In a trip from one end of The Alley to the other, you're liable to punch a bag, play flip cup, see a kid's birthday party, take a shot, do a reverse 360 slam dunk on NBA Jam, bowl a turkey, and eat some tater tots. One part Chuck E. Cheese, one part bowling alley, and two parts chaos, The Alley's something of a beautiful mess, which is what people either hate and/or love about it.
The thing I love most (aside from the tots), is the kitchen staff's dedication to elevating the idea of "bar food" to a new plain, something I realized last Thursday at the Stone Brewing Beer Dinner that was hosted there.
The four-course dinner was prepared Home Team Kitchen chef Courtney Tomer and did not disappoint. With different flavor profiles and textures that perfectly complemented each beer pairing, the food successfully drew my attention away from the bros chugging buckets of Miller Lite at the end of the bar.
Blue Point oysters the size of my head were cold, clean, and fresh as all get out—to the point that I had seconds and thirds. There was a country pâté (read: head cheese) that tasted much better than it looked, and I was blown away by pickled green tomatoes and possibly the best soft-boiled egg I've had in a long time.
Courses came and courses went—some more notable than others. A beautiful peice of grouper—one of that could have easily held up on its own—was literally drowning, a la nage, in a butter/cream sauce and country vegeratles that did little to enhance the overall dish. And although the country pate was delicious, I'm going to need people to stop using the "Portlandia" "We Can Pickle That!" mantra and learn that vegetables like okra do not need the brine treatment.
The whole tasting rebounded during the fourth and final course, though. The healthy serving of Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese, pickled peaches, and spiced nuts made my evening. The beer pairing of Stone's 12.12.12 Vertical Epic, a dark and intense brew filled with notes of cinnamon and allspice, rounded out the entire dinner really well.
Ultimately, The Alley proved it has a good culinary head on its shoulders, and if the Beer Dinner's any indication of what's to come, the Home Team Kitchen is on track to becoming a reliable source of top notch culinary experiences.
Just watch out for rogue skeeballs and the occasional bachelor party...