Jamie and I were recently invited to enjoy lunch, drinks and a game of bowling at Black Dog's new venture, Dogbowl. I've always been a fan of Black Dog's late night burgers & deep fried gherkins, so was keen to find out whether the bowling alley's grub would be up to standard in the middle of the day. Given that we were booked in for 2pm on a Wednesday, the venue was hardly booming and it certainly lacked atmosphere, although I imagine this is easily rectified once evening falls and beers - and bowls - are sunk.
Having read good things about the quesadillas from Bacon On the Beech, we opted for the veggie version with onions, potatoes and peppers to start, as well as some of their BBQ Shrimps from the little plates section. When these arrived, we started to worry. Up 'til now, the service had been of the hipster calibre (see Good Gobble's description for background reading), and these 'starters' weren't doing much for us. Though the portion humungous, the tortillas were a little bland; I really felt they would have benefitted from a dollop of salsa or guacamole on the side. Perhaps we should have gone for one of the meat options, though as these are the 'base' recipe, I would have expected them to be decent. I'm also not sure what was 'BBQ' about the shrimps, but all we could taste was ginger - perhaps our palates were fooling us, but these weren't particularly good.
Feeling altogether uncomfortable with our awkward/hipster/hungover service and average food, we concentrated on our drinks, which at least, were better. I'd opted for a Mint Julep (bourbon, crushed ice, mint & sugar), and Jamie for a Maple Bourbon Smash (essentially bourbon & orange). Heady stuff for a Wednesday lunchtime, but it felt in fitting with the heavily American menu.
On to the mains and Jamie decided to go out-and-out gross with a Sloppy Joe. We've all heard of these on American sitcoms and shows set in high schools, though up 'til now, I'd never actually seen one. Fortunately, it was light on the 'slop', and was actually pretty tasty: served on Texas Toast (essentially extra thick white bread), the chucked beef 'chilli' was a little on the sweet side, but when eaten with the smoked brisket and beef gravy, it was all pretty good. Excellent chips too!
I've been meaning to make short ribs for a while, but have been lazy about sourcing them, as they don't seem to be an item available in most butchers (probably just because they're actually called something different over here - still trying to work out what that is!), so when I saw them on the menu, I ploughed straight for it. One huge rib, tenderly cooked and dry smoked in the house rub, this was one tasty beast. It came with both chilli and blue cheese sauces, though I would have just preferred more of the gravy that was dripping off the top of it - that was tasty. With fries as well, I struggled to finish this, but it was a tasty main.
Barely able to move after consuming all that food, we managed to burn (almost no) calories with a game of bowling. It'd been bloody ages since I'd last switched my loafers for a pair of bowling shoes, but sipping on a Tijuana Sling (tequila, cassis, ginger ale), I felt as confident as my 12 year old self when the bumpers were first taken off. By the end of the game, I realised not playing for 10 years doesn't result in improvement - though I did manage a strike - and Jamie had me beat by thirty points! The lady on the bowling desk was lovely and a great improvement on our waitress whilst dining. I should add that whilst she was by no means rude, she just wasn't very friendly and I've had much better service elsewhere. Overall, I'm sure many people will visit Dogbowl and have a great time with their mates, nipping in to the restaurant as an add-on to their bowling night out. Certainly, when I compare the Wimpy in the bowling alley I went to as a kid, the food here is much better (though I did love their spicy bean burgers), I just wouldn't recommend making a trip to the restaurant without a game of bowling planned.
Oh, and just in case it wasn't clear, this whole thing was a freebie, but I think it's pretty obvious that we haven't been paid to be nice, just honest!
57 Whitworth Street
Manchester, M1 5WW
0161 228 2888