Nestled away in the nooks and crannies of our fair city are tidbits of iconic Austin culture. One of those tidbits is quietly tucked away on Grover St., across the street from McCallum High School in North Austin. Dart Bowl is more than a bowling alley. It’s an Austin icon.
Dart Bowl’s Long History of Community Involvement
In 1958, Jerry and Betty Ray opened Dart Bowl in a shopping center near Anderson and Burnet Rd. (now a Bassett furniture store). They happily remained there for the next 38 years until 1996, when they took over the old Capitol Bowl on Grover St.
Along the way, the Rays also opened Highland Lanes at Burnet Rd. and 183, and Westgate Lanes on William Cannon Dr.
To be in business for 56 years is no small feat. Part of that success has got to be chalked up to Dart Bowl’s involvement with the community. As I spoke to Cowboy, an employee of 8 months, he told me Dart Bowl is currently supporting the Winter Special Olympics, which Austin is hosting to this year. Dart Bowl is one of the venues for the bowling tournament.
The community support doesn’t stop there. Cowboy clued me in, “We also work with the School of the Blind, and are a location for Austin ISD special needs adaptive physical education.” On top of that, Dart Bowl also works with the Cub Scouts, since bowling is a badge that can be earned now.
Dart Bowl also has a scholarship program for local students called the Harry L. Peterson Memorial Scholarship. Harry L. Peterson was a longtime patron of Dart Bowl and a connoisseur of the art of bowling, dairy owner, business partner of Jerry and Betty Ray, and prominent Austinite. The scholarship provides $1,000 per year for four years to a local student who is an active bowler in youth leagues at Dart Bowl, Highland Lanes, and Westgate Lanes. More details on the scholarship can be obtained from Dart Bowl.
By rocking 32 lanes, Dart Bowl is able to support numerous bowling leagues six days a week. This also helps guarantee steady business. On Saturdays, youth league members hone their skills and usually wraps things up by midday. I visited Dart Bowl on a Thursday night, not expecting them to be busy. But by 7 PM, the place was pretty much packed. Regardless of what league is playing or what day of the week it is, there are plenty of lanes for everyone to enjoy an hour or two of bowling.
Dart Bowl Cafe
Bowling is indeed a physical sport. Physical sports cause physical exertion, which in return leaves people famished and thirsty. Don’t worry. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, Dart Bowl has the nationally-recognized Dart Bowl Café.
Opened by Butch Martinets and Peggy Vamarripa in 1970, the Dart Bowl Café journeyed with the bowling alley during the great migration of 1996. The café isn’t your typical bowling alley snack bar. In fact, Butch, Peggy and the café were featured on a Food Network program last summer. It looks like local Austinites aren’t the only ones in the know about Dart Bowl Café’s famous egg enchiladas and migas.
Janet Warren, the café’s bartender/waitress, hurriedly bustled about between the bar and the café patrons. I sat there drinking a local craft beer called Lone Star and eating their famous enchiladas and eggs (over medium, of course). I won’t go into a full food review here. I am not a foodie, but I will say that my mopped my plate clean with the two slices of Texas toast that came with my meal. The eggs were fried just right and I enjoyed the combination of chili, cheese, enchiladas, and jalapenos. While I was shoveling the food down my gullet, trying not to smear it in my beard, I noticed something.
Janet was not only addressing the patrons by name, but she already had their drinks ready and was asking about her customers’ families. I found this endearing. There is a place you can go where everybody knows your name.
Centrally-located, 32 lanes, a full food menu and bar…what’s not to like about Dart Bowl? I’ve personally helped host two annual bowling parties for fans of the Dudley and Bob Morning Show, and Dart Bowl has always been accommodating to us. They will show the same courtesy when they welcome you. Just make sure you take socks to wear.
Contact information and event schedules can be found on Dart Bowl’s website.
What is your favorite bowling alley in Austin?
Disclaimer: I received two complimentary meals and drinks during my visit with my stepson. All opinions are my own.