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Hip bowling alleys cater to cosmo travelers with cocktails, sushi and lounge sounds

Audra D.S. Burch
Members of Miami Sports & Social Club, a sports league for adults young and old, bowl at Lucky Strike Lanes in Miami Beach, Florida, August 6, 2008. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald/MCT)
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

ATLANTA - The world of boutique bowling unfolds here in the midst of an in-town hipster district, wedged between a noveau Northern Italian restaurant and a big-box chain store.

Past the suited door guy and the velvet rope, a flight of stairs takes you up and away from the buzz of consumerism to Ten Pin Alley, a dramatic space that opens in the most unexpected ways: Floors carved from subtle leather patches. Chandelier sconces bursting from brochade panels. Vintage columns wrapped in mesh. A reading nook chock with titles by novelists Irving Wallace and Robert Harris.

Just steps away, Robert Denford of Houston and friends, here to take in this Southern cosmopolitan city, are sipping drinks and throwing the occasional gutter ball.

"I had heard Atlanta had this bowling alley that was like a club, so I wanted to check it out," says Denford "It's cool."

This is bowling 2.0, the reinvention of one of America's most kitchy, quietly enduring pastimes. Laverne and Shirley have slipped out the back door, making way for superglam alleys where bowling sometimes seems besides the point.

Travelers have now added designer bowling alleys on the must-do list, much like "it" boutique hotels, chic restaurants and afterhour joints.

"The whole idea here is to give locals and tourists an alternative to the club, a place they can relax and let off some steam," says Lonnie Moore, of the Dolce Group, which owns the 12-lane Ten Pin Alley at Atlantic Station. "We wanted to take bowling to the next level."

Actor Wilmer Valderrama (of "That 70s Show" fame) visits Ten Pin Alley as much for the lobster corn dogs (fried and served with honey mustard dipping sauce) as the game. Maroon Five's Adam Levine and Usher are among the celebs who have also rolled a few frames.

Hipsters and jet-setters, always on the search for the next big thing, have found an opportunity to strike: Sales of bowling balls alone are up more than 13 percent between 2000 to 2007.

So the lowly bowling alley - think bobby socks, jukeboxes, hot dogs and draft beer - has been refashioned and now offers a luxury experience with the same dazzle as any upscale club or lounge.

Part of the appeal: Price. A game can cost as little as $3 - though gourmet sushi or a seat in a VIP room will raise the tab. Even better, there's no cover charge to hang out.

Today's swanky bowling alleys, often attached to resorts or hotels in popular cities, feature designer decor; deejays, club music and wood dance floors; flat-paneled projecter screens and plasma televisions and cozy retreats for snuggling. They have glittering bars with top shelf booze and champagne, dress codes and marquee chefs charged with creating gourmet menus - such as shrimp tempura with sesame seared ahi tuna, parmesan and truffle fontina macaroni and cheese and vegetarian enchiladas.

And perhaps most importantly, bowling alleys now peddle ambiance, the sense that this is the place to be in the cosmos of studied cool.

Among the hotspots: Lucky Strike, a stylish chain with 21 locations including Miami Beach; Miami and Tampa's Splitsville, where the chef made Food and Wine's 2008 hot list; Chicago's 10pin, where martinis come as retro rootbeer floats and chocolate chip almond cookies are served with two shots of cold milk; and Red Rock Casino Resort Spa in Las Vegas, home of the country's most expensive bowling alley ($31 million.)

Red Rock Lanes, which opened last year about 10 miles west of the strip, features 60 lanes, a lounge, plasma televisions and a bar where you can order a martini and play video games tucked in the countertops - plus a private VIP 12-lane suite that's designed to wow. Spotted: Justin Timberlake, Nelly and NFL Hall of Famer Warren Moon.

Starting at $1,200 and as high as your pockets are deep, you can have your own VIP experience - a custom playlist, a choice of 10,000 videos and a catered menu. Among Red Rock's specialty offerings: the All Things Lobster package which includes lobster bisque shooters, lobster mash potatoes topped with cavier, lobster kebab with water chestnuts and bacon; lobster stuffed jumbo olives drizzled with premium vodka.

