The Alley Restaurant at Aiea Bowl

There continues to be a growing list of highly acclaimed restaurants being located in the most unexpected of places. From furniture stores, to gas stations and amusement parks, to where we are today at The Alley Restaurant at Aiea Bowl.

The story goes that brothers Gregg and Glenn Uyeda bought the entire bowling alley back in 2006 from Mako Kobayashi, who owned and managed the business since 1970. The Uyeda brothers then spent over a year and a half and over $1.5 million in renovations, with a good chunk of their investment going into the bowling alley’s new electronic scoring system.

Yet their restaurant concept would be the “bread and butter” of their business model to take this bowling alley into the next century of viability. And with that, everything was built from the ground up for a fresh start, including a brand new kitchen, bar, dining area and lounge.

While the menu may initially appear to be what you’d find at any typical plate lunch joint around town, being that Glenn is a seasoned chef by trade, with past professional experience including a stint at Le Bernardin in New York, “under the hood” there’s a considerably higher level of sophistication and care in how each dish is prepared, yet still very reasonably priced. And to make sure the food’s always cooked right, if chef himself isn’t there overlooking the kitchen, his mother will be.

Giving Chef Uyeda a day to really bust out his chops, you can make reservations for “Tasty Tuesdays” (hey, GREAT name!), when he offers an exclusive upscale 5-course Prix Fixe menu for just $38…

Coming here for lunch this past Sunday, which was somewhat a rainy and overcast day, the place was packed…

On the backside of the restaurant facing the alley lanes is a full-service bar, where here today we have former Hot 93.9FM radio DJ “Urusai” performing bartender and manager duty…

Opposite the bar is a row of bar stools and counter where you can enjoy the grindz and perhaps a cold one while watching folks bowl…

The Alley Restaurant is full service (served by waitstaff) where you can choose to sit either in the semi-enclosed restaurant and bar, or opt for seating right outside the restaurant within the concourse of the bowling alley area…

Here’s a look at the lanes…

That oval-shaped “space-aged” keypad in the foreground is part of their new electronic scoring system, which displays the players’ scores on a large flat panel HDTV hanging above each lane. Pretty neat! I actually took those photos right before last call, but earlier just about every lane was taken.

Getting back to the restaurant, let’s check out the menu…

Oh, that’s an ice-cold glass of Stella Artois on there. The server didn’t bring a coaster, so I used the menu as one. The Alley Restaurant, Bar & Grill needs to make their own logo beer steins, with option to purchase it. Hint, hint.

While waiting for our order to arrive, a young couple sitting right next to us were nice enough to let me take a photo of their dishes that had just arrived. Here we have The Alley Mixed Plate, in this case a Loco Moco and Tasty Chicken combo’…

The Alley Mixed Plate – Loco Moco (handmade hamburger smothered in buttery brown gravy) and Tasty Chicken (Alley’s famous chicken, battered and deep-fried), 2 scoops rice and tossed green salad. $11.75

Here’s The Alley Burger and Garlic Fries…

The Alley Burger – The Alley’s homemade hamburger patty on a sweet sesame seed bun topped with lettuce and garlic fries (25¢ extra). $8.70

After about halfway through their meal, I asked them what they thought of it on a scale of 1 to 5, and they both gave it a 4, which already had me impressed, even having not tried the food yet!

The girlfriend noted how much she loves their brown gravy; so much so that she had an extra bowl of the stuff on the side! Wow, I’m gonna’ have to try that.The boyfriend noted the burger patty was cooked perfectly medium to medium rare with a great char-grilled, house-made flavor. He only wished he had added more toppings (extra cost), as, as it was, was kinda’ plain. Big thumbs up on the garlic fries.

Looks like I’ll get to try that awesome brown gravy our neighbor raved about, as my girlfriend pretty much ordered the same thing, except she opted for Mac Salad instead of tossed greens…

The Alley Mixed Plate – Loco Moco (handmade hamburger smothered in buttery brown gravy) and Tasty Chicken (Alley’s famous chicken, battered and deep-fried), 2 scoops rice and macaroni salad. $11.75

Finally for my choice, I COULD NOT RESIST trying The Alleys’ “famous” Oxtail Soup!…

Oxtail Soup – The Alley’s famous Oxtail Soup served with Ponzu Sauce and rice. $12.95

It looks like I’m in for a TREAT!  **Rubs hands together briskly with eyes wide open**

Before I continue, did any of you catch the latest episode of Travel Channel’s ‘No Reservations’ with Anthony Bourdain? The episode was titled “Obsessed”, where one segment featured several food bloggers who were almost disturbingly obsessed with food and the lengths they’d go through just for the sake of blogging about it.

Well, I’m going to further validate Bourdain’s point about a food blogger’s obsession, by dissecting this bowl of Oxtail Soup from every conceivable angle I can, just for the sake of blogging about it (which really is to share with you every nitty-gritty detail). So take that Bourdain! lol

Let’s have a closer look…

Broth has a rich brown color. Looks like lotsa’ goodies in there. Let’s do some dredging and see what we’ve got…

Wow, this bugger’s loaded with Oxtails! I see they add fresh Shiitake Mushrooms in it as well. Nice.

