The Best Bowling In Los Angeles
With our plentiful sunshine and year-round summer, L.A. isn’t a bowling mecca like some colder climes. But ever since Walter Sobchak uttered those immortal words, “Fuck it Dude, let’s go bowling,” we’ve felt it our solemn duty as Angelenos to do dates and birthday parties with a game of 10-pin. (Except on Shabbos—we don’t roll on Shabbos.) Every neighborhood in our town has a neon rock-n-bowl spot with Charli XCX videos projected over the lanes, but we want to call out some of the unique alleys in town for an adventurous night of rolling when the urge strikes.
When we asked LAist readers about their favorite bowling alleys, the response was loud and clear that you love Koreatown’s Shatto 39 Lanes. We couldn’t agree more. This is the quintessential old school bowling alley frozen in time in 1982—the PA system plays Motown, players’ perfect games of years-gone-by are commemorated with little plaques over each lane, nothing is colored with Day-Glo or lit in Blacklite, the food is rubbery and costs next to nothing. Shatto Lanes could’ve been airlifted to K-town from Wisconsin. Parking is pretty manageable in the underground lot, and the frames are cheap. There’s also a solid selection of old video games for 25¢.
Shatto 39 Lanes is located 3255 W. 4th St in Koreatown, (213) 385-9475
The Spare Room Bar (Photo by Laura Martinez / Creative Commons)
The Spare Room Bar
If Shatto Lanes is the Philippe's of local bowling, The Hollywood Roosevelt’s Spare Room is the Mignon. There are only two lanes in this uber-hipstery third-story bar with windows overlooking Hollywood Boulevard —and on top of the $15 cocktails, the lanes cost $100 an hour for up to six players, so it’s not for the faint of wallet. But the steampunk flavor of these intimate lanes has an undeniable magic—no glowing TV keeps score, instead a quiet but friendly mustachioed attendant keeps tabs for you on a chalkboard. On top of that, the bar books underground bands and DJs some nights to keep the atmosphere lively, and there are board games to check out between frames.
The Spare Room is located in The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood, (323) 769-7296
If you’re in the deep Valley, Winnetka Bowl, formerly known as Canoga Park Bowl, is there for you. Once beloved as a 24-hour lane, it’s now open more common hours—till 3 a.m. on the weekends—but addicts and aspiring pros still believe in this place thanks to its immaculately oiled lanes and Winnetka prices diving as low as $1.75 a game. Of course, they also have an arcade and cheap drinks.
Winnetka Bowl is located at 20122 Vanowen St in Winnetka, (818) 340-5190
For another old-school bowling vibe out in the Valley, scope Pickwick Bowl in Burbank. Prices are low and the atmosphere is low-pretense and slightly shabby. It’s less neon and “date-nighty” than nearby PINZ, and even though it has only 24 lanes, it’s rarely packed. Bear in mind that it closes a little earlier than other bowling spots, so you may want to call ahead, but the parking is easy and the food is greasy. What more could you want?
Pickwick Bowl is located in Pickwick Gardens at 1001 Riverside Dr. in Burbank, (818) 845-5300
Go at primetime to Studio City’s PINZ and it is packed with Valley dwellers on first dates. Be prepared for a wait at these super-busy lanes once known to be trafficked by Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz—their names are even printed on a couple lockers, lest they ever come back. No surprise given the location, but the atmosphere here can get pretty bro-ish, and the arcade game prices are kinda steep. Plus, thanks to something called "supply and demand," the bowling costs climb to $9 per person per game on busy nights. Still, we’d be remiss not to mention this hotspot, if for no other reason than its relentless popularity.
PINZ Bowling Center is located at 12655 Ventura Blvd in Studio City, (818) 769-7600
XLanes LA (Photo by Cal America / Creative Commons)
Little Tokyo’s XLanes gets really jammed on the weekends, which is especially impressive considering it’s in a mostly vacant Little Tokyo mall. It boasts 16 mood-lit lanes, two private bowling rooms for events, a well-stocked bar and a decent restaurant. Just a word to the wise, though, this has got to be the only bowling alley in town where there’s a dress code (isn’t the dress code for bowling usually “schlubby?”) and you are likely to get patted down by security on your way in during peak times. So it may not be the best hangout for the kids or grandma.
XLanes LA is located in the mall at 333 S. Alamdea St in Little Tokyo, (213) 229-8910
Honorable mentions: for you Westsiders, readers dig the AMF in Mar Vista; Jewel City Bowl in Glendale is rarely busy; the shabby All Star Lanes in Eagle Rock caters to a hipster contingent with karaoke and occasional shows at the bar; and we hear that bowling may be returning to Mr. T’s in Highland Park, which is now under new ownership.