What do you call a bowling alley with no bowling? Those present at the December 12 grand opening of Pin-Up Bowl -- the latest addition to the Loop's burgeoning east-of-Skinker scene and to Joe Edwards' burgeoning entertainment empire -- would have called it packed. Despite faulty pinsetting equipment that put its eight lanes out of commission during the debut, Pin-Up's spacious bar area was filled shoulder-to-shoulder with St. Louisans eager to get a glimpse of Delmar Boulevard's newest nightspot.
Since then, technical difficulties have popped up often enough that Edwards has been keeping a maintenance man on retainer, and even the kitchen has had problems keeping up with its own snack menu (a couple of Fridays ago, only hot dogs and nachos were available for purchase). But none of this is keeping the crowds away.
And rightly so -- the bar is chic yet relaxed. The hyperdrive-kitsch décor of Blueberry Hill is toned down here, with just a few, well-chosen old movie posters and such. There's a pool table to pass the time while waiting for a lane to open up ($8/hour or $12/hour after 9 p.m. on weekends). Contrasting with the nostalgic vibe, MTV Jams and the Cartoon Network play on screens behind the bar and are projected above the lanes along the back wall. If you're lucky, you'll snag the red love seat hidden just off to the side of Pin-Up's storefront-style windows.
Perhaps those in attendance on opening night didn't mind the lack of bowling because there are so many damn drinks to try. The young bartending staff (many of them faces you'll recognize from Blueberry Hill) has concocted about a dozen signature cocktails, the kind that give the candy-like libations at, say, Absolutli Goosed a run for their money. If you've got the wherewithal to drop $7 or $8 on a drink, then those worth trying include: the Key Lime Pie martini, which tastes honest-to-goodness like a creamy piece of pie melted into a glass; Antifreeze, combining Absolut, Midori, blue Curaçao and pineapple juice; and the Goldrush, equal parts Absolut and Goldschläger, something you would've only come up with on your own if you were fifteen again and those were the only two liquors you could find in your daddy's cabinet after you picked the lock.
The food menu (when it's in effect) is equally varied; it's got everything from a quartet of Campbell's Soup flavors (at $2.95 a pop) to a $3.95 bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuit to a $9.95 twelve-inch cheese pizza. The hot dog ($4.25) is correctly described on the menu as "wonderful," as plump and satisfying as the kosher dogs at Busch Stadium (which, admit it, are really good), but the aforementioned nachos ($3.95) ranked as uninspired, just a Styrofoam plate of ho-hum tortilla chips coated with microwaved cheese product and some jalapeño slices.
How 'bout the bowling? Technical glitches may slow down your game (an automated scoring system is in place), and the seating area for bowlers is kinda cramped, but it's great. Lanes can be reserved ahead of time, but house policy dictates that at least a couple remain first-come-first-served at all times. On a weekend night, the maximum wait is about an hour.