While millions of tourists flock to New Orleans each year for the fun, food, and music, only the locals know that Mid-City staple Rock ‘N’ Bowl has it all — including an authentic NOLA experience you just can’t find on Bourbon Street.
Still sporting many of the decorations and memorabilia from 1958, when neighboring Pelican Stadium accounted for most of the business, this late-night hot spot has a vib all its own. Rock ‘N’ Bowl’s 18 bowling lanes are complimented by a stage and dance floor, a menu of bar-style treats with a Cajun twist, and a fully stocked bar.
Like the city itself, Rock ‘N’ Bowl is a unique mixture of old and young, generational residents and new transplants, serious bowlers and…the rest of us. I personally find it hard to care about the five pins still standing when Kermit Ruffins or the Iguanas or the Bucktown Allstars take the stage. It’s not unusual for a favorite band or song to send perfectly dressed jitterbuggers spilling off the dance floor and into the pits or even to catch a couple of regulars waltzing on the bar.
After struggling through slow start in the mid-80s, Rock ‘N’ Bowl seems to have found its place. Special occasions (such as Elvis’ birthday) or popular bands can attract hundreds, so get there early if you don’t want to wait outside for people to leave. Even so, the alligator sausage, softly blinking lights, and ever-changing mix of funk, zydeco, and jazz performers justify the wait.
There’s something about Rock ‘N’ Bowl that can’t really be described so much as experienced: When it’s way past midnight and the drums are kicking and the saxophone starts singing…you will quickly forget that you can’t bowl and you’ll finally understand what makes this city a thing all its own.