Posted On: 02/01/2008
Itís a rarity for me to get carded walking into a bowling alley Ė especially on a Wednesday night. But as a longtime fan of Joe Edwardsí Pin-Up Bowl, I knew that Flamingo Bowl, the entrepreneurís newest concoction, wouldnít be your average cheesy alley. Thereís been a lot of positive buzz around this Washington Avenue hotspot, and after dropping in, Iím pleased to say the attention is well-deserved.
Itís hard for a person familiar with Pin-Up not to compare the two. Flamingo is very much like Pin-Upís younger brother, smaller and much more, well Ö neon. Half bright blue and pink, the 16,000-square-foot space is adorned here and there with the namesake birds Ė think southern Florida. If not for the scene of the downtown loft district through Flamingoís massive windows, it would be easy to imagine yourself in a happy watering hole in Fort Lauderdale. Edwards and his partners sunk a $3.5 million initial investment into Flamingo, and judging by the dťcor, it was well worth it.
The drink menu looms above the bar and is easily read. I like this. What I donít like, after scanning the list, is the fact that a supposed martini bar doesnít have one single, solitary martini on the menu. Cosmos, Mai Tais, Mojitos, even Singapore Slings are represented. Still, after waiting in a considerable line for drinks, I was happy to see the bartender mix a perfect dirty Grey Goose. The beer selection was fairly comprehensive. No real surprises, but I was happy to see Stella Artois on draft (an expanding trend I like). Pitchers of beer start at a not-too-painful $11 and top off four full glasses. A solid list of aged rums threw me for a curve; they run anywhere from $6 to $30 a glass. Apparently the place serves wine, but ordering that at a bowling alley would be like going to Courtesy Diner and asking for foie gras.
For the adventurous types, Flamingo offers a rotating mixed drink special. Without much pressure, I was able to persuade a girl in my party to order one, which that night ended up being a Raspberry Lemon Drop, straight up and laced with a sugary garnish. Two words: not good. I realize Iím not exactly the target demographic for these particular beverages, but at the same time it would have been nice to taste a little vodka with my sugar.
A Latin influence seeps into the short food menu. Items include nachos, quesadillas, even a Cuban sandwich. Our table was happy to be handed a crab dip appetizer with baked pita wedges from a nearby party that had blatantly overordered.
The crowd in the lounge is impressive even on a weeknight: a novel blend of young professionals, urban players, grungy hipster wannabes, sharp-dressed social climbers, gold-digging remoras, even a baby boomer or two. The eight lanes themselves are packed with loud groups on plush loungers who occasionally send out an unlucky soul, empty pitcher in hand, to dodge through trios of glammed-up girlfriends eyeing the crowd and sipping on high-stemmed, fruity concoctions. Past the lounge, a small group leans against an unused pool table and spark up Marlboros. This isnít Saratoga Lanes, so the unspoken dress code is understandingly less casual. Still, it wouldnít be surprising to see someone at Flamingo donning anything from a three-piece pinstripe to a pair of flip-flops and a backward cap. Like Pin-Up, this is a place as well-suited for casual flirting as for enjoying a raucous night out around a high top with close friends.
Also much like its big brother, Flamingo tends to get a little packed on the weekends Ė especially considering the fact that itís a 3 a.m. Donít be surprised if you have to stand outside and do the whole one person out, one in routine.
One mark against Flamingo: the music. The clichť is that if itís too loud, youíre too old. Well, sorry, dammit, but Iím only 26, and I canít stand having to step outside a bar or walk into the bathroom to be able hear a friend on the other end of my cell. Oh, and while youíre at the sound controls, please do us a favor and mix it up a little from the relentlessly overplayed Top 40 pop songs we probably had to listen to in our cars on the way down.
All that aside, I like this place. You canít help but not. The prices are decent (especially for Washington Avenue), the setting is great, the beer is cold and the staff is, for the most part, on its toes. This place might not be for everyone, but Iím sorry, if you canít have a good time in a place with a bowling alley, youíve got some issues.
Want to comment on this article? Login or sign up on Sauce.