Sauntering into The Gutter (200 North 14th Street) on a recent Sunday night felt as though we’d just exited a time machine. Greenpoint’s new saloon/bowling alley is also Brooklyn’s first new bowling spot in nearly 50 years—and feels about that old already: The capacious bar, with its blond-wood paneling, stained-glass Busch and Old Milwaukee chandeliers, and (in the most authentic of touches) NFL action blaring from a rabbit-eared TV, is a ready-made set for an Abel Ferrara cop breakdown or a John Cassavetes slap-fest. And that’s the genius of the Gutter, the latest of two L-train-accessible establishments brought forth by partners Jon Miller and Paul Kermizian, formerly known for bringing Tetris back, with booze, at their first watering hole, Williamsburg’s Barcade. Three years after that success, the partners have perfected their theme-bar aesthetic—not just providing twenty- and thirtysomethings with a juxtaposition of two old favorites (old-school video games and alcohol, in Barcade’s case), but actually creating an environment that fully transports one to another place and time. It’s uncertain whether the Gutter best evokes the ’80s or the ’60s, Staten Island or Kansas City, but it’s wherever a dusty traveler first encountered bowling shoes, orange plastic chairs, and a rowdy bar that allowed outside pizza delivery.
The beer and bowling here are appropriately priced for the Cold War years, too. A game is a mere $7 a person during peak hours ($6 before 8 p.m.), plus a $2 standard for shoes. (Compare that to Bowlmor’s $9.95 a game or Chelsea Piers’ outrageous $6 shoes.) Or play by the lane by the hour for $36 during happy hour (prior to 8) or $42 thereafter. Smart strikers will swing by and take a number before dinner: The wait to bowl the night we visited was two hours, as a few of the bar’s eight lanes had gone temporarily kaput. Expect to wait that long even if everything’s in order on Friday or Saturday, or show up on a weeknight for more instant gratification.
On Sunday, our friend, upon scanning the three separate birthday parties occurring simultaneously, noted that it was “like Chuck E. Cheese for twentysomethings.” Perhaps, but in the best possible way. Though some birthday revelers—like the man who pegged me with a Skittle while we interviewed his friend—were clearly regressing (did he have a crush on me?), other revelers were more polite. Furthermore, the bar’s focus on beer—12 on tap, including such niceties as Sixpoint Sweet Action sold by the pitcher ($21) or the pint ($6), plus eight varieties served in 22-ounce bottles (try the Rogue Chocolate stout)—is a quick reminder that the neighborhood’s “Mommy and Me Yoga” set has yet to establish a toehold here. There’s no Bumper Bowling invasion in sight.