Avondale Bowl (3118 N. Milwaukee Ave.) might not be the easiest place to find — miss the neon sign set into an otherwise unmarked building and you’ll walk right by — but it’s worth seeking out for bowling aficionados, lovers of vintage design, and anyone just looking for a fun night out.
If the second-floor space feels a bit like a time capsule, that’s because it kind of is. The alley had sat unused since the early 1990s, when owner Luke Blahnik happened upon it while pursuing another property. He took a chance on the abandoned space and, after a lengthy renovation, opened Avondale Bowl. Though the renovation touched nearly every surface, it did so without stripping the vintage charm. The lanes, pin setters, and ball returns are all original, and the overall aesthetic closely mimics what a rollicking bowling alley would have looked like in the days of doo-wop. The pea green color scheme was inspired by the one remaining wall that hasn’t been refurbished, and local artist Ryan Duggan was tapped to design alley merch and the gorgeous manual scorecards. Yes, scorecards. The alley’s vintage vibes extend to the game itself, which eschews modern niceties like electronic displays and automatic scorekeeping.
The attached bar area is almost entirely new construction, though it retains the footprint of the original wraparound bar. A sizable beer list skews hyper-local, and the cocktail program from Tony Correale, former bar manager at Longman & Eagle, offers riffs on cheesy ’80s drinks. You’ll find modern versions of the Tequila Sunrise, Harvey Wallbanger, and Cosmopolitan, among others. The alley doesn’t currently serve food, but patrons are encouraged to order in or bring their own. Blahnik hopes to lure a permanent food vendor to the first floor.
Avondale Bowl is Blahnik’s first foray into the hospitality industry, and his goal was simply to create a great hangout bar. Based on the crowds the night of our visit, he’s clearly succeeded; wait times for lanes topped four hours. Thankfully, Avondale Bowl began taking advance reservations for lanes this month — but this place is so fun, you might not mind spending half the day there, just hanging out.