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Continued: The best bowling in the Twin Cities

  • Article by: MIKE MULLEN , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 22, 2013 - 2:21 PM

Let’s be honest, BLB is probably not ready to host a Professional Bowlers Association event. With chipped balls, slightly warped lanes and the occasional mechanical failure, 300 is more likely to be your bar tab than your score. But what it lacks in bowling bona fides is more than made up for by its style. Servers are quick on their feet, and even quicker with a joke. The food is on par with anything in Uptown. Also important, and undeniable: BLB attracts the attractive and lures the alluring, and just about everyone’s in the mood to chat. A bit of smack talk with the neighboring group can lead to some friendly, flirty competition. You’ll be handed a plain white sheet and a half-pencil to keep score. Pretend you don’t know how, and ask someone nearby for help. That one always works.



729 NE. Marshall St., Mpls. • 612-378-9701 •

Go here if … your score is higher than your weight.

Elsie’s is a bowler’s bowling alley, the kind of stripped-down space that makes even the amateurs want to don a shirt with a nickname sewn above the breast pocket. Elsie’s features serious league bowling — sanctioned by no less than the United States Bowling Congress, which apparently exists — and some pretty competitive non-league games from its regulars. People come here to score big, so don’t be surprised if the scoreboards around you start filling up with X’s. If you don’t want to watch others succeed, there likely will be some kind of ball game on the screen next to your scoreboard. If you don’t want to bowl at all, retreat to the bar, where you can trade a game of skill for one of chance as you try your hand at pulltabs.


Memory Lanes

2520 26th Av. S., Mpls. • 612-721-6211 •

Go here if … You have a split personality. After all, so does this place.

Most nights, Memory Lanes is a standard, classic bowling hall, with all the trappings. The 30-lane facility is bright and spacious, with plenty of room to separate the serious bowlers from the one-timers and screwoffs. The “Flashback Cafe” serves diner-style fare. (The sandwich portion of the menu proudly associates itself with the Hormel logo.) But among the young set, Memory Lanes is probably best known for when it cuts loose. Every Monday is “Punk Bowl” night, where loud, aggressive bands set up in the middle lanes and provide a hardcore soundtrack. To some, all that noise might be a distraction. Bowlers with a wild side might find it’s just what they’ve been looking for.

Ran-Ham Bowling Center

490 S. Hamline Av., St. Paul • 651-698-0252 •

Go here if … you prefer charm to class.

A few years back, there was word that this St. Paul institution might have to close down. Instead, the eight-lane gem was taken over by the owners of its upstairs neighbor bar, Casper and Runyon’s Nook. Bowling here is cheap and popular — on a recent weekend night, each of the eight lanes went from empty to full in 30 minutes. It’s mostly families, but college kids can also get their kicks, thanks to its divey vibe and cheap prices. The bar area is not for the claustrophobic, with small groups packed in like bowling shoes along the wall. Scores are kept manually on a big sheet, one that suggests you’ll be sticking around for more than a couple of games.


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