Dec 29, 2017

The Sabre Room, a cocktail lounge with all you'll need (fried cheesecake, anyone?) to stay out of the gutter

Sabre Room: A place to play
The hairy guy’s report:

Everybody likes to act like a big wheel once in a while, doing things like buying a round for the bar. So one afternoon, after a profitable night of poker, the hairy guy, feeling (pardon the pun) flush, turned on his barstool in the Sabre Room and, with a flourish, shouted: “A round on me!”

Of course, the bar, a large space inside Bay Lanes on North Euclid, was empty – which shows the importance of timing. The magnanimous gesture cost not a cent.

If he’d have waited longer, the evening bowling league – filling 30 of the alley’s 32 lanes, the bartender said – would have turned up, and Harry the Big Wheel might have been stuck buying pitchers of craft beer for hordes of strike-bound keglers.

Even worse, this was a Thursday -- which later becomes College Night, when students bowl for free. He could have ended up with juniors playing beer pong with Jagermeister (at $4.25 a shot) and a bar tab that exceeds months of poker winnings.

It was a close call.

Actually, we had walked in expecting to find the Sabre Room transformed into something called Tap Alley, with bunches of craft beers on tap. We were close there, too.

Turns out that the recently opened Tap Alley is a few steps from the Sabre Room – past the restrooms and the grill at the end of the bowling alley, in a former game room at the building’s south end. It’s a bit bright and sterile, not our idea of conducive to hanging out. But it has an
Craft beer menu from Tap Alley
assortment of craft beers on tap, things such as Widow Maker Black Ale (16 oz. for $4.50) and Grand Armory Crop Duster (16 oz. for $6.50).

The Sabre Room remains more traditional, with just Bud Light, Bud, Miller Lite and Killian’s on tap. But all of the strange beers from Tap Alley are also available; the Sabre Room even provides a menu of them.

But back up a moment and consider the Sabre Room scene.

The whole Bay Lanes complex is almost hidden behind a row of car dealers on Euclid, where a large colorful sign for the bowling alley also says “cocktail lounge.” This is it. (Bay Lanes has an address on Euclid, but unless you want to risk having someone fast-talk you into a new sedan, the entrance is actually on Shrestha Drive, which winds between Euclid and Wilder Road.)

Most cocktail lounges lack windows, or maybe they have a view of the street (or water, if they’re well situated). The Sabre Room, though, has large windows with an expansive view of bowlers at work.

The bar is, of course, part of the bowling alley, yet apart from it. In the bar, those windows could just turn out to be large TVs tuned to a bowling channel.

On one side are the bowlers, perhaps dreaming of that elusive perfect game. The serious ones launch their weapons with a hook that heads toward the gutter before arcing back -- aiming for a
Popcorn machine, with bowling beyond
strike, often settling for a spare. An occasional groan might announce a dreaded 7-10 split. (We should note here that Harry’s young neighbor, an industrious lad who sees a driveway full of snow or a lawn of tall grass as a potential bunch of dollar signs, is on a high school bowling team that plays at Bay Lanes.) 

On the bar side of the windows, players later celebrate their scores over pitchers of cold beer as others battle on, the subdued sound of pins crashing in the distance.

Of course, you can ignore all that and just do what people do in a bar.

For happy hour (3-6 p.m. and all day Sunday), appetizers are half off and drafts (including crafts) are $1 off. Also on Sundays, cheeseburgers are $2.50 and there’s a $5 Bloody Mary bar.

Pints are $3 ($2 for happy hour), shells $2.25 ($1.25) and a 25-oz mug is $4.25 ($3.25). A bottle of Busch Light was $2.

There’s a full bar, with everything from Bombay Sapphire gin to Hot Damn. And since that big sign on Euclid hypes the room as a cocktail lounge, Harry asked for a Manhattan, his favorite
Rachel the afternoon bartender
cocktail. Rachel the afternoon bartender had to dig around to find sweet vermouth, which turned out to be properly kept in a cooler. The drink was OK -- small but only $3.50, made with house whiskey and a cherry.

The food menu includes a full breakfast (two eggs and toast are $2.79), assorted dogs, sandwiches and burgers, along with such bowling alley delicacies as fried pickles and dip and fried cheesecake (“oozing out of a wonton wrap”), each $4.49. The fries, which come with the sandwiches, burgers and dogs, are notably good.

Burgers come in two sizes. You get to choose from two kinds of buns and all sorts of toppings. The smaller burger was OK, but way too small for the otherwise good bun.

And this is surely a haven for popcorn aficionados. The popcorn comes right out of a popping
Valaine ("They call me V") the bar manager
machine, and with an assortment of available seasonings.

But none of that is probably the reason to be here. This is a place to do something, even if it’s not bowling.

The almost cavernous barroom, with room for dancing (there’s live music on Friday and Saturday nights), has two good pool tables (games are $1), a shuffleboard table (50 cents for a 15-point game), six dartboards, assorted video games, a lottery machine and the ubiquitous big-screen TVs with sports programs.

The shuffleboard table provided a new experience. Tables elsewhere often have a low corner (or even a slightly low whole side), allowing for artful curving shots. But on our first visit here, the table had a whole end that must have been low. Pucks launched from the table’s north end kept merrily sliding south long beyond reason, almost waving goodbye as they fell off the end into oblivion.

On a second visit, in the true spirit of investigative journalism, we brought along a level to prove our point. Alas, the table was perfectly level and the pucks acted appropriately. Rachel figured some league players probably noticed the problem and had it fixed.

One more thing: Speaking of getting fixed, the men’s room has a baby changing table, though Harry is happy to report that he has no use for it.


  The particulars:
  Sabre Room
  (inside Bay Lanes)
  4243 N. Euclid

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