There are three surefire ways to know that a person has entered adulthood in earnest: enjoying long, animated conversations about driving directions, signing up for automatic bill pay and getting really into bowling. What adults eventually come to understand about bowling is that it is really just something to do while drinking pitchers of beer with your friends. 33 Elmwood knows this to be true, so we decided to check out its bar situation in the name of research for future bowling excursions.
Located in Westbrook off Route 302, 33 Elmwood (named for its physical address) makes a rather inviting visage for those pulling up in the dark of night. A giant, lit-up “33” lets visitors know they’ve come to the right place, but doesn’t quite let on to the true glory of what’s inside.
The bowling alley/bocce court/restaurant/bar combination inhabits what used to be a warehouse, so there are high ceilings and plenty of space to accommodate the smorgasbord of low-impact leisure activities they have available. Arrows pointing visitors in the direction of their chosen activity are helpfully posted right at the entrance, so I set my course for dead ahead and found the bar.
Bright, open and airy aren’t words one typically associates with bowling alleys but, as we’ve already discussed, 33 Elmwood is much more than that. The bar, appropriately, is the centerpiece, located directly between – and raised above – the restaurant (for sit-down meals) and the bowling alley (for drinking pitchers, trash-talking and occasionally throwing balls), so you get a bird’s-eye view of the action on the lanes.
Once I reached said bar, I was met with perhaps the friendliest bartender (go see Jim) and waitstaff that I’ve had the pleasure of patronizing in recent memory. My pint of Maine Beer Co.’s Lunch ($7) was delivered quickly, along with a smile and a quick chat about March Madness brackets.
With a huge wine list, 12 rotating taps of craft beer (Rising Tide, Oxbow and Jack’s Abby, for starters) and a full bar complete with creative bartenders, there’s no lack of different and exciting things to try.
Their cocktail list is updated regularly and even includes a bartender’s choice cocktail of the moment ($10) which, not being one to shy away from a mystery drink, I had to get. It turned out to be an after-dinner drink, a genre of beverage I’m not super familiar with. Mine tasted like a high-octane Coke and certainly helped me wind down after my dinner of French onion soup and baby broccoli (read: trying to make healthier food choices, one bar at a time).
Even as the clock neared closing time, the bartender and the waitstaff were incredibly attentive and friendly, both to me and to patrons making their way to the door after a long night on the lanes.
Great for families, date nights, anonymous drinks by yourself, book club meetings, bocce tournaments and who even knows what else, 33 Elmwood is a welcome addition to the greater Portland area.
WHERE: 33 Elmwood Ave., Westbrook
HOURS: 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, noon to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, closed Mondays and Tuesdays
AMENITIES: So many amenities, it’s hard to name them all, but we’ll try: bocce courts, candlepin and 10-pin bowling, full bar with exciting drinks and a great draft list, excellent food options, gender-neutral bathrooms, plentiful seating, live music on occasion, great playlists, friendly staff, plentiful parking, exotic non-Portland location.
BOTTOM LINE: Beer, bocce and bowling. If that doesn’t sound like a good time, check your pulse because you might be dead.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes