One of the charms of growing up in America was on special occasions your parents would cram the family into the sedan and head to the noisy, smoke-filled cesspool of awesomeness that was the local bowling alley. Maybe yours was slightly different, but I’m sure it smelt of Marlboro smoke and 70’s carpeting. It had an old lady in rags shoving her last 50 cents into the pull tab machine, a VIP second floor with blacked out windows that who-knows-what was happening in, and bright, hot lights aimed squarely at smooth, wood lanes with three-holed balls sliding their way home to knock down those weak, white guards with their red collars and fat bellies with that unmistakable crack and bounce sound that echoed into your ears while you impatiently waited for the drop-out kid to grab you those disgusting, germ infested shoes we all stole a pair of when they were in style in the 90’s. Am I right? Maybe. Not so much? Whatever. Bowling was fun, and still can be on those dreary Seoul winter nights when your bones are telling you to stay inside. There are not too many options in the Apgujeong area, so I went ahead and checked all of them out for you. All two of them.
#2 Smashing Bowl
In the basement underneath Kodachaya just outside Sinnonhyeon station (exit 5) is this quaint little alley with 7 lanes and an electric blue light glow. Everything here is amped up - the music is loud, the prices are high, and the waits can be long. With your wait, you can order from their cranked to 11 stereotypical Korean pub grub menu. In order to three-finger your ball, you’ll need to two fist some drinks - there’s a one drink per person minimum. Don’t look too quickly at the prices either, they set them to ‘man won’ prices, so the chicken we ordered listed for 2.3 was actually 23,000 won. The drinks were decently strong though and the food wasn’t totally terrible. It is a club atmosphere, so you shouldn’t be surprised by the prices, really. Though having a conversation about how elegantly you slipped on the lane while throwing that gutter-ball is difficult. There is also no name customization for the scoreboard. Total out of pocket was a relatively deep pocket check of 70,000 for one game, two drinks, and chicken and chips. If the line wasn’t over an hour long for Kodachaya, eating there would have been a better bet. It is cheaper with friends to split the prices, but more or less not worth it in my book. But if you like large screens showing lots of twerking while you bowl, then this place is for you.
#1 Pierrot Strike
Just down the street from Apgujeong Rodeo station (exit 4) in the giant yellow building next to King Kong (you’ll know it when you see it) is this large luxury bowling alley. I say luxury because it has a lot to do there, if you pay for it. It has twice as many lanes as Smashing Bowl which usually equates to shorter waits, and it’s cheaper. They also have pool tables, air hockey, darts, and a full bar and restaurant. It is an upscale, expensive dive bar that lacks the character of a dive bar - and the fistfights and facial hair. There is a similar drink requirement that is included in the price of a game, however for two games and two drinks it was 39,000 won. That’s twice the games for less than Smashing Bowl. I guess they charge more because the hordes in Gangnam will pay it. Who says Apgujeong is expensive? The lighting is brighter, a la a bowling alley, and the music is loud, but not club loud, if you still like to make sounds from your face be heard and responded to by other humanoid creatures rather than texting someone who is not present the whole time. Still no ability to add your name to the scoreboard, perhaps the technology for un-clicking elevator buttons was traded for the bowling computers. All in all, this is a fun night out if you want something different to do. It's cleaner than the typical American bowling alley, but it is still fun.
Bowling in Apgujeong can be more expensive than the average night out, but if you have yourself a good group of people you will have a good time without dropping too much coin. I recommend eating elsewhere before or after bowling, as the food at both places were not worth the money. They are both very close to great food as well, so it seems like a waste of your tastes buds' energy to eat there when you could be enjoying your relationship to your tongue at a more palatable locale. It should go without saying, but Friday and Saturday are going to be much busier, so come early or make reservations and grab a drink while you wait. Otherwise, enjoy your time on the lanes!
Play on Apgujeong!