When searching for great food, no place is off limits.
Great Italian food in a gas station complex – been there. Great soul food in a tiny shack – done that.
So when I tell you that the best tenderloin in Fort Wayne can be found at a bowling alley, don’t be too quick to dismiss it.
The Alley Sports Bar and its fantastic KingPin Tenderloin can be found along Goshen Avenue in Pro Bowl West.
Tim Didier Meats on North Wells Street supplies the thick cuts of tender pork, and the folks at the Alley hand bread them with seasoned flour and Asian-style breadcrumbs.
The result is a big, juicy, flavorful sandwich with a lot of crunch in every bite. The cook who made mine said, Nobody in town can touch that tenderloin, and I wasn’t about to argue.
The Alley Sports Bar opened my eyes with more than just its tenderloin, too. The bar side has a plethora of flat-screen TVs and a big dance floor and stage area dominating the 3,000-square-foot room. But the family room was the crown jewel.
It is beautifully designed like a little ’50s diner. It was clean and new with white tile floors, sparkly red and silver vinyl booths with matching chairs and counter seats. Its brick walls were dotted with chalk boards featuring the day’s specials, Route 66 and Pepsi signs and 45 records, and there was even a free jukebox.
It is the kind of place I would take my family to even if we weren’t hitting the lanes.
And there were more handmade touches on the menu than just the tenderloin.
The Hot Pins Jalapeno Sticks and Pizza Sticks were ingenious little appetizers.
The Alley takes egg roll wrappers and fills them with either mozzarella and diced jalapeno or mozzarella and pepperoni, fries them until crisp and serves them with ranch or marinara for dipping. They were crispy, cheesy and delicious.
Another winner from the sandwich section was the Brooklyn steak and cheese, which my server recommended. The meat was actually chopped rib-eye, not deli meat. The bun was soft and fresh, and the onions and peppers still had some snap.
The Dinner Bucket Burger sounded great but did not stack up to the other sandwiches. It was made with a third-pound patty topped with Swiss cheese, ham, a fried egg, lettuce, tomato and onion. The burger did not have the same fresh flavor as the tenderloin and steak, and was overcooked. The egg was also cooked through and would have been better if left a little runny to serve as a sauce.
The Alley’s chicken wings also disappointed. They were not fried long enough and were more rubbery than crisp. They were, however, smothered in a tasty but just a little greasy homemade sauce dotted with pepper flakes.
The service varied greatly. On a slow bowling night, it was spot on with not only my server but the cook taking time to make sure everything was in order.
On a league-heavy night, the wait was excruciating. My server apologized several times and told me that the kitchen was dealing with a pizza party at the same time my food was put in.
A manager also came to the table to find out what we were waiting on and to see if he could speed things along.
But in spite of their concern, an order of chili-cheese fries – also recommended by a server – was forgotten. When it finally arrived, it offered a homemade chili with a nice Southwest flavor to it, but the fries were not crisp enough to stand up to the toppings.
Even with the service hiccups, I will go back to the Alley Sports Bar. That tenderloin guarantees it.
I’ll just call ahead to make sure it isn’t league night.
Restaurant: Alley Sports Bar
Address: 1455 Goshen Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday; 1 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday; 1 to 11 p.m. Sunday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Pizza Sticks & Jalapeno Pins ($3.75), wings ($7.95 for 10), chili-cheese fries ($4.65), tenderloin ($4.65), steak & cheese ($5.45), Dinner Bucket Burger ($5.95)
Rating breakdown: Food: * (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)
Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).