Getting the greens in there, we have a several whole leaves of Bok Choy…

You’re probably wondering what that red seed thing is. No it’s not an Ume, it’s a Date…

So far, am I being obsessive enough about this bowl of Oxtail Soup? No? More? OK, here’s the Ponzu sauce and grated ginger it’s accompanied with it…

Notice it has a reddish color with chili flakes and sesame seeds in there. It doesn’t taste like plain Ponzu sauce straight out of the bottle, but a modified version, yet I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what they added to it. Tastes good though!

Add the fresh grated ginger into the Ponzu sauce and the fresh Chinese Parsley into the soup…

Finally, let’s have at it…

If you’re used to eating Oxtail Soup with plain Shoyu and grated Ginger, it may takes a little getting used to the slightly acidic citrus accent of the Ponzu, but once your palate acclimates to it, it turns out complimenting beefy oxtail flavor really well. If you don’t like it, you can always pour shoyu in another bowl and add the ginger to that. I stuck with the Ponzu sauce in order to fully “experience” The Alley’s take on it. And I dig it! No, I LOVE IT!

Let’s try another bigger piece of Oxtail…

While getting this photo, the Oxtail meat was literally starting to fall off the bone and into the Ponzu Sauce, so I had to scoop this up to my mouth after getting the shot to prevent that. Every piece was that falling-apart tender, yet still packed with rich and beefy, marrowy-good Oxtail flavor.

Oh. My. God. This is so divine. These are the kinds of things that make life great. It’s the simple things like an amazing bowl of Oxtail Soup that brings meaning to the day, and this is a great day indeed, my friends. I think I’m crying tears of joy. Someone please pass me the box of Kleenex®.

Let’s sample the Shiitake Mushrooms, Bok Choy and Date…

Nice. Very nice. The whole shiitake mushrooms were slightly firm yet al dente, not wilted and lifeless. Their woodsy and robust meaty flavor paired splendidly with the Ponzu and grated ginger sauce. The mushrooms also broke the monotony as compared to if it were just Oxtails in there like it is at Kapiolani Coffee Shop.

The Date has an interesting, almost meaty flavor profile as presented here in this Oxtail Soup, yet there is some fruityness to it as well, adding that much more dimension to the senses.

Rounding out this super-hearty local soup delicacy are an abundance of peanuts…

Add to that the EXCELLENT broth that’s rich and beef with extra depth thanks to the Shiitake Mushrooms, while tasting complex-yet-simple all at the same time.

Put it all together and we have one truly AWESOME Oxtail Soup at The Alley Restaurant. 5 SPAM Musubi certified!

While I won’t say The Alley’s is “The Best Oxtail Soup” on the island, as that’s always subjective to personal taste, it’s certainly in contention to take the crown. Ultimately, whether you’re an (obsessed) Oxtail Soup fan (as I now am) or just trying this dish for the first time, The Alley’s take on this classic is almost guaranteed to have you walking out (or into the bowling alley area) with a big smile on your face. It did for me!

As for the Loco Moco and Tasty Chicken Mixed Plate, as our fellow diner attested earlier on her plate with “extra gravy on da’ side”, the Loco Moco’s brown gravy at The Alley is WINNAHZ!…

It is indeed “buttery”, but not so much where it’s unpleasantly too rich. Just enough where it’s silky smooth in texture and just melts all over that wonderfully seared ‘n juicy homemade hamburger patty, giving you this explosion of flavor as you shovel the gravy-coated burger and egg into your mouth. Awesome.

I didn’t try the Tasty Chicken (by now you should know I’m not particularly a chicken fan), but my girlfriend explained it as tasting like a slightly sweet and spicy Karaage Chicken, noting that is was very moist and tender inside, not dried-out at all.  It must be great, because this is one of their best-selling entree selections.

I did try the Mac’ Salad…

Perfect. Cool, creamy and simple, while the macaroni is cooked perfectly al dente and seasoned just right. Winnah, winnah, mac-0n-da-side dinnah. Er, lunch that is.

Summing it up, just like our dining neighbor, my girlfriend gives their Loco Moco & Tasty Chicken Mixed Plate 4 SPAM Musubi. Personally I’ll give their brown gravy and mac salad a 5!

The Alley Restaurant also offers fresh made pies and cakes either by the slice or as whole, such as this ‘Mama Mia Chocolate Cake’…

Pumpkin Crunch…

Lemon Crunch…

By the slice…

We passed on dessert on this visit, but I hear their Pecan Tart is AMAZING.

If you’re in a rush, The Alley also has a takeout window outside in front next to the restaurant entrance, where you can order everything that’s available inside to go…

There’s so much more on the menu we need to try, but this first impression has me excited to return for more and more dishes to try. No question you MUST put The Alley Restaurant on your MUST-DO list if you’re obsessed with Oxtail Soup or a fantastic Loco Moco. While if you’re obsessed with bowling, well, there really isn’t many more choices left on Oahu anyways, so looks like you HAVE TO come here!

