Jackson Hole: Hole Bowl

When I finally made my way into Hole Bowl, the new boutique bowling alley that opened last summer in Jackson Hole, it had already been discovered by most of my friends. For months I’d been hearing talk of strikes and spares, a really good flatbread pizza with artichokes and olives, and putting together a bowling league. Evites peppered my inbox inviting me to bowling parties. I hadn’t bowled since my teens, but all this talk of great food in a boutique bowling alley got my attention. I booked an hour of bowling, and headed in with some friends for a double date.

Hole Bowl is a happening, fun spot, with more going on than just bowling — there’s shuffleboard, pool tables, arcade games, a nice restaurant and bar. On my first visit, I only had food on my mind. Hungry from hiking in the Tetons all day, I wanted to eat something hearty yet healthy-ish, a nice glass of wine, and a quiet booth away from the fray.

Hole Bowl on a Friday night is a bustling place. Even though it’s the off season, the lanes are packed with locals hurling bowling balls like their lives depended on it. Within sight of the bowling parents, little girls lounge in a pile on sofas, watching a movie in the arcade/living room atmosphere. A pack of 11-year old boys fills the private 2-lane party room, celebrating a birthday while their parents relax over drinks and pizza. I couldn’t help but regret there hadn’t been a Hole Bowl in town when my kids were young — all those years when going out to dinner was painfully expensive and not at all relaxing.

The Hole Bowl menu is not at all what I would anticipate in a bowling alley —like dishes featuring produce from Vertical Harvest, Jackson’s hydroponic vertical greenhouse built on the side of a parking garage. Sure, there are chicken wings and pretzel bites, as you might expect, but there are also some really unique items, like the eggplant parmesan sandwich. We had a tough time deciding, which is always a good sign with menus. Finally we settled on starting with the braised short rib sliders and an order of loaded fries, which come topped with gruyere, fontina, and parmesan cheeses and shredded braised beef. We had to try a flatbread, Hole Bowl’s version of pizza, which comes in three varieties: the gruyere and caramelized onion, Italian sausage and mustard greens, and the prosciutto, artichoke and Castelvetrano Olives.

For dinner, an arugula salad with a side of Skuna Bay salmon was exactly what I craved. The greens were impeccably fresh, lightly dressed, and topped with crispy prosciutto and dried cherries. Not being a big drinker of beer or spirits, I was happy to discover a solid wine list, and I enjoyed a glass of Rendezvous Red from my award winning hometown winery — Jackson Hole Winery.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that the food at Hole Bowl exceeded my expectations for food served in a bowling alley, or anywhere else for that matter. Chef Jason Mitchell, formerly of Spring Creek Resort, created the menu of crowd-pleasing dishes with input from director of operations Erin Oda, formerly of Fine Dining Restaurant Group. The team put their combined years of restaurant experience together to create a menu that aims to offer simple, delicious, consistent food, locally sourced, with a price point that locals will love.

The idea of bringing a boutique bowling alley to Jackson was conceived almost three years by owner Jessica MacGregor. At home one frigid January day with her three small children bouncing off the walls, MacGregor told her husband to take the kids out of the house and find something to do. “They ended up going to Albertson’s to grocery shop for two hours,” she said. It was then that she realized there was literally nothing to do with kids their age in town.
“My dad always taught me you can complain about something or you can do something about it,” says MacGregor, who grew up bowling in Indiana. “I googled how to start a bowling alley and within days had found a consultant.” Knowing MacGregor as a nurse, a mom, and a card-carrying foodie, I should have realized that with her at the helm of Hole Bowl, there would be healthy, appealing food for kids and grown-ups alike. And it won’t cost a fortune to take the whole family out to dinner —well-balanced kids’ meals are just $6.

To make a long story short: We dined, we drank, we bowled. We declared the flatbread to be a winner. We had so much fun we extended our lane time past 10 pm when the black light bowling starts. (Just for the record, I handily beat my good-at-everything husband, making bowling my new favorite sport.) We bumped into friends we hadn’t seen all summer. I went back for happy hour the next day and relaxed in one of the comfy white booths with a glass of rose from Provence. Wanting to make my way through the flatbread options, I returned for a solo lunch of Italian sausage and mustard greens flatbread, cementing it as a favorite menu item, second only to the eggplant parmesan sandwich, which I also devoured. I recommend finishing a meal at Hole Bowl with a plate six small, perfect, homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Hole Bowl (980 W Broadway, Jackson Hole, WY 83001// 307.201.5426)

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