Editor’s note: Bowled remains open for business, with the exception of sit-down dining during the pandemic. Current hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday (closed today for Easter). On Thursday, a representative said all menu items were available except steak. Be sure to call for updates.
There wasn’t a French fry in sight. Nor will you find a hamburger or a hot fudge sundae. Bowled, in the newly renovated Crosstown Plaza in Schenectady, at the corner of Watt Street and the Crosstown, offers salads, acai (pronounced “ah-sah-EE”) and grain bowls, assembled before your eyes from fresh ingredients. It used to be called health food, but I think of it now as “healthy food.”
Walking into the long, white-washed storefront was like entering a well-stocked cooler. A row of ingredients, in bulk, lines the right wall, while about a dozen tables line the left wall and front next to the windows. Customers place their orders at the beginning of the assembly line, watch the construction of their meal and pay at the end. The four staff members behind the glassed-in counter were trained to make each creation in an efficient and attractive manner.
Given the number of ingredients and the variety of combinations, my first impulse was to attempt to calculate how many different bowls and smoothies could be constructed. When I remembered from Mr. Launer’s math class that the equation had the word “factorial” in it, I retreated to studying what I wanted in my own bowl. Rapidly abandoning the chore of trying to decide which ingredients would work well with others, I decided to order a predetermined salad.
The Spicy Chicken Grain Bowl ($9.50) boasted ingredients I knew I would like: brown rice, Romaine lettuce, grilled spicy chicken, tortilla strips, tomatoes, black beans, pickled jalapeños and sriracha drizzle dressing.
The colorful result, though, was like an alarm clock jangling on my tongue. The components were enjoyable singly, but the three hot hombres — spicy chicken, jalapenos and sriracha dressing — had a synergistic effect on one another, and my middle-aged constitution forced me to forgo half the bowl. The dish was excellent, but the dressing was too hot for me.
Guest’s choice was a calmer winner. His La Fiesta Bowl ($9.95) combined Romaine and arugula lettuces, black beans, avocado, grape tomatoes, fire-roasted corn, tortilla chips and shredded white cheddar with avocado ranch dressing.
The addition of avocado dressing was a novelty to him, and one I’m certain he will try again. The black, green, red and yellow dots were as festive in both color and flavor as the salad’s name predicted.
Tongue still tingling from my four-alarm bowl, I searched for soothing relief. A blackboard listing smoothies came to the rescue. All were listed at $7.50 and included various fruits such as strawberries, mangoes and bananas, along with more exotic ingredients such as turmeric, cocoa powder, peanut butter, nutella, flax seed and CBD (for an extra $2/25mg).
I chose a Coco Smoothie (almond milk, banana, Nutella, maca, cacao, peanut butter), which was blended in the back room with either ice or frozen ingredients to render it slushy enough to either eat with a spoon or pull laboriously through a straw.
Chewing the smoothie, I was able to detect welcomed ice crystals, and each ingredient except for the maca was detectable but not overpowering.
My guest ordered a Protein Recovery smoothie made from chocolate whey protein, banana, low-fat milk, peanut butter and cacao powder. I never learned what he was recovering from, and his explanation was he just wanted a protein “fix.”
When we exchanged sips, we agreed that both smoothies had a similar flavor, probably due to three common ingredients: banana, cacao and peanut butter.
A number of features of Bowled stood out. Guest was impressed by his salad maker asking whether he wanted his ingredients mixed or the salad dressing placed separately on the side (mixed, please). I was impressed by the clean-lined black and white décor with a small green succulent (which I later discovered was artificial) on each table.
A comment on ingredients: A handful of them are rarely found on the average menu. The internet tells me that maca and bee pollen are both beneficial for reducing inflammation and boosting the immune system. Maca itself improves the libido. CBD (canabidiol, a nonhallucinogenic component of marijuana, said to lessen pain and create an overall feeling of calm) can be added to some of the bowls and smoothies for a $2 upcharge. Sriracha is a hot sauce or chili sauce made from a paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. I probably will omit sriracha on my salad the next time around.
Bowled has not been open long, but the venue seems to have its act together with an abundance of fresh healthy ingredients, competent friendly staff and a new attitude toward fast food.