Red Pin Restaurant and Bowling Lounge: concept over cuisine
The Red Pin Restaurant and Bowling Lounge is located in Bricktown, on the river level just Northwest of Harkins Theatres. For full details, please visit their website.
The Red Pin Restaurant and Bowling Lounge opened recently in Bricktown, bringing an upscale spin on the traditional bowling alley. While I’m not too much into bowling, I was intrigued by the Red Pin’s claims to offer gourmet food alongside the bowling experience. In fact, they even bill themselves as a restaurant in their title, so of course, I had to check it out. When I did, I found a unique and interesting experience, but one that is more about concept than it is about cuisine.
What I mean by “concept over cuisine” is that you can’t really appreciate the food they offer separate from the concept of the entire experience. In other words, this isn’t the type of place you’d want to go for a typical restaurant dinner. On the other hand, if you are looking for a fun evening with the activity of a bowling alley but with food that is way better, the Red Pin definitely has something to offer.
The atmosphere at the Red Pin is lively and fun. The bowling lanes are on one end of the facility, there’s a bar in the middle, and then an area on the other end for sit-down dining. The bowling facilities are top of the line, with huge televisions spanning across the lanes providing sports entertainment while you roll your own fun.
The food at Red Pin can be ordered from anywhere in the facility, and it consists of clever variations on the types of foods you might find at a bowling alley. Familiar items like pizzas, hot dogs, hamburgers and the like are fancied up and served on nice plates. Most every item is served family-style and intended to be shared. This is why it’s not a real “sit-down dinner” type of place, because instead of ordering a meal and getting a main dish and a couple of sides, you’ll be ordering several different types of “finger foods” and sharing them around the table.
You can see why Red Pin would set it up this way. For one thing, it makes it more like a bowling alley. Also, the food is intended to be eaten while doing other things like bowling or hanging out at the bar. So, finger foods are a good choice.
On the other hand, it confuses me a bit that they set up part of the facility like a full-service restaurant. It just feels a little awkward to sit down at a table for dinner and conversation and pass around plate after plate of snacks. I feel that if they truly want to bill themselves as a restaurant, they should put together some menu offerings that can be ordered and served individually as a complete meal. They could still offer the family-style options, but adding some additional dining options couldn’t hurt. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the food is bad. In fact, it’s quite good (more on that below). I’m just trying to give you the proper expectation. There is a bit of disconnect if you go in expecting a restaurant dining experience.
When I ate there, I tried both the house and Caesar salads. Even the salads come in two sizes ($3.50 and $6) and are intended to be shared. It’s a bit tricky to share a salad, but that’s how they set it up. Both salads were very fresh. The house salad had nice, thick vegetables on a bed of spring lettuce.
I also sampled the powerhouse pizza ($13) which is a big old pizza with a ton of toppings. It was good for fancy pizza, but I think you can find better at any number of brick-oven pizza places.
What I really liked were the Red Pin Sliders. These are small hamburgers or chicken sandwiches made up with some interesting and gourmet toppings. I tried the beef version which comes with either two or three on a plate ($7.50 or $10 respectively). I tasted three. One was made up with roasted garlic and blue cheese, another with grilled onions, shiitake and portobello mushrooms, and the last was with center-cut bacon and cheddar. I have to say the garlic and blue cheese was my favorite, but all three were really good. The sliders are definitely a specialty that is worth trying at Red Pin.
For dessert, the Red Pin features some selections from local confectioners. I sampled the Chocolate Lava, which is a warm chocolate cake served with a light cream. I also had a bite or two of the cheesecake. Both desserts ($5 each) were very good and pretty affordable for what you get.
Speaking of affordability, I expected the Red Pin to be a bit more expensive than it was. It is somewhat pricey compared to normal bowling alley food, but I really think you get a pretty good value for the price. The trick is just in figuring out how to put together a meal out of the various finger food options. For what it’s worth, I recommend that you at least get a salad to start because it’s just about the only vegetable dish on the menu.
In summary, the Red Pin Restaurant and Bowling Lounge has a lot to offer Oklahoma City as a fun destination and an upscale twist on a favorite pastime. From a culinary standpoint, the food they offer is high quality and even provides some unique and interesting flavors, but it is presented in a family style, finger-food manner. This is consistent with their concept, but it doesn’t provide a great option if you are just looking for a nice restaurant dining experience. So, make sure you go first for the concept and while you’re there, enjoy the cuisine.