It’s 2 a.m. 40 years ago. Your parents are young, they’re in Cincinnati, and even after plenty of beer and American Graffiti-style carousing, they’re not ready for the night to end. The question is, where do they go? And the answer, with great regularity, is Western Bowl.
We don’t need Sherlock Holmes to figure out why. The cheap pitchers of beer were incentive enough. Add in the billiards space, the solid fried food, the buzzing atmosphere, and, oh yeah, the bowling, and you can see Western Bowl’s appeal.
Nowadays that appeal is somewhat faded. All the same, Western Bowl remains a great place to pass an evening. The beer is still cheap, the food is still solid, and the bowling is every bit as good as it once was. The quintessential bowling alley charm remains as well, so you can experience an echo of what it was like for your parents to party there in the sepia-toned days of yore.
Located in Bridgetown, Western Bowl stands as a testament to the fact that every bowling alley is—in some sense—a throwback. The color palette is unmistakably 1970s, with lots of orange, yellow, and brown against creamy backdrops. There’s a good bit of neon too, and you don’t imagine the wood-paneled service windows and cashier counters have been changed since they were installed. Otherwise the interior is filled with arcade games, vending machines, and walls decked in news clippings and awards.
It isn’t dirty. That was surprising. Most bowling alleys are. They subsist beneath a layer of grit and grime, barely more sanitary than an sewer drain and somewhat less sanitary than an ash tray. But Western Bowl is clean, which goes a long way toward reinforcing its sense of nostalgia.
Of course, you’ll only require that nostalgia to entice you if you don’t actually love to bowl. If you do, Western Bowl’s interior decor won’t matter. What will matter are the 68 lanes of bowling bliss Western Bowl offers, making it the largest bowling alley in Cincinnati. Likewise, you’ll go weak in the knees at Western Bowl’s daily specials:
- Sunday: $54 for two hours of bowling for up to six people including shoes, a pizza, and a pitcher of soda
- Monday: $6.50 all you can bowl
- Tuesday: $2 games
- Wednesday: $6.50 all you can bowl
- Thursday: $6 for the first game and 75 cents for every game thereafter
- Friday: $15 all you can bowl with glow-in-the-dark bowling
And if you fancy yourself an expert bowler, you can always test your mettle with the Hoinke Classic. It’s a legendary bowling tournament, and it’s Western Bowl’s greatest claim to fame.
The tournament was started during World War II by Western Bowl’s original owner, Erwin Hoinke Sr. (known as "Erv"). His son, Erwin Jr., expanded the tournament when he took over operations of the bowling alley in the ’70s. He developed it into one of the most famous bowling tournaments in the country. In 1983 alone, 55,000 individual bowlers signed up. The same year, Bowling Journal (yes, Bowling Journal) praised the tournament as “a Maserati in a world of mopeds.”
Mic-drop material, that is "a Maserati in a world of mopeds." And even if neither the tournament nor the bowling alley are true Maseratis anymore, they remain captivating blots of nostalgia on the West Side.
Western Bowl Strike & Spare is located at 6383 Glenway Avenue (45211).