Raleigh, N.C. — When you walk into Kings North Hills, it is like walking into another world. A world where "The Dude" rules and bowling alley cuisine tastes more like fine dining than warmed over hot dogs and old nachos.
For Kings' first North Carolina location, they chose a perfect spot - the former home of Sparian's bowling alley is in a prime location near an ever-growing section of the north Raleigh shopping center. While it might have been able to keep some of the previous tenant's lanes, Kings opted for a complete overhaul. This franchise's theme is modern with a retro flair, so everything is in place for a reason.
It's almost like you walked into a casino because the longer you stay, the more you forget what time of day it is. The 30,000 square-foot-facility has fancy lighting, red walls and a cocktail lounge feel. From the minute you walk in, you are immersed in this world of play - from the food and drink to the games.
Customers are immediately greeted by a "Celebrity Wall" featuring pics of famous folks who have partied at Kings' other locations across the country. Lady Gaga, Jimmy Fallon and Jon Hamm are just a few famous fans of Kings.
Around the corner, there is a well-lit counter where you can set up a lane for bowling or rent some shoes. (Sorry, the Kings' high heels aren't available, not yet at least.) You can turn into the main bowling area - 12 lanes, ample seating and bar and soon-to-be all seasons patio. If you want to dine, take a left into the dining and bar area, which features the franchise's first bumped out bar tables.
Several areas are set up for private parties. The Out and About team got to check out the food, games and beverages in the Kingpin Room - named after the famous bowling movie. That's not the only homage to the famous film. The infamous "Rose Ball" that Bill Murray uses in the film is actually on display for the next month at the North Hills' location.
To cover everything available at Kings is hard, so we will break it up into several sections. First up, the games.
Bowling, darts and more
In addition to the 18 ten-pin bowling lanes, there are six billiards tables, two ping pong tables, two foosball tables, six dart boards and full-size and bank shuffleboard tables. And for the air hockey fans out there, there are two and four-player tables.
Director of Marketing and Business Development Doug Warner said Kings has always been focused on "non-high-tech games." Something you can play socially with friends. The shuffleboard tables have been the most popular spots since its opening Oct. 20.
Pool, ping pong, foosball and shuffleboard runs $12 an hour before 6 p.m. and $14 an hour after 6 p.m. each day. Darts are $8 an hour, while air hockey games are $1 per player per game.
Bowling, which is what the facility is most known for, is a step-up from typical bowling alley. Pins are illuminated from a black-light and the integrated lighting system helps give it more of a club-feel when you are stepping up to the foul line.
Games prices start at $5 a person and range up to $7 after 6 p.m. on the weekends. Shoe rentals are $3 and you can even get socks for $3.
The environment is set up to be family-friendly, but there is an age restriction after 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and after 6 p.m. on Saturdays. After those times, people must be 21 years and over to enter Kings and will need to show a valid legal ID.
Warner said Kings often describes itself as a "restaurant that happens to have a bowling alley." The menu is definitely not your typical alley fare. First, everything (except the ice cream) is made from scratch, in-house.
We really love their appetizers, which are great for sharing while you bowl. Standouts include:
- Buffalo wontons - rolled in house and stuffed with cheese and buffalo chicken
- Bacon cheddar tots - stuffed with garlic mashed potatoes inside
- Honey garlic baked wings (served on drumlettes so you don't get your hands messy)
- Cucumber and Feta rolls - which also include Greek yogurt, sun-dried tomatoes and tzatziki sauce
For entrees, there are a variety of pizzas, burgers and salads (try the warm kale and cranberry salad). We love their steak tips and sea scallops, each served with house made sauces and garlic mashed potatoes.
Save room for dessert because they serve up a host of milkshakes and sundaes. The Triple Chocolate Cake is decadent with a house-made ganache. We definitely recommend trying the Chocolate Banana Rum Spring Roll Sundae. The crunchy rolls are stuck into the vanilla ice cream and are great for dipping.
A host of local beer is available - Lonerider and Big Boss included - as well as national brands. The fun really comes when you check out their martini and specialty cocktail menu. The Gummy Bear Martini is actually served with the candy.
If you have a group, definitely consider one of the "Big Ball" drinks, served in a glass big enough for two or more people. There are three different versions - including the Fish Bowl, a mix of coconut rum, blue curacao, blueberry energy drink, sour mix and Swedish fish.
Our favorite drink was definitely "The Dude," Kings' take on a White Russian. It includes Godiva chocolate liqueur, chocolate vodka and Kahlua.