Bowling alleys are no longer the cigarette smoke- and uncle-filled venues of decades past. Many have cleaned up their acts, opening craft cocktail bars, offering brunch menus and turning into legitimate nightlife destinations. Here are eight of our favorite new-school bowling alleys from across the country. Fuck it, Dude, let’s go bowling.
You could move into Pinewood Social. Not only does this Nashville hangout have a vintage wooden bowling alley, but it also has a pool, a restaurant, a lounge, private karaoke rooms, a coffee shop, an outdoor bar built into an Airstream trailer, a bocce ball court and one of the best cocktail programs in the city. We’ve probably forgotten a few things on that list. Local bar celeb Matt Tocco (formerly of Rolf & Daughters and the Patterson House) dishes out hand-chiseled ice with punches and cocktails like the Shook From the Gate: scotch, aged rum, yellow Chartreuse, lemon, ginger and hot pepper shrub. Pinewood Social is a concept we haven’t seen anywhere else and we love it.
Brooklyn, Las Vegas
We have to pay our respects to Brooklyn Bowl, the grandfather of cool bowling alleys. This high-tech Williamsburg venue opened all of the way back in 2009 and its bowling-dining-music model has now been copied around the world, including by Brooklyn Bowl, which opened new nightclubs in Las Vegas and London last year. The Brooklyn location still has a weekly party hosted by DJ ?uestlove, 10 local beers on tap, that Blue Ribbon fried chicken you have to have before you die and concerts from huge acts such as Talib Kweli. It’s crazy, but as many times as we’ve been there, we can’t remember ever bowling.
THE SPARE ROOM
Located inside the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the Spare Room is classic old Hollywood. The lights are turned down low over the gaming parlor, the better to keep your indiscretions to yourself. If you don’t get a bowling lane (you probably won’t; there are only two), order a punch bowl for your table and play any of the other dozen vintage board games they offer: chess, dominoes, Yahtzee that comes with golden dice or even a wooden Connect Four grid. Take home a deck of special-edition Fraggle Rock playing cards—yes, that Fraggle Rock—that feature illustrations of the classic Jim Henson characters and bar recipes from the Spare Room.
Built in a former Plymouth dealership, the Garage is a 40,000-square-foot entertainment complex. In addition to its two-dozen retro bowling lanes, the venue has shuffleboard, 25 pool tables and six bars. Bonus: Happy Hour is 3 P.M. to 7 P.M. every day.
HARRY S. TRUMAN BOWLING ALLEY
Nothing named Harry S. Truman can be considered cool, but it certainly can be considered exclusive. This two-lane bowling alley is located in the basement of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the White House staffers work. (A much more secretive one-lane bowling alley is located underneath the North Portico.) If you want to get into the Truman, you’ll need to get an invite from a staffer, pass a background check and clear multiple security checkpoints. Jonah from Veep would probably hang out here on the reg.
Hollywood, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and more
Show up at the sleek Lucky Strike lanes on the right night, and you may run into a gaggle of Playmates. Or at least a bunch of gorgeous women.
MISSION BOWLING CLUB
Come for the bowling, stay for the food. Mission Bowling Club has six lanes (you’ll want to call ahead to reserve a spot), plus a full restaurant that serves up Cali necessities like pork belly Banh Mis and chickpea burgers. Its bar mixes up modern classics like the TBD: mezcal, dry vermouth, jalapeño jam and lime.
The Gutter is the only bowling alley in America to have survived an Ebola scare. The fact that the popular dive had to be thoroughly cleaned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not deterred anyone from crowding into the low-tech lanes every night. The Gutter sells lots of pitchers of beer, but no real food, so order a delivery pizza to show up when you arrive.
Alyson Sheppard is the resident hangover specialist at Playboy.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amshep