Posted On: 03/18/2004
This is bowling. There are rules. The crotch-chopping Pete Weber-wannabes at Tropicana Lanes know this. The distracted 6-year-olds attending a birthday party at Show-Me Lanes know this. Visitors to Downtown’s International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame most definitely know this. Heck, even the ancient Egyptians knew this. For 5,000 years, according to our fine museum, bowling has evolved. Still, you can’t step over the line.
You can, however, step over the Skinker Boulevard line of The Loop (formerly The University City Loop). After fostering the city-side development of The Loop with the opening of his concert venue, The Pageant, in 2000, developer Joe Edwards has gone small and sporting with Pin-Up Bowl, which is likewise east of Skinker, but unlike anything else in The Loop. This is Joe Edwards; there are no rules.
Find 6191 Delmar half a block west of the Pageant. Edwards said he had a clear vision of what he wanted and teamed with local award-winning designers Kiku Obata and Company to give Pin-Up Bowl its polished art-deco look.
Pin-Up splits into two spaces: the alley in the rear and the bar in the front. In the rear, the four big screens above the eight lanes –usually showing The Cartoon Network and MTV Jams – grab your attention more than the lanes themselves. More than any lights, the TVs seem to illuminate the polished lanes, dull gutters and old-school Brunswick scoring tables, displays and lockers. Unlike in most bowling alleys, you sit in real wooden furniture, placing your pitcher on a real wooden table, rather than flopping in a form-plastic chair and spilling on a Formica table.
The subtle/unsubtle dichotomy of the bar side gives Pin-Up its character. The subtle: newly designed and original retro bowler prints that dot the walls. Look for multi-ethnic pin-up girl bowlers. The subtle: dark drapes hanging in front of the restroom entrances. The unsubtle: trophy cases full of Pin-Up Bowl merchandise and bowling collectibles. The unsubtle: red, cushy U-shaped love seats to the right and left of the front door.
Surrounded by tables and rails, a pool table is stuffed into the middle of the bar. A frustratingly time-consuming digital jukebox hangs from the wall between the bathroom entrances. Worn, heavy bowling balls sit on rails attached to the same wall.
Many bars of The Loop attract a certain crowd: tatted down, pierced college students. They’re definitely here at Pin-Up Bowl, oftentimes employed by Pin-Up, but many of the patrons fit other descriptions.
Kids, real 8- to 12-year-old kids, roam the premises on many weekends for birthday parties or for no other reason than it’s a cool bowling alley. The unaccompanied under-16s are booted at 6 p.m., the unaccompanied under-21s at 9 p.m.
Come 9 p.m., only adults: multi-racial, multi-incomed, 25- to 40-year-olds, more men than women. Some come with a date, some are trying to hook up.
While the bowling lanes are the gimmick, their weekend-night popularity relegates Pin-Up to a martini lounge for most. Edwards suggested booking at least two weeks in advance. Walk-in rates ($3.50 to $5.00, depending on the time and day) are a little steeper than most lanes around town. Reserve an entire lane for $30 to $50. For night-owl hardcore bowlers, Pin-Up could be Xanadu. Roll until 2:30 a.m. any night of the week, but be warned, there are only eight lanes.
Shooting stick ($8 to $12 an hour) should be planned for early in the day or not at all. The billiards table, while in touch with Pin-Up’s theme, pretty much gets in the way on crowded weekend nights.
Dress to bowl, dude. Nelly still has the high score of 257.
An extensive martini list offers more than 30 variations. The 10 Signature Cocktails – highlighted by house-favorite Key Lime Pie –are mostly sweet and vodka-based. The 10 Classic Cocktails are authentically classic, not restaurant-hyperbole classic. “Classic” means the Sidecar, the Pegu, the Derby, etc. The 10 Modern Cocktails fit in between. You’ll recognize some recipes but not the names.
At the very bottom of the menu, perhaps much too small for true lushes, are the regular gin/vodka martinis. Nothing sweet, nothing fancy. Just liquor. All martinis run $5 to $8, and, with a touch of high-class, are made with fresh fruit. No juice concentrates.
Bottled beer is $3 for PBR and $3.50 to $4 for everything else (AB, New Belgium Sunshine Wheat, Woodpecker Cider, etc.). Drafts: only Bud Light ($3.75 pint, $10 pitcher) and Schlafly Pale Ale ($4.25 and $12). Two white wines and two red wines are $5.50 per glass and $18 per bottle.
The brief food menu covers the bowling alley usuals: pizzas ($10, toppings extra), nachos ($4 or under), burgers ($6) and hot dogs ($4.25). Keeping with the throwback theme, order a bowl of real Campbell’s Soup for $3.
The straight 411…
For hip, late-night bowling/drinking, all in the innocent sexiness of Joe Edwards’ latest creation, step over the line to Pin-Up Bowl.
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