It’s seven million degrees outside, and the notion going swimming is already as stale as an abandoned Cheeto on the pool deck. Your kids seem to be programmed to wake up, rummage through the kitchen for food, routinely remind you of how bored they are in between breakneck bathroom trips during marathon sessions of Fortnite, and beg for chips at 9:45 in the morning.
Welcome to summer in North Texas, where the living is easy if you can put an alarm on the pantry.
Another alternative? Head to one of the area’s bowling/gaming destinations where the food isn’t “trash”—to borrow a darling expression from my 10-year-old—and the fun might just keep the boredom at bay.
Alley Cats Entertainment
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What’s the deal? There’s bowling, go-karts, video games, laser tag. You name it and the youngsters can do it. A recent trip to the renovated Hurst location shows a wildly revamped space that is likely to be every kid’s dream. Tuesday is the day to go, with bowling, rock-climbing, laser tag and game cards all half-price.
How’s the food? Not as bad as you’d think. Each venue has its own signature dining area. In Hurst, it’s the 820 Bistro, where build your own burgers ($8.99) and hold sway with flatbreads ($16.95 for the large) on steroids. (Is flatbread the essential food for gamers everywhere?) And extra tickets go to the person who came up with the Kids Biggie Grilled Cheese ($6.49), which finds mozzarella and cheddar conspiring amid a triple serving of Texas Toast. You should add bacon bits for 79 cents because you can.
Flatbreads featured? Of course.
Boredom-buster Barometer: 4 (1, meaning you’re better off at home to 5, meaning, “This is lit!”)
Three Dallas-area locations in Plano, Las Colinas and Allen, pinstackbowl.com
What’s the deal? Not to be confused with Pinstripes or for that matter Don Carter’s, Pinstack is more than a stack of pins. (This is not their slogan.) These locations have rope courses, rock-climbing walls, laser tag and, wait for it, BUMPER CARS. Mondays sound more than promising for beleaguered SAHSPs (stay-at-home-summer parents). From 4 p.m. until closing time, 24 different kinds of draft beers are $3 each, plus appetizers are half-off. Mama want to go to here.
How’s the food? “Chef-driven” (can we please retire this phrase?) and no-nonsense, familiar bar favorites (cheese fries, please) share menu space with unusual offerings: prosciutto-wrapped barbecue mahi mahi, anyone?
Flatbread featured? Incredibly, no. But the Chicken and Waffle Stacks more than make up for it. They had me at sriracha cream.
Boredom-buster Barometer: 3
What’s the deal? Two-parts bowling alley, one part bocce den, this new Clearfork entry from the Chicago-based company aims to offer an upscale gaming experience along with swanky food. Despite such high-tone touches, the Fort Worth location offers a great deal for kids and their parents during the week. From 10 a.m. to noon, kids can bowl for $3 per hour (with a $3 shoe rental) and mom or dad can bowl for free.
How’s the food? Pretty, pretty good. (Unlike my bowling.) From flatbreads to pizzas, there’s something for every caretaker and his/her dependents. Try the excellent burrata caprese salad ($15) or the Famous Prime Rib dip ($17). There’s also a kids menu for $7 that includes a starter, entree and beverage. The spaghetti and marinara with meatballs was a hit, er, make that a strike with the littlest eater at the table.
Flatbreads featured? Yes
Boredom-buster Barometer: 3
What’s the deal? There’s a lot to like at this swanky year-old outpost, just east of downtown. In a review last year, I called it a “driving range that plays like a bowling alley,” and that’s the truth. Line up at one of the cubbyhole-esque spaces and try to hit the ball into various designated color-coded areas. (See how much I play here?) But if you’re a pro or have kids who dream of being pros, there’s a steal of a summertime deal here. For $199, families can get an unlimited fun pass for play all summer long (until 5 p.m. each day).
How’s the food? Tee-riffic. The bacon mac ‘n cheese spring rolls ($9.50), fried cylinders filled with supremely cheesy and subtly spicy elbow macaroni, are transcendent and the injectable donut holes ($11) are State Fair-worthy. Kids will get a kick out of using the plastic syringes to inject chocolate or Bavarian cream sauce inside the pastry. When the sauce invariably oozes out, that’s how you’ll know it’s time to go home. The Mushi ($10) is is kind of like what would happen if you took a Chipotle burrito and cut it into slices, then topped it with an avocado and Sriracha hot sauce. The chunky chicken mixes with the cheddar cheese, and the layers of tortilla add just the right bit of texture to keep it all together.
Flatbreads featured? Fore-sure.