Maybe I should have gone in quest of the best clubhouse sandwich, or a winning burger, but I’ve taken the route of not giving prizes, though many restaurants are prize worthy, and praiseworthy.
Let’s face it, tastes vary, likes and dislikes can be swayed by the smallest things. From spices to texture to colour, we eat with our eyes, sense with our nose, and open wide to crunch and savour.
With what I have liked and loved since starting to write Let’s Eat in the fall of 2020, many readers have agreed. Not every place is five stars, or even four. Your rating, my assessment … well, sometimes we agree. I’d like to believe that for some the places presented were new suggestions and novel destinations.
During these 42 stories about the Sudbury food scene, if there is one thing I have learned it is that it really is often about more than just location and menu. The success of a place is about vibe and “returnability”. I don’t think that this is really a word, but you know it refers to “would you go back?” That question everyone asks in the parking lot at the end of a first experience.
Who is the server? Were they pleasant and welcoming? Did the menu use words that piqued your interest? What was the speed of service? How was the plate presented? I could go on and on.
After 42 lunches and dinners, I realize it is a complex algorithm that makes a place unique and sometimes special. It can start with the name of the place. That there is food that holds your attention and makes you look forward to the next time hunger calls your name is what drives you to become a regular.
Here then is one last restaurant visit, and this time we head west, beyond Copper Cliff, to Lively and
AlleyKatz. A cool name, but how did it happen?
“My full name is Kathryn Jackson, AKA ‘Kat’,” AlleyKatz owner tells me. “We are a bowling alley as well as a bar and restaurant. It just seemed appropriate. My logo has three cats on it that represent my three girls, who are my inspiration.”
I asked Kat to describe her place.
“We are a local, northern, family friendly eatery bar and bistro with a welcoming and hard-working team. We have a lot of attractions for people who bowl, love to play pool or darts, and enjoy live entertainment. I have been raised in this industry, and it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve had wonderful mentors from Tom & Jerry’s Bistro and Bar, who inspired me to have this dream that is AlleyKatz. I was with them for almost 20 years.”
So what do they serve? “We serve a large variety of home-cooked meals ranging from breakfast to burgers, wings, sandwiches, wraps, etc.” No kidding they work breakfast right through to the wee hours.
“What's most popular? Why I guess our homemade burgers and wings are a hit. We are also known for our cold beer by our dedicated regulars.”
Is it a local crowd or does it attract a wider audience?
“We have a very regular crowd of locals, but we have some people who trickle in from Sudbury to our little town. Before COVID, we had many people who were traveling through who would come and have a bite to eat.”
Naturally, you can read their menu online, but let’s face it, words just don’t tell the whole story. My guest had a burger recommended by a guy who came in for take-out. It made me almost rethink my choice, but then my clubhouse sandwich arrived at the table. Fries were perfect, bread just golden and crisp, and I made it a “Californian” Clubhouse with the addition of avocado. Not goopy, not drippy. The large plate is filled with geometrically equal sandwiches and a mountain of fries from local potatoes. The chicken was perfect, and the triangles sliced by a sharp knife. No compression! Picture perfect.
“Hey Kat, you have beverages as well?” I asked.
“Of course! Beer and bowling alleys always make a great combo! We have an AlleyKatz Pilsner that is very popular and always on special for $3.99 for 20oz. We also have many other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.”
Most often we think of bowling as a good time. Is that part of the attraction? “Absolutely! We have people of all ages who come in to play with their family and friends. But, also there are numerous leagues who come in and play weekly,” Jackson said.
So do you have kids and families come too? “Of course, we keep our restaurant a safe and family friendly place for everyone.”
What can the kids order? “Normally we have a light menu for children as well as for anyone who wants smaller portions. But, of course, grilled cheese, hot dogs and chicken fingers are always a favourite of the kids. We have a venue for parties in the bowling alley for kids.”
With Stage 3 now underway, I wonder about AlleyKatz’s hours. What are they now, and what will they be? Jackson said AlleyKatz is now open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Sunday, but will soon be switching back to its regular hours of 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., Monday to Sunday.
“We have our Facebook and Instagram, which are both under @alleykatzbistroandbar, and we will post changes as they happen,” she said.
I had to ask about how had COVID impacted the business.
“A few weeks ago being able to open up the patio and see all the friendly faces again has reminded me of what I started this all for. We’re celebrating four years this August, and going into our fifth year we’re looking forward to having everyone back at AlleyKatz. Hopefully with some hugs.”
Sadly, this is my last episode of Let’s Eat! Starting next week, a new writer is taking over Let’s Eat, so look for Anastasia Rioux’s byline on upcoming food stories.
I wish I could have got to many more venues. It has been fun to see the diversity of restaurants across this City of Greater Sudbury. I salute the vision and persistence of owners, the hard work of — an often unseen cadre — kitchen staff, owner operators, and the miles walked by serving staff. Yes, customers too are part of the equation. Customers who support and sustain a growing food culture which is putting Sudbury on the culinary road map.
Let’s Eat salutes the Sudbury spirit!
You will find AlleyKatz around the corner from the Lively LCBO
145 Regional Road 24 Unit 12
Open 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Check their Facebook presence
Or call 705-596-5289
Hugh Kruzel is a freelance writer and committed foodie in Greater Sudbury. Let’s Eat is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.