Night Watch: Manor Lanes Bowling & Sports Den Pub
1517 NE 26th St, Fort Lauderdale
Call 954-566-7457, or visit manorlanesfl.com
Weekend after weekend, night after night, it's all the same: Go to bar. Consume many beverages. Go home and pass out. Why not shake things up a little bit? Obviously, I'm not saying to forgo the boozing - the landscape of Manor Lanes Bowling is littered with more booze-residued plastic cups than a frat party - but bowling is a surprisingly fun thing to do while imbibing. Add throwback dance hits, arcade games, throwing heavy shit around, and an on-site sports bar, and you'll never hit your boring old local dive again.
Manor Lanes Bowling: "I don't see the point of giving you one of my shoes," I complained to the rotund man behind the counter. He was handing me a pair of size 7-1/2 bowling shoes - red, blue, and hideous. I was handing him my sleek brown boot in exchange.
"People run off with the bowling shoes," he said matter-of-factly. "It's a big fad to wear them at clubs."
"Gross!" I exclaimed.
Manor Lanes is a long, narrow, brightly lit establishment with colorful carpet, twenty shiny bowling lanes, and long tables littered with half-eaten pieces of pizza and half-drained plastic cups of liquor. There were teenagers too young to drink, adults old enough to drink, people choosing to drink a lot, couples in the corner getting to first base before their second frame, indie hipsters, non-indie hipsters, groups of lesbians, and of course, more than a few competitive Midwesterners.
A jukebox (with thousands of songs), snack bar, and modest arcade are situated behind the long tables and blue chairs. The wall at the end of the lanes, above the pins, is decorated with a colorful mural depicting a sunset and blindingly blue ocean - with bowling pins strewn everywhere as though they've just been smashed by some giant cosmic bowling ball. The side wall has signs advertising Manor Lanes' Friday and Saturday night "glow" bowl, in which the lights are turned down, electronica is turned up, and all the lanes glow in the dark. All in all: It might be the song selection - Aqua's "Barbie Girl" was blasting from the speakers as my friends and I made our way to our lane - or simply the fact that it's located in Wilton Manors, but you have just the slight suspicion that the entire bowling alley could spontaneously break into dance at any moment. And frankly, that's kind of awesome.
My friends and I were given a bowling lane near a multiethnic group of teenagers who kept posing for group photos and four burly, furry-faced guys who were taking at least their alcohol consumption seriously, if not their bowling. The lane directly next to ours was occupied by two young men who were flying through game after game.
My furry-faced friend, Beard, picked up a heavy ball that had the words "The Hammer" just above the three holes.
I pulled a lime-green bowling ball that weighed next to nothing from the rack and took my turn. I followed the little arrows to the front, swung my ball between six and eight times - desperately trying to aim - and let it fly down the slick, shiny lane. Gutter ball. Damn it. This was going to be a long ten frames. Someone brought me a blueberry vodka concoction from the bar. It wasn't strong enough.
Next to us, the two near-professionals were stepping up their game. According to the score-keeping video monitor, the guys were called Mexico (the beefy one with the chin strap and slight faux hawk) and Rusty (slender with spiked hair and a goatee). Every ten or so minutes they'd disappear for more liquor, but their quick consumption didn't seem to impair Rusty from somehow curving his bowling ball from the far left of the lane directly into the center of the pins. "How'd you do that?" I ask Rusty. "Is it mind control?"
"Well, I bowled a lot in college - they used to have dollar drinks at the lanes near where I went to school," he said. "Also, maybe it helps that I was an engineering major. I know a bit about spin, the oiling of the lanes..."
I stared at him. He was on his fourth frame, and his score was in the 50s. Was that even possible?
His friend Mexico was working desperately to keep up.
"I'm working on my spin," Mexico said.
The B-52's "Love Shack" blared over the speakers.
"The sad part is, someone's requesting these songs," someone from another lane shouted. "The important thing is to not get too serious," Rusty continued. He was, by the way, wearing his own personal bowling shoes. "I had a friend who got all major league on me. She'd also get so pissy if she missed a shot. She got an arm band and wouldn't even drink while she was bowling. That sort of defeats the whole point."
At the end of my game, I fared decently: 95 points, second only to my friend Fancy - but he's from the Midwest.
I watched a girl in a mini-skirt heave a ball down her lane and nearly flash the entire alley in the process.
My friends set up for another game. "The Final Countdown" came blaring over the speakers. "Growing up in northern Wisconsin, this song would come on in the bowling alleys about every three and a half hours," said Fancy. "I really go on a roll when I hear it." I ran for cover.
Sports Den Pub: There's a time for bowling, and there's a time for boozing. Manor Lanes understands that, and that's why they are connected to a full liquor bar complete with 17 high-def TVs, pool tables, a ping-pong table, darts, and an array of confused sports paraphernalia (the team logos of everyone from the Buccaneers to Ohio State were painted proudly on the walls).
The place was divey, with its fairy-lit bar and gambling machines galore, but welcoming, with circular red tables and sports plaques and awards mounted all around the pool tables. "I've been working here ten years," said Brandi, a bleach-blonde in white pants. "What night is the busiest?" I asked.
"Tuesday and Thursday is all-you-can-bowl, and so we get a decent amount then," she said. "But Friday night karaoke packs a great crowd - though I can't work that shift."
"Why?" I asked.
She considered. "The noise. The singing. Some of them are good singers, but...some of them, oh my God. I worked that shift once and never will again. I almost lost my mind."
In addition to its full liquor bar, Sports Den Pub actually has a couple of decent beer choices: Magic Hat #9 (draft), Flying Dog's Raging Bitch Belgian IPA, and Flying Dog Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale (bottled), to name a couple. Craft beers include Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale and Left Hand Milk Stout.
Patrick, a young man with his curly hair pushed under a cap, told me he'd been coming here for as long as he could remember.
"I basically grew up here," he said. "I lived directly across the street. I've known these folks forever."
As I turned to leave, I noticed that Mexico and Rusty had given up bowling and were now engaging in a heated ping-pong match. The little white ball whizzed past Rusty and rolled under the stools of the bar. He was visibly annoyed at himself, but retrieved the ball and returned it with equal force.
"It's got drinking, bowling, and fun - all in one place," said Patrick. "What more could you want?"