First Look: The Comet Pub & Lanes

Team Twain’s bowls a strike in Decatur

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To enter the new Comet Pub & Lanes, you must walk down the long hallway inside the lower level Suburban Plaza in Decatur, following the cacophonous yet familiar sounds of strikes and spares. Opened in mid-July, the new bowling alley bears little resemblance to its previous iteration, the beloved Suburban Lanes, but manages to keep its predecessor’s legacy intact.One of the Plaza’s first tenants back in 1954, Suburban Lanes closed in May of last year but was purchased by the guys behind Decatur stalwart Twain’s: brothers Ethan and Uri Wurtzel and General Manager Ben Horgan. The trio stripped the building down to concrete and renovated, building upon many of the mid-century elements with a sleek and modern design. This is not a light-deprived, cigarette-smelling cavern. Wooden booths have replaced iconic fiberglass bowling chairs beside large orange-painted wooden tables, a white stripe painted down the center like a foul line. There are still rental shoes, although they are shiny and new.Vintage Brunswick equipment remains, with updated iPad scoring at all 32 fresh and glossy lanes. A large horseshoe-shaped bar made of reclaimed bowling lane heart pine anchors the space. Behind it is a shuffleboard room where, in homage to the old place, a “Suburban” sign hangs on the wall.Lanes rent by the hour with a maximum of six people per lane. Pause the time to eat snacks or a meal, and expect more than standard bowling food. There are no wrinkled dogs rotating on a roller grill, no pump of bright orange nacho cheese. Instead, there’s a menu created by Twain’s executive chef Savannah Sasser, featuring a classic collection of munchies, pizzas, and sammies elevated by local ingredients and gourmet twists.Lightly breaded and seasoned chicken tenders ($11) have a homemade quality, with moist and tender breast meat served alongside a pile of hand-cut fries. Wings (six for $9 or 16 for $18) are crisp and moist with a large selection of seasonings including the standard hot, zesty lime-pepper, and Korean.“Careful, man, there’s a beverage here,” said the man across the table as a kid ran past. That wasn’t the only nod to The Big Lebowski we found on our visit. The craft cocktail menu includes a White Russian ($9) as well as an El Duderino ($9) with tequila, coffee liqueur, and mole bitters.No value assignedHand-tossed pizzas are $8 for a 10-inch and $15 for a 16-inch with toppings like Pine Street Market bacon, fresh herbs, and house-made ricotta. The Fish Please, with anchovies, herb ricotta, and spinach, is a standout. Consistent execution suffers slightly in chef Sasser’s absence; sometimes pizzas arrive crisp and fully dressed with toppings, sometimes underseasoned with a higher crust-to-topping ratio.The superstar of the menu is the Miss Phil sandwich ($12), piled high with tender shavings of Brasstown Beef chuck roast, a slightly spicy pepper relish, and beer queso on a hoagie. The peppers have an acidic kick and the bread softens as the cheese melts into it. The Georgia hot chicken sandwich ($10) is crispy and flavorful, using a chicken thigh instead of the usual breast, but the flavor is more sweet than hot. The Comet burger ($11) has two 3 ounce patties of juicy White Oak Pastures beef, thick bacon, cheddar, mixed greens, and beer dijonnaise topped with a fried egg. All sandwiches come with fries or for $2 more, a salad.For dessert, grab ice cream from High Road ($3) or a fried pie ($7) made by Ratio Bakeshop with fillings that change daily. You could probably score a slice of one of the many birthday cakes in the room, too, if you ask nicely.Service is friendly though everyone running food and drink seemed a little harried. It took a while to get a beer, but there is a fantastic list of more than 50 bottles, lots of regional and local selections (though no Twain’s brews), and 16 drafts ranging from $4 High Life to $7.50 Westbrook Mexican Cake.

Even Hollywood Star Lanes, the old-school bowling alley immortalized by the Dude himself, couldn’t be saved from “progress.” The 42-year-old Los Angeles institution was bulldozed back in 2002 to make way for a school. Here in Atlanta, we’re fortunate to have the Wurtzels as rescuers. The food at Comet is definitely steps above classic bowling alley fare and it’s easy to feel enthusiastic in the fresh atmosphere of an iconic space saved from demolition. Service doesn’t always do the food justice, but the addition of a few extra servers could easily fix this. In the words of the Dude, it would really tie the room together.