Fun in the gutter : SoFla’s bowling alleys

Students from Miami Beach Senior High' bowling team practice at Lucky Strike Lanes in South Beach.

Tired of yet another night of clubbing in sleepless Miami? Whether you’re looking for a local hangout away from the hipster crowds and tourists or just looking for a new place to take your date, check out one of the city’s bowling alleys, which, for the most part, remain away from the mainstream. From family-oriented to upscale entertainment, here’s a guide to the best gutters in town.

Bird Bowl

The place: The friendly atmosphere of this old-school alley will make it your new local hangout. If you want to impress your friends with your bowling skills, call instructors Michael and Richard for a bowling lesson. Also, ask to join one of the dozens of leagues that meet here weekly. The Rabbit Lounge full bar is the place to hang out after the game, especially Fridays, when it’s karaoke night. The venue also has a video arcade, billiard tables and large TV screens to make sure you don’t miss the big game.
The crowd: High school and college students, families, groups of friends.
The food: The usual American food, with dozens of affordable bites such as a hotdog and soft drink $3.49 special.
The price: Daily specials such as Wacky Wednesdays – when you can bowl for $1.50 per game – or Happy Hour, Monday through Friday from 3 to 7 p.m., when you can bowl for $2.00 per game. Otherwise, a game costs between $3.50 and $4.50 plus $3.50 for shoe rental. You can also rent a lane by the hour for $20-$25. Make sure to ask for the youth and senior discounts.
Insider tip: Bird Bowl recently added complimentary Wi-Fi, for those days when you’re “working from home.”
9275 SW 40 St., Miami; 305-221-1221.

Lucky Strike
The place: If you feel like combining an evening of bowling, hip atmosphere and a delicious meal, head here. This Hollywood, California-based chain is as trendy as bowling alleys come, showcasing Hollywood memorabilia, a DJ every day after 9 p.m. and art by visual artists from around the world. The sports bar has 13 TV screens.
The crowd: Families during early hours, young professionals in the evening and late into the night. It’s South Beach, so expect the crowd to be trendy and sophisticated.
The food: Not your average bowling alley fare. The menu was created by one of L.A.’s best catering companies and includes gourmet nibbles such as crunchy mashed potato rolls and tomato and cheese s’mores.
The price: More expensive than the other alleys (it’s on South Beach, after all). Games range between $5.95 and $7.95 and hour rentals – the only option Saturday nights – can go as high as $65. The venue does, however, offer attractive group discounts.
Take note: Remember this isn’t the hole-in-the-wall bowling alley. Headgear, sleeveless t-shirts, plain white t-shirts and other athletic wear are not allowed.
1691 Michigan Ave., Miami Beach; 305-532-0307

Strike Miami
The place: Located in the Dolphin Mall, this 34-lane multimedia venue combines glow-in-the-dark and other visual technology, making you feel like you’re bowling on the moon. It also has a full-service sports bar and TV screens throughout the venue showing sports, movies and other entertainment.
The crowd: High school and college students, families, corporate and other groups.
The food: Quesadillas, sandwiches, hamburgers, New-York-style pizza and desserts such as the ever-delicious fudge brownie sundae.
The price: Lane rental only, ranging between $24.95 and $38.99 per hour. Shoe rental is $4.60.
Take note: Minimum cover charge of $5 Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. and an 18-and-over-only policy every day after 9 p.m.
Dolphin Mall, 11401 NW 12 St, Miami; 305-594-0200.

Holiday Bowling Center & Lounge
The place: This 16-lane alley is a great place to hang out after work, even if you’re not much of a bowler. There’s live music and entertainment in the lounge Thursdays through Saturdays. It features a full bar, five big-screen projectors showing music videos (Thursdays is indie and rock video night and Saturdays is hip-hop video night). The alley also boasts house leagues and tournaments and a pro-shop where professionals can get their bowling gear repaired.
The crowd: Family-friendly, young crowds, locals.
The food: The most extensive menu you’ll find in a bowling alley, including a delicious breakfast featuring 10 types of omelets, pancakes, eggs, muffins and fruits. It also has a complete lunch and dinner menu with dishes averaging $7.95. Thursday night drink specials: $10 for five bottles of Bud in a bucket of ice, $3 wells.
The price: $3 to $4.50 per game, $3.50 for shoe rental. It also has good party and corporate event rates.
Insider tip: Ask Bernie for free bowling lessons. Also, add them to your MySpace to get discount coupons:
106 E Pembroke Rd, Hallandale Beach; 954-458-3111.

AMF Lanes
The place: With over 350 centers throughout the state, AMF knows bowling. The locations feature an average of 32 lanes, full liquor bar, pizzeria and snack café. If you’re looking for a bowling club or league, the management will help you find one that meets your experience. The venues are also a good place to have birthday parties, children or adults, and have different options (don’t be ashamed to order bumpers — even if you’re not 6) to meet your needs.
The crowd: Locals, families.
The food: Get a mouth-watering pizza from Gio’s Pizza or sliders from the Lean Side Café. If you’re on a low-calorie diet, try one of AMF’s signature sandwiches or wraps.
The price: Always ask for the specials, which include food and play. For $60-$73 you can combine two hours of bowling, pizza or popcorn, soft drink pitcher and shoe rental for six to eight people. Regular bowling rates range from $3.75 to $5.
Insider tip: Check out the company’s website for a series of five-minute instructional bowling videos.
1940 N. University Dr, Pembroke Pines; 954-432-5500; 8200 W. State Rd 84, Davie; 954-473-8822.

Splitsville Luxury Lanes and Dinner Lounge
The place: Scheduled to open in late October, the alley in the Sunset Place shopping center will feature four bars, each with a unique décor such as “refined retro” and “1940s chic.” The concept of Splitsville Lanes is that patrons feel like they’re in a private party rather than in bowling alley. The place is broken up into separate areas with a small number of lanes, pool tables and lounge areas in each section, so groups can have parties without annoying other visitors. The venue will also feature champagne, sake and sushi bars. Sports fans can catch games on one of the 28 screens.
The crowd: Locals, students, corporate groups.
The food: Gourmet specialty plates such as mahi mahi with voodoo shrimp and sweet’n spicy salmon, as well as less upscale offerings such as philly cheese steaks and meatballs with marinara sauce. Dish prices range between $8 and $15. Friday night is $2 Miller Lite night.
The price: $4.95 to $5.95 per game. Shoe rental is $2.95. Youth discounts also available.
Take note: Customers must be 21 and over after 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Also, those ages 20 and younger must be accompanied by an adult Sunday-Thursday.
Sunset Place; 5701 Sunset Dr., South Miami; 305-665-5263.
Published: 10/08

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