The Gutter 200 N. 14th St, Greenpoint Rating: 5L's
For years, I have been adamant about my hatred of extracurricular activities in drinking establishments. I haven’t played pool since high school, I’ve never thrown a dart, the appeal of Big Buck Hunter always escaped me, and I sure as hell don’t play bocce. Precious as it sounds, I’ve always preferred sitting down and talking to friends about records or books or how to rid one’s apartment of mice. But in light of a recent trip to Greenpoint’s new retro-minded bowling alley and bar, The Gutter, it’s looking like I might have to reevaluate my stance, because I’ve learned something very important about myself: I am fucking awesome at bowling. Not awesome enough that I’ve gone out and bought my own bowling ball or anything, but awesome enough that not one of my seven bowling companions came close to matching my score, which I will withhold for the sake of maintaining some semblance of humility (134, bitches!!).
But aside from the thorough pummeling of my opponents and friends, the real reason The Gutter’s gimmick works is that it’s not shoved down its patrons’ throats. The space as a whole is enormous, divided into two sections: the bar on your left and the bowling alley in a separate room on the right, giving visitors a choice between casual drinking and the kind of drinking where you’re actually inclined to do stuff. There’s no struggling to avoid idiots with pool cues, and there’s no dodging sharp objects flying through the air toward a wall-mounted target.
The bar section alone is bigger than almost any other bar in Brooklyn. On each of my two visits — one on a Friday night and the other on a slower weeknight — my friends and I secured a table easily, which is pretty much the single most important thing for me in determining whether I’d insert a bar into my stable of go-to places. There’s an excellent selection of fancy beers, too — ranging from $5 up to, I guess, a lot more than that. For the bargain hunter, though, there are pitchers starting at $18. If there’s a complaint to register, it’s that there’s no food — an obvious staple of the great suburban bowling alleys The Gutter emulates. As we learned, though, the staff is more than willing to hand over a stack of takeout menus.
The bowling alley itself is crammed with perfect details: from the weird old-timey computers (the kind you’d see in 80s movies) and the appropriately hideous rental shoes, to each lane’s semi-circular seating arrangements and the standard, multi-tiered racks of bowling balls. But aside from The Gutter’s impeccably authentic vibe, it’s most admirable for its brilliant layout. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go convince the publisher to let us have our Holiday Party there.