Dart Bowl’s final frame

Pandemic brings to an end Grover Avenue alley's 62-year run as an Austin destination for fun, food and fellowship

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Madelynn Niles

THE LAST HOORAH: As pins knock to the polished wood floor and the cafe kitchen bustles with business, the cafe line beside the arcade games grows longer and longer. Although the wait for food was long, the legacy of this old school bowling alley will surely be longer. Photo by Madelynn Niles.

Madelynn Niles, A&E editor



With shoes returned and pins reset, Friday night marked the final moments of Dart Bowl: Austin’s iconic, old school 32-lane bowling alley and Tex-Mex haven tucked beside McCallum on Grover Avenue. Founded in 1958, the family-friendly spot of nostalgic ambience and arcade game magic won the hearts of both Austinities and Mac students. The business, however, could not afford to remain open amid the outbreak of the coronavirus — but even on the final days before closure, the alley was flooded with honorary members of the Dart Bowl family knocking down their last pins and grabbing their last plate of enchiladas. 

THE LAST ROUND: “Capturing the magic?” a bowler asked me as I pulled out my camera to document the final days of Dart Bowl, the old school bowling alley of nostalgic charm and legendary Tex-Mex. I nodded and smiled through my mask, beginning to snap photographs of the venue’s magic as it came to a close. Photo by Madelynn Niles.

‘DARTING’ TO AND FRO: With only two days left to taste the legendary Dart Bowl Cafe enchiladas, the Thursday afternoon crowd at the bowling alley was found, in fact, not bowling at all. Meanwhile, Peggy Zamarippa, a chef at the cafe for nearly 60 years, continued whipping up the old school dish with her secret recipe unchanged since the opening. The line for the beloved meal extended across more than half of the alleys as masked visitors watched the games beside them.  Photo by Madelynn Niles.

ALL FUN AND GAMES: Tucked behind plastic and waiting for rescue, stuffed animals and toys rest in the bowling alley’s arcade. Coins clink in the metal money dispenser beside the machines, and a few children race around the collection of games — a brightly colored, carpeted haven for the kids (and kids at heart) of families visiting Dart Bowl. Photo by Madelynn Niles.

TO THE LEFT, TO THE LEFT: Custom mugs? Five dollars. Old bowling pins? You’ve got it. Take a left as soon as you enter the Dart Bowl on the final days before closing, and you’ll find a table with merchandise and memories (and a crowd making some purchases as they wait for their enchiladas.) Photo by Madelynn Niles.

PLAY BALL: Color-coded and freshly-cleaned, two polished bowling balls sit ready for the next visitors. Staff members darted back and forth this Thursday, setting aside used equipment and following extra safety procedures to ensure a safer environment. Photo by Madelynn Niles.

SIGNS OF SAFETY: Silhouetted against the airborne pins and familiar, nostalgic wallpaper of the alleys, a sign sits on the countertop with reminders of safety precautions. Photo by Madelynn Niles.

ALL WORK, SOME PLAY: Talk of worn-in, laced-up shoes and discount deals spill from the front desk into the game and bowling areas. With the final days of business a bustling time, the Dart Bowl door seemed almost never closed, with the flow of bowlers and hungry Austinites walking in throughout the afternoon and into the evening.  Photo by Madelynn Niles.

OPEN HOUSE: On their way out, small groups of Dart Bowl visitors on Thursday pulled out their phones to snap pictures of the building’s front sign. A family posed with a smile, a group of teenagers laughed as they took a selfie — digital moments captured. Photo by Madelynn Niles.

PACKED PARKING: For this classic Austin venue, the final days open meant a packed building, coronavirus or not. Cars lined up to fill the parking lot almost entirely as honorary members of the Dart Bowl family stopped in for one last game, one last meal. Photo by Madelynn Niles.

SOCKS FOR SALE: If Dart Bowl Cafe’s enchiladas knock your socks off, don’t worry, they’ve got you covered, even on the last few days before closing. Between the arcade and the cafe, just beside the front counter and shoe rental, old school bowling socks rested for sale in the machine. Photo by Madelynn Niles.

THE LAST HOORAH: As pins knock to the polished wood floor and the cafe kitchen bustles with business, the cafe line beside the arcade games grows longer and longer. Although the wait for food was long, the legacy of this old school bowling alley will surely be longer. Photo by Madelynn Niles.