"Of course everyone wants to visit us,” I quipped to my husband Patrick. “We live in America’s Finest City.”
“Fine,” he retorted. “But all at once? Old-timers, hipsters, and tweens — it’s too much. You figure out what to do with them. I’m going bowling with the guys.”
Bingo. Or rather, bowling. Perfect for old-timers, hipsters, and tweens.
It was with the hipsters in mind that I put in a call to East Village Tavern & Bowl (619-677-2695, bowlevt.com) downtown.
“Some people have the impression that we’re expensive, but we’re not,” explained marketing director Jacqueline Delaney. “Our bowling rates are $45 an hour for peak times and $35 for off-peak. Each lane can have up to six people, so the cost per person can be as low as $7.50 per person during peak hours. And we offer free bowling Monday through Thursday from noon until 4 p.m. with a minimum $10 purchase.” (Shoe rental is extra: $3.95 per person.) “And walk-on game rates are also available: $4.95 to $5.95 per person per game, depending on the time.” (EVT&B hours: 11:30 a.m.–2 a.m. daily.)
What to get with that $10 minimum purchase? “We have a fairly extensive menu — it was created by the Food Dude, who has his own cooking show. Things like Italian-style paninis, steak sliders, burgers, salads, and bar munchies. We even serve breakfast on the weekends. There’s a pool table and 50-inch HD flat-screen TVs. We get all the sports here, even the fights, and you can watch them for free. The atmosphere is fun — you can hop up from the bar, bowl, then come back and eat. It’s a great alternative to the cover charges and dress codes in the rest of the Gaslamp.”
Bill Rossman, manager of Parkway Bowl in El Cajon (619-448-4111, parkwaybowl.com), also boasted of his establishment’s atmosphere. “We’ve got 68 lanes and a great mix of people. In the morning the ladies come in, in the afternoon I’ve got the seniors; after school I get kids. The adult leagues come in the evenings, and then the younger crowd comes in after 9 p.m.” But it’s not all segregated. “The entire family can bowl together. We’ve got the training bumpers for the kids, so the ball doesn’t go in the gutter. And we have a special device that allows wheelchair-bound people to bowl without even touching the ball.” And besides those 68 lanes, “We’ve got a full bar, a coffee shop, and a pizzeria. The Boardwalk area has rides and redemption games, and we have laser tag and billiards.”
Pricing can be found on Parkway Bowl’s website. “Lane rental varies by time of day. Shoe rental is $3. Sundays before noon, we run a family special: all lanes $8.50 an hour. We have another special that the high school and college kids like: from midnight to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays it’s only $1.50 per game per person.” Parkway Bowl is open 8:30 a.m.–12:30 a.m. Sunday–Thursday and 8:30 a.m.–3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Dottie at Kearny Mesa Bowl (858-279-1501, kearnymesabowl.com) told me, “It’s fairly easy to get a lane during the day, but weeknights it’s full of league play until 9 p.m. After that, we have open play again.” Like Parkway Bowl, Kearny Mesa Bowl features a full bar, a snack bar, pool tables, and a game room. “We do karaoke in the bar on Friday and Saturday as well as Rock ’n Bowl, which is bowling with music.”
Prices and open-play hours are posted online and range “from $18 per hour during the week to $24 per hour on the weekends. But on Tuesday and Wednesday night it’s just $25 a lane from 9:30–midnight. And on Sunday, if you get in before 10 a.m., you can buy two hours for the price of one [$18].” (Shoe rental, $3.50)
Finally, I checked out Aztec Center Bowling & Games at SDSU (619-594-6561). “We’re open 9 a.m.–6 p.m., and it’s first come, first served,” said an employee. “We’re open to students, faculty, and the public. We have 12 lanes for bowling [$3.25 per game for the public, with $1.75 shoe rental], pool [$1 a game], and table tennis [$.25 a game]. Oh, and we have a Wii.” (I didn’t ask about Wii bowling.)