I have to admit, my expectations weren’t very high when I knew I would be dining at a bowling alley and bocce ball court in Oak Brook. Oh, me of little faith! Pinstripes turned out to be an amazing experience.
First of all, the place is huge (40,000 square feet) and very urbanem and the fact that there’s not a hint of stale beer or a wisp of smoke in the air are clues that this is not your ordinary bowling alley. To the contrary, it’s an upscale-casual, family-friendly restaurant that offers bowling and bocce ball entertainment. Emphasis on restaurant, thank you very much!
Corporate chef / culinary director Cesar Gutierrez really knows what he’s doing and it shows in his Italian-American-inspired menu selections and their execution, most of which is made inhouse at each of the locations (Oak Brook, Northbrook, South Barrington in Illinois, Edina, Minn., and more coming soon). Best of all, he really listens to suggestions from customers. A person in my party complained that there was too much chicken on the menu (something I don’t agree with), and chef said, “That’s a good point. I’ll look into it.” And I know he will. Read more about Gutierrez and the founder and rest of the staff here.
So let me regale you with dinner. Complimentary housebread and nut-free pesto are brought to the table while you mull over the menu. I’m a soupie, so I had to try the Chicken Corn Chowder ($5) which is the Monday special in addition to always-on-the-menu Stuffed Pepper, Creamy Tomato Basil and Chicken Dumpling soups. I was a little underwhelmed by the huge portion of chicken chowder, so on to the next!
I heartily recommend the Louisiana Barbeque Shrimp ($12) and Fried Calamari ($12) appetizers. There was no acrid taste to the shrimp that some misguided chefs think is true Cajun/Creole style, and the calamari were tender (even the tentacles) and fried to a golden, crispy turn. Both were excellent choices and the portions were big enough for two to share.
No dinner is complete without an entrée, so it was on to the Maple-Glazed Salmon ($23) with dried-cranberry quinoa and cucumber-avocado salad garnish, Italian Beef Pizza (13) and a ginormous portion of Baked Lasagna ($14). Each of us was in our own personal nirvanas. At first blush, I thought my salmon would be dry because of the caramelized exterior. Au contraire, mon frere, it was moist and the sweetness from the maple glaze gave it just the punch it needed.
When we couldn’t make up our minds as to which housemade gelato and sorbetto we wanted to try, chef Cesar surprised us with a sampler tray of seven different iterations. Try combining a spoonful of the peanut butter gelato and grape sorbetto. You’ll think you’re eating a PB&J without the bread. There is so much to like about these frozen confections. Not all of the flavors are on the menu (they’re coming in June), but the carrot and salted caramel are and I heartily recommend them.
There is a lively bar with a convivial atmosphere and every drink, craft beer and fine wine available for your imbibing pleasure.
Amenities include a gluten-free menu, an $8 Kids’ Menu which includes warm bread sticks and marinara, entrée, beverage and dessert, Happy Hour menu from 3-6:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and 9 p.m.-closing Sundays to Thursdays. Small plates, pizzas and flatbreads are always available in the bar, bowling, bocce and patio areas, and there is live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
Daily specials include the $10 Bottomless Chopped Salad and Spaghetti and Meat Balls on Mondays. Click here for chef Cesar’s Meatball Recipe. And family-friendly place that it is, there’s a $5 Mom & Tots special lunch from 10 a.m.-noon that includes free bowling for mom and up to four kids.
There’s a Sunday brunch from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. featuring made-to-order omelettes, prime rib, fresh seafood among other delectables, and the requisite chocolate fountain and other desserts. Best of all kids 5 and younger eat free ($20 for adults, $12 for kids 6 to 12).
Check out the special Mother’s Day Brunch set for 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. And show your appreciation to the staff in your business with an unbeatable $10 special Lunch on the Fly menu for Administrative Professional’s Day (April 24). $10 Lunch on the Fly is available every Monday through Friday.
Weddings, business functions, private parties, kids’ parties and outside catering can be arranged.
I really liked Pinstripes and would go back again in a heartbeat, maybe even for a family reunion of good eats and bowling/bocce. The food is outstanding and the service is friendly. If push came to shove, my only negatives are that the tables are a little too small (booths are nice-sized) and the complimentary housebread and pesto are just OK. But that’s my opinion. I dare you to check it out for yourself! Tell chef Cesar I sent you.
Pinstripes in Oak Brook
Address: 7 Oakbrook Center Mall, Oak Brook, IL 60523
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m. Fridays, 10 a.m.-12:30 a.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays