Every day, Dustin Howard has many irons in the fire and his heart in the kitchen while juggling duties including a barber shop, a silk flower business and a bowling center in Grayson, Kentucky.
Running his restaurant, he says, is the part he loves best.
“The kitchen. That’s my passion. That’s my strong point,” Howard said, temporarily taking a seat inside ZZ’s Bar & Grill at the end of a typical week day. Seconds later, he’s called to duty by a stuck beer tap, a phone call and something someone needed from a high shelf.
Upon return, he cites plans and dreams to make the restaurant, which is one of several businesses Howard personally works each day, better suited to his customers needs. He uses his hands to illustrate where a new room divider or wall would allow better use by small groups, and confesses his ceiling tiles cause him tremendous grief.
Among his challenges, Howard hopes to find ways to essentially disassociate the restaurant’s image from that of the adjacent bowling center, Dixie Lanes, which is enjoying a renewed life due to the closure of bowling centers in Ashland and Huntington.
“That leaves Grayson and Ironton. And, there’s also another one on the other side of Huntington,” he said. “We now get people from Ashland, Lewis, Rowan, and Boyd County, and we’ve always had Elliot County.”
Dixie Lanes also benefitted from installation of high-top tables, ball-returns and other details from the former Blue Ribbon Lanes in Ashland.
Howard explains places like Dixie Lanes are now called bowling “centers” as part of an effort to get away from the connotations of the old reference “bowling alley.” He has even heard reports of local people who decline to eat at his restaurant because they don’t want to go to a bowling alley for lunch or dinner.
While his kitchen does serve up plenty of the foods bowlers including families, church groups and leagues enjoy, Howard and staff are proud to provide a menu unlike anything in any alley. Specialties include a superb potato soup, and diners can enjoy a prime rib dinner every Friday evening.
“Our lunch is strong because we get you in and out. Lunch is our number one thing,” Howard said, noting their salads, as well as a salad bar, are particularly popular. The salad bar traffic was initially slow, he said, but has since picked up.
“We do it fresh and it has gained a lot of ground and we have the taco bar and ‘Taco Tuesday’ so you can build your own tacos … Yep. It does real well. And our potato soup – We sometimes make six batches a week. It’s our Number One seller,” he said.
The menu at ZZ’s has a variety of tastes and prices (a hot dog is $2.50 and a sockeye salmon dinner is set at $15). Classic country flavors also remain in demand, Howard noted.
“Soup beans and fried potatoes … it never gets old. We do that every Thursday,” he said.
“Oh, and pies. We home make all our pies – coconut cream, chocolate, lemon. We make all of those ourselves. The funnel fries are the only thing we have that we don’t make by hand in our kitchen,” Howard added.
ZZ’s Bar & Grill, located at 530 N. Carol Malone Boulevard in Grayson, Kentucky is open from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Major changes are likely for the bowling center, Howard said, explaining today’s league bowlers will require a change from the classic wooden lanes to newer, synthetic flooring which provides more consistent play.
That, however, is a story for another day.
Story and Photos by TIM PRESTON