Boston Bowl was hopping at 3:30 AM this morning. It's no wonder since this is the only place in Dorchester, indeed in much of Boston, that is open at this hour that isn't selling gasoline or potato chips (though you can buy potato chips at Boston Bowl). As the website says, this is "Boston's best 24-hour bowling." No argument. This is, however, the kind of ad hoc claim impossible to disprove when you are Boston's only round the clock bowling venue.
If not gasoline and convenience foods, what is Boston Bowl selling? The chance to meet in a lit public place indoors, which is a rare commodity in Bean Town. Naturally, Dorchester offers the most unexpected option for after-midnight diversion. In Boston, after 2:00 AM if you want public lighting, there are always the streets. If you want to go to a public place, there are the parks, though most of them are closed after sunset or 9PM or 10PM, or some other Puritan curfew hour. Boston Common is technically open, but don't loiter. It is open for passing through to get from end to the other by means of a shortcut.
We didn't count how many lanes are available for late night/early morning bowling, but the place is impressively vast, tidy and inviting. About ten lanes were being used and maybe an estimated twenty-five were vacant. This includes both regulation lanes and the regional favorite, candle pin lanes. Prices per game range between $4 and change to $5 and change, candle pin being the best bargain.
The most popular part of Boston Bowl during our visit, besides the outdoor smoking area conveniently located at the entrance, was the extensive and crowded pool room. Apparently, people like to engage in a round of billiards late in the wee hours of the morning. The clientele's demographics skewed young, but everyone was congenial and seemed sober. This isn't a place to work off the effects of a bender. It is a place to gather and socialize because there are few other options. Two on-duty policemen occupied a table near the foyer, chatting with each other, keeping an eye on the peaceable proceedings.
Largely invisible except from the southbound lanes of I-93, Boston Bowl is tucked off to the side of lot number 820 Morrisey Boulevard. You can only access the parking lot from the inbound side of Morrisey and you have to know to tuck a quick turn after the hotel but before the candy shop. There aren't any public transportation options during the MBTA's normal operating hours that I am aware of and, obviously, there aren't any public transportation options when the T shuts down sometime after 12:30 each night. There weren't any cabs in the parking lot during our visit.
With this less than ideal location, how does Boston Bowl stay in business year after year? That's an easy question to answer. It's the only game in town.