Team Market Group certainly has its fair share of haters and, frankly, it's not surprising. Headed up by bro-founders Romi, Daniel and Keith Mawardi, TMG has been on a tear over the past five years boosting this city's nightlife, entertainment and dining options and doing so with the sort of verve that breeds envy, spite and, yep, a bit of contempt.
There are allegations of gentrification, complaints of trend-ification, and charges of price amplification, especially surrounding the $15 hot dog served at Primrose Lanes Restaurant & Bowling Club — the Mawardis' newest and, arguably, most ambitious venture.
Naturally there are those who either can't afford to indulge in such a seemingly grandiose concoction, or who simply refuse to entertain the thought of eating one based solely on principle. Many have railed and wailed about the $15 price tag, but believe me when I say that there's a market for this hot dog. And believe me when I say it's probably the best hot dog I've ever had the pleasure of stuffing into my yap. If you're one to wax nostalgic about the $2 weenies served when Primrose Lanes was Colonial Lanes, consider what went into that mystery-meat tube of yore — I guarantee it wasn't a foot-long, house-made sausage triple ground from premium cuts of ribeye, short rib, brisket and chuck, slow-smoked, then seared before being served on a brioche bun toasted in beef fat.
The dog, and scores of other items overseen by executive chef Jason Campbell and TMG executive chef Nick Grecco, isn't just reinventing the notion of what bowling alley food can be, but what comfort food can be, and that takes time (36 hours, in the case of the hot dog). I'll just say it — Primrose Lanes' menu is one of the most gush-worthy releases of the year. I couldn't help but be roused by short rib pastrami ($29) spice-cured for two days, cooked sous-vide for 48 hours, finished off on a wood grill, sliced like a strip loin and served with thin-cut fries à la steak frites. The crowning glory: mustard salsa verde and a rill of beef jus. That jus, by the way, takes a couple of days to make and also accompanies the smoked prime rib sandwich ($27), a handheld well worth its weight in meat. The cut is butchered in-house, rubbed with a secret blend, air-dried for two days, then slow-smoked.
You see that methodical and deliberate approach in starters like the hash brown bites ($12), which resemble Thomas Keller's potato pavé more than they do a Waffle House breakfast smash. Shredded potatoes, seasoned and blended with cream, eggs and cheese, are baked, pressed overnight, then cut into cubes with laser precision. After a quick fry, they're tossed in malt vinegar and salt, and topped with garlic crème fraîche, chives and smoked trout roe. Campbell and Grecco aren't ones to take the easy road, in case that hasn't been made clear by now, and that enthusiastic drive is why the Mawardis snagged the formidable pair for their burgeoning little empire.
I'll spare you any additional rhapsodic effulgence by just saying this: Get the "Funyun" fried onions ($12) and enjoy them with Campbell's "OKC" double smashburger ($18). They, too, make a formidable pair. The former has spring onions coated in a cornmeal-style tempura that's flavored to mimic the taste and crunch of Funyuns; the latter employs two 4-ounce Creekstone Farms patties smashed with onions. "Gotta do the onion slurp when you take a bite," Campbell says before offering a pro tip: "Add a side of beef jus for dipping."
It's a winning combination, whether enjoyed in Primrose Lanes' main dining area, at the tiered bar, in the comfy lounge or in the bowling area, where eight lanes have been salvaged from the original Colonial Lanes and restored. In fact, a lot of materials from the original bowling alley and cocktail bar have been repurposed into the design and furnishings of Primrose Lanes and given due deference. It's a stunning space, and utterly unique in what it brings to the community, $15 hot dog or otherwise.
Yes, the Mawardis may be the kingpins of the restaurant and nightlife scene in this city, but they're also the boys who live down the lane.
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