We fell in love with the waitress at the Tripp Sports Bowl Café. A white-haired lady who looked like she might remember Babe Ruth’s best years, she chatted us up as we found a table with a good view of the five bowling lanes. “They say Chicago’s the Windy City,” she commented, referring to the fact that a virtual Blue Norther was gusting down the Main Street of town, causing awnings to flap like crazy. “But I say it’s Tripp.”
“Tripp isn’t really a city, is it?” we said, referring to the fact that its one and only street is two blocks long and the population is barely in the triple digits.
“We could be if we wanted,” she said with chuckle. Case closed.
When we asked her what there was to eat she pointed to a blackboard above a rack of bowling balls. On it was written Creamed Chicken on Toast & Dessert -- $3.50. We looked around the tiny bowling alley café and noticed that among the dozen other customers, including two or three singles at the counter and a couple of foursomes at the tables, every one was having the daily special.
It turned out to be ultimate comfort food: mild, satisfying, homey. Before the creamed chicken, we had bowls of vegetable beef soup (homemade, of course); and dessert was a small bowl of canned pear sections in syrup. Just to explore, we also ordered a Dakota burger. It is not a hamburger at all, but a pile of chunky roast beef slices that are moist and flavorful, topped with a slice of cheese and served on a burger bun. Our friend the waitress explained that hot beef is a frequent daily special at the café, served with mashed potatoes and gravy.
The menu has a few other items – fried chicken, hamburgers, sandwiches – and you can have ice cream for dessert. But variety is not why we’ll return. We’d bet on the daily special every time. And the truth is that the joy of eating in this place goes beyond its honest, inexpensive food. It’s a true town café, where the locals eat – and bowl. On the wall in a place of honor are posted the records held by Doug Janssen (a 300 game!) and Dorothy Schnabel (267).