I love when I can do a date night food and drink article combined with something active. I mean, sure it’s fun, but it also makes me feel a little better about all that beer and pizza I know I’ll be consuming. And what makes it even better is meeting up with some friends to join in on the fun. 

For this month’s date night, we chose to gather a group of peeps and head to the local bowling alley. My family and I used to go a lot when I was a kid, but not so much anymore. I always forget how much fun it is….well, that is, as long as I’m not sinking too many gutter balls. I wanted to go to Old Orchard Lanes and Links not only because it’s close by for us, but I love their thin crust pizza. I had always heard rumors that it’s the original Monical’s pizza recipe. Midwesterners love our Monical’s, don’t we? But, guess what — it’s not true. According to the owners the recipe actually comes from a restaurant that used to be in Urbana called Mr. G’s. Anyone remember it? I myself do not, so it has to have been a number of years since it closed. Either way, it’s crispy, thin, greasy, cheesy goodness, and I love it. And you can order carry out.

There are other great places in town to bowl, I like Arrowhead Lanes too (blacklight mini golf!), but another reason we chose Old Orchard is there is often coupons for it on The Got Spot (previously known as CiSaves). It was a 50% deal so I paid just $8 for $16 towards food, bowling, and mini golf. I bought two vouchers so my plan was to use one to pay for two games for my husband and I and use the other on food. Old Orchard charges $4.50 a game per person and $2 for shoe rental (if you go before 5 p.m. it’s $4). Three cheers for cheap date nights!

We all met up just before 5 p.m. on a Sunday. It was pretty full but there were still some lanes open. There were seven of us and we all shared a lane. Grab your shoes at the counter and they’ll assign you to a lane. You’ll pay at the counter when you’re done. Before we settled in to start playing we all ordered up some food and beer to share. There’s a lot offered — all typical bar food like burgers, wings, fried mushrooms, etc. I ordered a 16” cheese pizza ($14.99, but used my coupon so it was only $8) for us all to share. Another friend ordered the breadsticks (10 for $5.99) with cheese sauce and marinara (your choice of two out of the three dipping sauces, garlic butter being the third). A third friend ordered another large pizza with sausage and black olives (additional toppings are $1.59). There’s a calendar on the Old Orchard website that lists the daily specials: Friday fish and chips, Monday is country fried steak, for example. 

The bar area is actually nicer than you might expect. The rest of the place is nice and clean, but nothing fancy. There’s seating in the bar area and an outdoor patio. There’s also gaming machines located in the corner. A menu board hangs just outside the door with the weekly specials. The Sunday special at the bar is $6 Coors Light pitchers so we all split a few of those as well.

The food came out quickly with breadsticks arriving first. They were piping hot and pretty darn tasty, light and fluffy and just the right amount of seasoning. I can’t get enough of that generic yellow cheese sauce. The first pizza quickly followed the breadsticks and did not disappoint. It’s a very thin crust and extra crispy. Plenty of cheese and a good seasoning, it’s the perfect vehicle for ranch dressing, if you’re into that sort of thing.

There were a lot of laughs and it was good cheap fun. Don’t be afraid to change up your game and have some fun with it. We played a couple serious ones (I actually broke 100!) but by the end we were doing granny rolls, using our non-dominant hand to roll, and adding bumpers for everyone! One thing I didn’t pay attention to on my coupon was that you’re only allowed to use one voucher per visit and since I already used it on the pizza, I couldn’t use it for our games. But like I said, it’s cheap. For the two of us to play three games it only came out to $28. And now, we’ll just have to go back again soon to use the other one! Who’s in?

Old Orchard Lanes and Links
901 N Dunlap Ave
M - Th 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
F + Sa 10 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Hours vary for Snack Bar and Lounge

Photos by Bobbie Bonebrake