If Woody Harrelson hates anyone in this world, do you think that Jeff Bridges is near the top of that list? I mean, both guys are pretty righteous dudes known for their mellow tendencies and mellower hobbies, but nobody ever goes to a bowling alley to be like Roy Munson. Everyone wants to be The Dude.
At this point, it’s pretty much a cliché to talk about bowling through a Lebowski lens, but it’s also tough to ignore the topic. This is because, at the root of it, bowling isn’t all that cool. Fun? Yes. Good way to excuse drinking? Absolutely. Sexy? Eh, no.
Bowlounge looks like a bowling alley that was lifted straight out of East Texas — which it was — and plopped down in the Design District.
But The Dude and Donny and Walter helped give bowling a cultural cachet. Kingpin was full of characters that bowled because “Hey, bowling’s kind of weird thing to make a movie about!” But in The Big Lebowski, bowling was just what they loved. Bowling in The Big Lebowski looks cool because The Dude is cool.
That’s all a long way of saying that when I went to Bowlounge, a bowling alley-bar-restaurant in the Design District, of course I ordered a White Russian. They call it a Caucasian on the menu, a nod to the fact that a White Russian could be from the Caucasus region and therefore, the ultimate Caucasian. At least, that’s my theory.
But Bowlounge knows what’s up. The menu also features The Dude, which is really an old fashioned, and The Nihilist, a concoction of cucumber, ginger, lemon and Tanqueray gin.
And on the wall behind the 12 bowling lanes, above the racks of bowling balls, sit three portraits. Walter, Donny (RIP) and The Dude keep faithful watch that no one steps over the line without marking it zero.
Bowlounge is a bit of an odd bird, the more I think about it. It’s not fancy the way that Bowl & Barrel strives to be. It doesn’t look like a Pottery Barn version of a bowling alley. It looks like a bowling alley that was lifted straight out of East Texas — which it was — and plopped down in the Design District.
The beer selection is better than most bars that don’t have to do bowling alley maintenance.
The purple-and-white theme against cavernous warehouse walls makes the bar area feel too large. Maybe it was just because it was mostly empty when we went. After all, people are here to bowl.
Bowlounge's menu features Twisted Root burgers and drinks by Jason Kosmas. Clearly, there is some attempt at quality behind the bar. A healthy draft list of craft beers balances out the Coors and Pabst Blue Ribbon on the menu. In fact, the beer selection is better than most bars that don’t have to do bowling alley maintenance.
The lanes are refreshingly low-tech. Scoring is done with a system that was most likely designed in 1992; balls return via an old-school up-ramp. It feels like a bowling alley ought to — minus, well, the kind of people you’d find hanging out in The Big Lebowski.
One strange thing was — and I can’t figure out if this was the theme of the night or what — the entire time we were there, Bowlounge played nothing but late ’90s, early ’00s alt-rock music videos: Smashing Pumpkins, Rise Against, Linkin Park and other bands that cannot explain what they were thinking at the time.
That era was rough for music videos. It does not mesh with bowling. Especially when the videos are displayed everywhere: to the side of the lanes, over the lanes, above the bar. Put the Rangers game on or something, because this kind of unchecked aggression will not stand.
But, yeah, Bowlounge is a bowling alley in the Design District that doesn't attempt to make bowling trendy or cool. It just makes bowling fun, and it gives you plenty of drinks to choose from along the way.
I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that.