If rented shoes, drinks served in plastic pitchers, urethane balls and neon-lit gutters summon fond memories of birthday parties past — as in, the past month or so — you’re not alone. The bowling fete, onetime rite of passage for soda-swilling teens and kids whose two-handed rolls required bumpers, is now unofficially sanctioned among celebration-minded grown-ups. Although mockably ironic — must we recall stereotypes of inflated guts and slicked-back hair? — the bowling party has become downright status-y, even requiring weeks-ahead reservations. Throwing a party in a four-lane, two-pool-table bowling suite at six-month-old Lucky Strike costs $300 to $600 per hour — a price that includes “Jumpin’ Jolly Rancher” cocktails and tomato-and-cheese “s’mores.” In an upstairs corner of Northern Liberties’ four-month-old North Bowl, partyers enjoy a private bartender and order tater tots, corn dogs and, says owner Oron Daskal, “food on sticks and skewers”; two-hour packages range from $500 to $650. “It’s a little more premium,” says Daskal, “but it’s still a casual event — everyone’s slapping high fives.” Just like in junior high. Psyyyych (Lucky Strike, 1336 Chestnut Street, 215-545-2471, bowlluckystrike.com; North Bowl, 909 North 2nd Street, 215-238-2695, northbowlphilly.com).
Originally published in Philadelphia Magazine, January 2007