33 Elmwood: Bowling and Bocce in Westbrook, Maine

Barkeep by | Jan 2018 | Issue #131

In Westbrook, Maine, a suburb northwest of Portland, 33 Elmwood has elevated the food-and-entertainment game by pairing bowling with a beer list and dinner menu that stands up to the city’s fine dining restaurants. After feasting on N.Y. sirloin steak or brick-oven pizza, choose between candlepin and tenpin bowling lanes, or indoor bocce and cornhole courts. It’s a gathering place for people who like to be active and who appreciate fine food and drink in a lively atmosphere.

The location has a history of entertaining Westbrook families. Bartender Jim Beaulieu fondly remembers the old Pride’s Corner Bowling Alley that once occupied the urban-chic restaurant at 33 Elmwood Avenue. That was when Westbrook was still a thriving mill town, and blue-collar parents brought the family for a string of bowling and a pitcher of Michelob. As the city’s economy faltered, the building became a flea market before owner Myron Hammer opened his spin on dinner and bowling in November 2016. These days, Beaulieu needs to speak loudly to be heard over the rumble and crash of strikes and spares echoing in the background.

Bar and restaurant manager Raj Patole brought his experience from Cambridge, Mass.’ 110-tap Meadhall to 33 Elmwood’s beer menu. While the bar’s 16 taps feature a rotating selection of ales and lagers from Maine and beyond, drinkers can usually count on finding Lunch IPA from Maine Beer Company on draft, because Patole likes it and it sells well.

Selecting only beers from “brewers that are doing it for all the right reasons,” Patole offers a range of styles and breweries, from Germany’s Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier to Unit 15 Saison from South Portland’s Island Dog Brewing Company.

The bottled beer list includes a selection of wild and sour ales with the occasional farmhouse ale, Berliner Weisse, or fast-selling American Pale Ale mixed in. Nearby Allagash Brewing Company shares the shelf with Quebec’s Unibroue, New York’s Transmitter Brewing, and a host of ales from Belgium.

On tables crafted out of wood reclaimed from the original bowling alley, diners enjoy comfort food with a twist. “Our most popular dishes are Brussels sprouts tossed with balsamic vin and bacon lardons, fish tacos, and the Number 33,” a steak sandwich with cheddar cheese sauce, caramelized onions, prosciutto, mushrooms, and pickled green peppers, says Patole.

Four days after its first anniversary, 33 Elmwood hosted a Beer Drinker’s Triathlon sponsored by Foundation Brewing and Maine Beer Co., challenging contestants to candlepin bowling, cornhole, and a blind tasting of two IPAs from each brewery.

Foundation’s co-founder John Bonney says that he enjoys taking his family to 33 Elmwood. “It’s about a mile down the street from our brewery, and is a huge space with a cool vibe.” While he appreciates the entertainment, he points to “stuff that you do not usually see at bowling alleys”—like the fresh raw bar, wood-fired pizza oven, and “great beer on draft” as setting the venue apart. “It is just a fun place to hang out with your family and with friends.”