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Burgers, fries and boba shakes from Morton Grove’s Boba Burger, a restaurant tucked inside a suburban bowling alley.

Syd Stone/Daily Senior Staffer

The North Shore’s hidden gem restaurant might just be a bowling alley

April 17, 2019

Picture this: It’s your birthday and you want to celebrate, but it’s also a Wednesday and no one is looking to go clubbing in downtown Chicago. My suggestion? Bring your friends to Classic Bowl — a bowling alley in Morton Grove that may be in the middle of nowhere but is definitely worth your time.

Before you stop reading, you should know that connected to the unassuming Classic Bowl — brightly lit and filled mainly with middle-aged North Shore residents in bowling leagues — is Boba Burger. It’s an Asian burger joint serving up everything from chili fries and jalapeño poppers to kimchi-topped hot dogs and “Hawaiian” burgers with pineapple and spam.

Recently, a few friends and I found ourselves in the birthday-on-a-Wednesday situation and descended upon Classic Bowl, mostly because we thought it would be funny. We figured we would order a couple drinks at the bar, bowl — terribly — and maybe grab a bite to eat at what seemed like a mediocre fast food restaurant.

What we got — Boba Burger — turned out to be so much more than mediocre. Inside, it looks like a typical burger spot: white tile floors, a few tables and black vinyl chairs. A hanging sign at the far end of the bowling alley pointed us straight to the large yellow counter where the magic happens.

While vigorously bowling and sipping on once-cold drinks, you’re bound to get tired and hungry. This is especially true since Classic Bowl forbids the use of bumpers. (You can do without them, I promise!) When the hunger pangs hit after you celebrate your first strike, follow that sign and don’t let Boba Burger’s vast, eclectic menu get the best of you.

After glancing at the options, I stuck to what I thought would be safe — chicken tenders and onion rings. My friends went with mozzarella sticks, burgers, hot dogs and fries. For a more adventurous meal, be sure to look to the inventive Asian-inspired dishes, like the Seoul burger (beef patty, cheese, kimchi, bacon and fried egg) or the Tokyo dog (tempura fried hot dog, wasabi aioli and nori).

When the food was ready, the cashier called out my name and I couldn’t run fast enough to the counter in my bowling shoes to pick up my cafeteria tray. At first sight, I immediately knew Boba Burger was going to be something special. The onion rings were solid: two layers of thick, soft onion impeccably battered and fried, and my friends raved about the Hawaiian burger — noting how the perfectly sweet teriyaki-glazed pineapple complements the sizable slice of fried spam.

The chicken tenders, however, were unlike any I had ever seen. I would compare them more to a chicken cutlet or chicken Milanese than “tenders.” They’re massive pieces of almost impossibly thin chicken breasts, lightly breaded, seasoned and fried. When you get them, you have to dip them in the provided barbeque sauce or ranch dressing and prepare yourself to tell everyone you know about how good they are. Even better, make a friend order the mozzarella sticks and soak the thin, crispy chicken in the marinara dipping sauce.

The prices at Boba Burger are more than reasonable for the amount of good food you get: the chicken tenders, along with most of the smaller dishes, are $4, and the burgers range from $6 to $8.

So hitch a ride west to Morton Grove, and you just may find that you’ll eat some of the North Shore’s best food surrounded by bowling balls and the sweet sounds of pins hitting shiny wooden lanes.

Read more from April’s edition of The Monthly here.

Email: allymauch@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @allymauch

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