In the past couple years, I’ve used gallons of ink and spent a few pretty pennies reviewing bars with complicated drinks and ambitious scenery. Every once in a while, it bears reminding people that I am generally not a hard guy to please. In an area full of expensive delights, there is an art to finding a nice, hidden spot for a cheap date.
“Hidden” is not the most obvious adjective you would assign to StrikeOuts. This combination bowling alley, arcade and bar has by far the loudest decor of any venue around it, which is impressive considering its location inside Orlando Fashion Square mall. But when was the last time you considered having a night out at the mall?
At first glance, StrikeOuts looks like the perfect spot to let your kids burn their allowance while you shop. Just past the jitterbugging statues of Jake and Elwood Blues is a room full of strobing arcade games, playable with credits purchased on a swipe card. There’s also a full 12-lane bowling alley, complete with neon balls and those wonderfully tacky rental shoes.
Gamers can fuel up with a milkshake or a small menu of fast-food staples at the front counter. According to our server, the french fries (not bad, and $2.19 for a basket) are house-made. The large chicken tenders ($4.49 for 3, $7.49 for 5), not so much.
But wait! Don’t leave those kids just yet. Just past the game room a full-liquor bar awaits, complete with pool tables. The draft list is surprisingly well-stocked with beers for every taste, from blue collar (Yeungling, $4) to crafty (Highland Gaelic Ale, $4). There’s even a specialty drink menu, and my StrikeOuts Cosmo ($9) made up for its embarrassing pinkness with a healthy pour of vodka. But if you’re looking for anything that fancy, you may be in the wrong place. Let’s not forget that you’re drinking in a mall.
Even so, this is the most fun I’ve ever had drinking in a mall. After a few rounds of Guitar Hero and Skee-Ball, my inner child was sated much cheaper than it would have been at mega-arcades such as Dave & Buster’s.
Speaking of cheap, you can bowl an unlimited number of games for $5 per person, including shoe rental, all day Monday-Thursday or until 5 p.m Fridays. Within those hours, single games are $2.50 per person, plus a $2 shoe rental. Prices are $3.50 plus $2 shoes from 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday or all day Saturday and Sunday.
That’s pretty unbeatable, though you may not want to bring any ringers from your bowling league: Players are required to use only house bowling balls and the pins are reset using a string pinsetter. This was the first time I had seen this increasingly common alternative to expensive, traditional pinsetters. The string-tethered pins didn’t seem to significantly affect my game — which is already fairly horrible — but I did have fun blaming them anytime a throw went awry.
Bowling snobbery aside, I wasn’t the only one enjoying himself. Both times I’ve visited StrikeOuts, the lanes were packed with groups of all ages.
Like a lot of malls in the current economy, Orlando Fashion Square has made nontraditional moves to keep shoppers around. The Element by Westin Hotel is slated for a 2016 opening on the mall’s south side, and Eat More Produce is one of a few new unusual tenants. But it’s nice to see at least one corner of Fashion Square embracing and enhancing the inherent old-school cheesiness of the mall arcade.
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Where: 3201 E. Colonial Drive at Orlando Fashion Square mall, Orlando
When: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday
Copyright © 2015, Orlando Sentinel
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