heat, and lots of big soft pieces of carrot and zucchini. It was sweet potato that dominated the vegetarian chimichanga, rounded out by mildly spicy rice and black beans. Whoever first thought to fry a whole burrito is a genius on par with the inventor of the European germ-receptacle. Bayside does a good one: crisp but not too greasy. It came with plenty of a good salsa made with big pieces of tomato.