Travel

Barn, Bowl & Bistro is on a roll

The lanes at the Barn, Bowl & Bistro in Oak Bluffs.

Kim Foley MacKinnon

The lanes at the Barn, Bowl & Bistro in Oak Bluffs.

OAK BLUFFS — On an island that relies heavily on tourist dollars, many businesses on Martha’s Vineyard are only open when the crowds come, roughly from Memorial Day through Labor Day. That means residents have limited options on everything from restaurants to entertainment, so when Barn, Bowl & Bistro opened last May and declared it would be open year-round, it seemed like a surprising decision.

Mike Sawyer, the general manager of the 10-lane bowling alley/restaurant says the business plan from the beginning was different from most on the island.

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“We don’t target the summer market,” Sawyer explained. “We focus on the other nine months of the year. You can probably count on one hand the activities available [off-season].”

Now, one year later the popular venue, the only bowling alley on the island, has proved it can sustain its aspirations. Another surprising aspect is that rather than the usual New England candlepin-style bowling, the Barn, Bowl & Bistro offers just tenpin bowling (the main difference being tenpin balls are larger, with finger holes, and the pins are cleared away after the first roll).

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“People who have known candlepin have discovered tenpin for the first time,” said Sawyer. “It’s above and beyond our expectations.”

In fact, it’s become so popular that there is a different bowling league playing almost every day of the week in the fall and spring. There’s a senior league on Wednesday afternoons, a restaurant industry league on Tuesdays at lunch, and weeknights might be women’s, men’s, or mixed teams. People have signed up for both fall and spring leagues, and often come in at other times just to practice.

Besides the bowling alley area, which is decorated with a 56-foot mural of the Gay Head Cliffs and photos of US presidents bowling, there’s a horseshoe-shaped bar and a dining area. Now, most people wouldn’t think of a bowling alley as a dining destination, at least for anything other than nachos and beer, but the “bistro” part of the business is taken seriously here.

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Albert Latanzzi (who formerly owned the immensely popular Latanzzi’s restaurant on the island for years) is the chef, and his menu reflects his Italian leanings and some of his signature dishes. Mussels Portofino, Quattro formaggio pizza, and pasta Bolognese all show up on the menu.

Bowling alley food traditionalists need not despair though. Chicken wings, pretzels, quesadillas, onion rings, and other favorites are available too. And while there are certainly plenty of draft and bottle beers on offer, the drinks menu offers gems like (what else?) the Bigger Lebowski and the Kingpin.

Kim Foley MacKinnon can be reached at kimfoleymackinnon@gmail.com.
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