A night of fine dining at the bowling alley

  • 2009-02-25
  • By Monika Hanley

BALLS AND PINS: Though the bowling is only mediocre, the food at the center is fantastic.

RIGA - Oddly enough, one of the best parts about the Zelta Bowling Center in Riga, aside from the lack of female presence, is the menu. It is the most extensive and varied menu I've ever seen in my life, let alone in a Latvian bowling alley.

There are about 20 pages in the menu with choices ranging from drinks to desserts, meats and more. In the meat section they offer grilled chicken breast with mango jalapeno glaze and curry rice, peppersteak with wine sauce and squid rings. They have steamed mussels, tiger shrimp and a mysterious "crunchy seafood" option. For dessert they offer pages of desserts from ice cream to grilled fried bananas with strawberry cream sauce. But the highlight of the menu and the dish I enjoyed most was the strawberry champagne soup with ice cream. I had never eaten so decadently in Latvia. It was incredibly easy to forget the bowling and billiard surroundings.

The bowling itself I found to be fairly standard, though disappointingly enough, the rental shoes weren't the bright and obnoxiously colored ones I was used to. At least the center is huge, with 22 lanes available for hourly rental, so there is usually no wait.
While it may seem a bit tacky to take your date or family to a night of fine dining at the bowling alley, I could honestly recommend it for special events.

Normally prices are cheapest during weekdays from 12:00-19:00, when it costs 6.99 lats to get a lane for one hour 's still not particularly cheap. Students can get discounted 2.99 lat hourly rates by showing their student or ISIC cards. On weekends the center is open until 2 a.m. with cosmic (black light) bowling. 
The center also recently opened its Baltic Bowling school, where it is possible to learn to bowl the proper way.
Although the center has temporarily closed its curling center, there is still squash, tennis and billiards to dive in to. There are also very reasonable prices on arcade games, air hockey and the wildly popular "dance dance revolution" arcade game. I must say though that the "DDR" machine is usually occupied by very focused and robotic Latvians, who can be fun to watch as you sip champagne and eat your steamed mussels. 

If you do decide to make a family outing of it, it is also worthy to note that the center has a beauty salon 's should you or your loved ones tire of the intense bowling experience. Most importantly and uniquely, the salon offers a whooping 20 percent discount for those with red-hair.