"We were looking to give people the entertainment experience they have never had," says Lori Nelson, Station Casino's director of corporate communication. "You are talking about bowling meets the night club."

The concept for Splitsville, a 12-lane bowling alley opened in Tampa five years ago: give the traditional bowling alley a modern makeover as an "original bowling parlor," starting with the notoriously bad concession stand menus.

"We wanted to take the idea of warm beer and cold hot dogs and blow it out of the water," says co-founder Guy Revelle. "We wanted to turn the alley into a lounge."

Splitsville's chef, Tim Cushman, named a 2008 Food and Wine best new chef, was asked to create a gourmet menu with the panache of a supper club. His decidely upscale choices included sirloin topped with crab meat, asparagus and hollandaise sauce; chipotle pork tenderloin; chicken ceasar quesadillas and from the sushi bar menu, tempura spicy shrimp roll topped with sesame seared ahi tuna and wabasi mayo drizzle.

Over the last five years, the Tampa venue has attracted A-list celebs including Rihanna, Pink, Derek Jeter and Susan Sarandon, and will be among the hotspots for the upcoming Superbowl.

In October, Splitsville opened at The Shops at Sunset Place in South Miami with a Miamicentric menu that includes the Cuban Rueban (corn beef on Cuban bread). And coming soon: three Texas locations in Dallas, San Antonio and Arlington, which promises the first permanent outdoor bowling lane.

"The new bowling alley is an upscale place to have fun," Revelle says, "with or without actually picking up a ball."

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HIP ALLEYS

Bowling alleys have evolved into chic destinations for games, gourmet eats and a sexy lounge scene. Among the bowling hotspots:

Atlanta: Ten Pin Alley, 261 19th St NW, 404-872-3364; www.dolcegroup.com. A tri-level nightspot with 12 bowling lanes, billiards and plush leather lounges. The menu of gourmet junk food includes Kobe beef sliders served with radicchio and smoked white cheddar. From $6 per game.

Las Vegas: Red Rock Lanes, Red Rock Casino Resort Spa, 11011 W. Charleston Blvd., 702-797-7777, www.redrocklanes.com. Red Rock is a hip hangout featuring a lounge and a deluxe bar where you can order a martini and play video games without ever leaving your seat. Open 24 hours. From $2 per game.

Tampa, South Miami: Splitsville Luxury Lanes and Dinner Lounge, 615 Channelside Dr. #120, Tampa, 813-514-2695; 5701 Sunset Drive, Suite 202, 305-665-5263 www.splitsvillelanes.com The alleys feature a sushi bar and gourmet menu including grilled mahi mahi with voodoo shrimp, spicy edamame and parmesan chicken breast tenders. Adults from $4.95 per game.

New York, Miami Beach: Lucky Strike Lanes, 21 locations including New York City and Miami Beach, www.bowlluckystrike.com. Among the pioneers of boutique bowling, Lucky Strike opened its first location in Hollywood five years ago. The chain is among the most popular, even popping up on episodes of 90210 and America's Top Model. Highlights of the menu include tuna lollipops, chicken pillows (pan seared chicken dumplings drizzled with teriyaki sauce) and mac & cheese bites. 21 and over after 9 p.m. From $6 per game.

Oklahoma City: Red Pin Restaurant and Bowling Lounge, 200 S. Oklahoma Avenue, Suite X, 405-702-8880, www.bowlredpin.com, A restaurant and lounge that happens to include 10 bowling lanes. The menu offers a twist on traditional American fun food such as panini sticks, sliders with shitake and portabello mushrooms and mac and cheese topped with parmesan truffled fontina cream sauce. From $4.50 per game.

Seattle: Garage Billiards & Bowl, Seattle, 1130 Broadway, 206-322-2296, www.garagebilliards.com, A mod 14-lane, three-level bowling alley where the deejay spins from the mezzanine lounge and the menu includes grilled prawns, hummus and antipasto platters. Lanes, $10 per hour.

London: All Star Lanes, www.allstarlanes.co.uk. The fast-growing franchise was first launched in 2006. Now there are three locations with a two more planned for Dublin and Paris. The theme is 1950s Americana. From about $11 per game; reservations advised.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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