Breakfasting and knocking down pins at a classic institution
THE SANTA CLARA
April 7, 2016
These days, conflicts rage everywhere: Clinton v Trump, Batman v Superman, even Drake and Meek Mill’s Twitter fingers have still been twitchy. So it’s refreshing to see two opposing, seemingly-unrelated forces come together in perfect harmony. And at the 4th Street Bowl in Downtown San Jose, they combine two of God’s greatest creations: bowling and diner food.
Owned and operated by the Nakatsu family for over 20 years, the 4th Street Bowl does not serve up typical bowling alley food—no greasy pizza, no day-old popcorn and certainly no broken Icee machine. Instead, the Bowl offers up an encyclopedic menu that includes breakfast (served all day), lunch and dinner—complete with a rotating list of daily old-school specials like meatloaf, chicken parmigiana and ham hocks and lima beans.
As a nod to the owners’ Hawaiian roots, the menu also includes island specialties such as spam and eggs and franks and rice. But the stand-out specialty is their Loco Moco—a traditional Hawaiian day-starter that consists of white rice topped with a charbroiled hamburger, two eggs and a heaping ladle of brown gravy. Its brilliance lies in its simplicity and execution—it’s the ultimate cold-weather day food. Anyone who consumes an entire portion deserves a bottle of Tums, a comfortable sofa and a commendation of bravery.
After you make your way through the restaurant, fitted with a speckled counter, turquoise-upholstered booths and an open kitchen—where the star of the show is the flat-top, you enter the bowling alley.
Unlike the black light-drenched, strobe light-flashing, EDM-blaring bowling alleys that predominate today, the bowling alley at the Bowl is brightly lit, features no music and is usually as quiet as a golf course. Serious bowlers come to the Bowl, and rambunctious youths looking to stir up trouble are frowned upon. I myself was scolded by a senior citizen for not properly honoring the one-lane courtesy rule.
In addition to the bowling alley, there is a billiard hall (which I stayed away from, for fear of another scolding) and a bar and lounge area, which oozes a sleazy charm usually reserved for 1940s jazz clubs.
Though the many regulars who come to the Bowl give it a feeling of exclusivity, everyone, customer and employee alike, is extremely friendly and accommodating. You feel like you belong, even if it’s clear that you don’t.
Walking into the 4th Street Bowl is like walking into a time machine. They operate in a time that’s simpler, quieter and, admittedly, a little less pristine (part of its humble charm). But unlike the rest of this conflict-stricken world, folks at the Bowl are unassuming. At the 4th Street Bowl, nostalgia resides, where it works in perfect harmony with everything else.
Contact Jimmy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.