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Pin Pals

Don’t label the Dust Bowl just a bowling alley. It’s much more if your focus is knocking down pins as well as drinks and food, while craving the satisfaction of a perfectly delivered strike.

Michele Chiappetta
Sarah Eliza Roberts
May 28, 2019

If you thought bowling was no longer a thing, then you simply haven’t set foot in the Dust Bowl yet. This cool, hip bowling alley will throw you back in time like a visit to Pleasantville, yet it’s modern enough for you and your friends to enjoy a great night out. It’s a place you have to check out when you’re looking for something different from the usual movie night out.

A part of the McNellie’s Group of restaurants, the Dust Bowl opened in May 2011 in downtown Tulsa’s Blue Dome District. And it offers a cool way to enjoy some entertainment that is not your usual fare. “We are a retro boutique bowling alley,” explains general manager Anton Vonostendorf. “We’re the only wooden lanes in Tulsa.”

The Dust Bowl offers a retro 1960s-‘70s feel in a variety of ways. The materials used to build the lanes come from authentic bowling alleys from decades past, polished and shiny as new. The seating mixes bright orange counter seating and lime green couches. Paneled wood walls and hanging globe lights top off the look, making you suspect that the Brady Bunch or Partridge Family might wander in any moment for a night out.

“We keep the retro feel for sure,” says Vonostendorf.

Rodeo Burger (Photo: Marc Rains)
Rodeo Burger (Photo: Marc Rains)

Naturally, the bowling is the star of the equation anytime you visit. The space is cozy, perfect for a laid-back time. “We have eight lanes — six public lanes, and two private,” says Vonostendorf. Each lane can accommodate up to six people. There are house balls, bowling shoes and even socks available to rent, or you can bring in your own.

As you’d expect, the Dust Bowl offers more than just bowling lanes. They offer food, drinks, and music too. “We have a full bar, a full menu, and entertainment [such as DJs and live bands] on the weekends,” says Vonostendorf.

In terms of food, the Dust Bowl carries through with its retro theme, offering menu items that feel exactly like what you’d expect to get in a bowling alley from 1975, but with the modern verve of the McNellie’s Group’s chefs. You can enjoy simple yet tasty snacks, like kettle chips with ranch or blue cheese dip, or the hot chicken poppers fried to perfection. Or order something you won’t find too many other places in Tulsa, like the flavorful beet hummus and the decadent poutine — fries covered in brown mushroom gravy and cheese curds.

Extreme Shake (Photo: Marc Rains)
Extreme Shake (Photo: Marc Rains)

If you’re in the mood for something more substantial, check out the street tacos, made with pulled pork, cotija cheese, and ranchero salsa. Try the juicy Rodeo Burger, available with single or double beef patties, topped with onion rings, cheese, barbecue sauce, mayo, and pickle. Enjoy one of their customer favorites, the Totchos — which is exactly what it sounds like — nachos made with crispy Tater Tots instead of tortilla chips, and topped with pulled pork, refried beans, Monterrey Jack, and chipotle aioli. They also serve hot dogs, a hot chicken sandwich, gyros and shakes.

For drinks, you can opt in to the beer menu, which features six on tap, as well as multiple premium brands, some local. The cocktail menu will remind you of classic 1970s TV. Enjoy a Mrs. Roper — Deep Eddy peach vodka, lemonade and tea. Try a Pacific Princess — pinot grigio, rum, sour, soda, Sierra Mist and dash of bitters. (Bonus points if you know which TV shows those names refer to.)

“We do a frozen drink special,” Vonostendorf says. It comes in a commemorative, mood-changing mug that changes colors. And in homage to the most laidback avid bowler of film, they also feature something the Big Lebowski himself would love — a classic White Russian, made with vodka, Kahlua and ice cream. “We sell a lot of White Russians,” he says.

The private area can be reserved for a variety of events. “We do a lot of parties with in-house catering,” says Vonostendorf, who notes they’ve had corporate parties, family gatherings, and even wedding receptions at the Dust Bowl. Food can be arranged from any of the McNellie’s Group restaurants. Finger foods such as a tater tot bar, taco bar, and sliders are popular. Just be sure to give the team some advance notice so they can prepare.

“We need five days to get catered food in,” says Vonostendorf. “If there’s no catering, people can book more quickly.” And if you’re wondering just how coveted that private area can be, know that celebrities visiting Cain’s and the BOK Center have booked.

The rates for bowling at the Dust Bowl vary by night. Mondays, you’ll enjoy a special $10 per hour rate, while Fridays and Saturdays are $30 per hour to accommodate the larger crowds. Other nights of the week are $20 per hour.

Dust Bowl Lanes and Lounge
211 S. Elgin Ave. | Tulsa
Monday-Friday: 4 p.m.-2 a.m.
Saturday: Noon-2 a.m.
Sunday: Noon-Midnight