The Alley Restaurant at Aiea Bowl is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Alley Restaurant Bar & Grill
Aiea Bowl
99-115 Aiea Heights Dr, Ste 310
Aiea, HI 96701
(808) 486-3499

Business Hours (for the bowling Alley):
Sunday thru Thursday 7:00am to 9:30pm
Thursday thru Sunday 7:00am to 12:00am (midnight)

The Tasty Island rating:

(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!)

Related links:
Inside: The Alley at Aiea Bowl – Metromix Honolulu
The Alley Restaurant at Aiea Bowl segment 1 (cooking presentation) – Hawaiiangrown TV
The Alley Restaurant at Aiea Bowl segment 2 (cooking presentation) – Hawaiiangrown TV
The Alley Restaurant Bar & Grill – Yelp user reviews


12 thoughts on “The Alley Restaurant at Aiea Bowl

  1. Another great post! The fries were very good (and 4 adults couldn’t finish the large – though I would be tempted to drizzle with my take-out bottle of truffle oil) and the shoyu pork was very hearty. The Mrs chicken was a little dried-out and the loco-moco patty was medium-well (and beef NEEDS pink) though the meal was very good, overall. Since you’re originally Kaneohe, have you posted on Kin Wah?

  2. if you try dessert, try the lemon crunch cake. kinda sweet (and im not a huge dessert person), but it is FAMOUS for a reason. Super moist, with that fresh lemon flavor throughout….yum
    oh and the fried calamari and garlic fries are awesome pupus when you’re hanging out and bowling.

  3. Pomai, my parents and I enjoyed Michal very much. Sisters will go there with their dates next time. I will also. Crisp Fried Frog Legs done just right for dad for he like frog legs. Mom had Sauleed Foie Gras and I Escargots which we all share each other Starter it was wonderful.

    We like the Lavosh with herbed butter instead of breads for it different and the Hardy Hawaiian Bouillabisse for dad made him get a recipe to make it at home now too. Mom had what she saw on your last entry and got to try it she loved it very much the Potatgo wrap Moi with Tobiko Aioli Sauce. Of course we all share in tasting each dishes.

    Desserts were Chocolate Cake for dad Pineapple Mac Nut Cheesecake for mom and for me I orders the Framboise Flambe Sweet Maui Pineapple with Raspberries. The Flambe made so special way to end wonderful dining at Michel.

  4. Everything is so delicious there! You just gotta save a little room for dessert because they’re all in the display case tempting you. I will definitely have to try the pecan tart the next time I’m there.

    Place is a bit noisy but I guess that’s part of the ambience of a bowling alley. Sad to say that it’s a well known eatery now so it’s always crowded. We went there at 8:15 p.m. one night and still had to wait for a table. I’m a townie so can anyone tell me if there any other good eateries around Aiea?

  5. Deanna, based on the responses here, it sounds like dessert is in order on our next visit. I too have dibs on that Pecan Tart. As for popularity, I think the only reason we got a seat was that we just missed the lunch hour rush. It looked like a whole crowd had just left when we walked in.
    As for other good eateries around Aiea, I’d also consider trying Off the Wall in Pearl Kai Shopping Center. They do Okinawan fusion cuisine, with a KILLER burger! For a great Kalbi, check out Jin Joo Korean Restaurant in Waimalu Restaurant. For awesome Okazuya and general local kine grinds, look no further than Marujyu Market. For Italian, Bravo (beneath Anna Millers) is a popular choice.
    Spotty, Lemon Crunch probably wouldn’t be my thing.
    Kelike, wow, sounds like your dad enjoyed the Bouillabaisse much more than I did. Or, maybe the folks at Michel’s read my review and fixed it. Never know! So your mom ordered the same dish we got, huh? Main thing is that she liked it too, so that’s GREAT TO HEAR!  While I’m an adventurous eater, I’ll stay away from frog legs, thank you very much. If it tastes, like chicken, I’ll stick with chicken. At least Escargot tastes like snails, or in Michel’s case, “Rocky Mountain Clams”, and not chicken. lol
    What wine did your folks order? Just how they paired it with their food.
    Anyhow, glad to hear you and your folks enjoyed the dinner. 🙂
    Kristin, I so have dibs on them Garlic Fries. I’ll probably try the Alley Spicy Shrimp on my next visit as well, which Chef Glenn says is his personal favorite. I’ll request he add Lup Cheong and Tofu in it, just like he does at home!
    Trish, OK, now that you’ve seconded the notion on the Lemon Crunch, I guess I’ll have to try it.
    Ryan, no review here on Kin Wah yet. Yet! That used to be our regular (I mean regular as in at least once a month) Chinese restaurant hangout while growing up (following the cook from Mui Kwai). I heard some negative reviews from friends about them as of recent, but won’t count them out until I go back and do a full order dinner party. A return to my hometown’s favorite Chinese restaurant is certainly on my must-do list!

  6. John, they just might have disappeared (like so many others) had the Uyeda brothers not taken over the business.
    I’m very sure the bowling community as well the the neighborhood of Aiea and Pearl City are very thankful this family-friendly place is still around to hang out at for some good grindz and bowling fun.

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