Don’t label The Eleanor just a bowling alley. It’s much more than that, according to founder Adam Stein.
Ever since he was a student at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Stein dreamed of opening a lounge with a bowling component to make it a multi-use entertainment space. That vision is realized with The Eleanor.
“You can come here for lots of different reasons,” Stein says. “You can come here because you want to bowl. You can come here because you want to play pinball games. You can come here because you want to have a three-course meal. We’ve got tons of events booked already and through the end of the year.”
Since opening June 19 in NoMa, The Eleanor has offered a place to enjoy 20 beers on tap, well-crafted cocktails, a projector for movie nights and, of course, two mini-bowling lanes with duckpin-sized balls.
The lanes are 45 feet long as opposed to the standard 60 feet, which Stein says can be harder, but it’s also a lower bar of entry. The floors aren’t waxed, so there’s no need to change shoes to play. Also, all of the balls are four pounds. While it’s best to reserve a lane and prepay online, walk-ins are accepted on a waitlist basis. Pricing is $10 per person for one hour of bowling with a $10 ball rental fee.
If you’re not interested in giving bowling a spin, choose from arcade games like Mortal Kombat 3, Pac-Man and Battle Royale, or head over to the Skee-Ball lanes.
When describing The Eleanor, Stein says he didn’t want anything “super slick” or “overly designed.” Instead, he opted for a laid-back but funky lounge with a hometown vibe. There are counter-height tables instead of low-tops to add to the casual atmosphere, and the local focus is found not only in the ingredients but in the name itself, which is a reference to DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.
The menu adds humor to the spot with cocktails like Wildflowers Don’t Care Where They Grow. Other drinks are named after friends and family such as Jody’s Appletini, inspired by Stein’s mother as appletinis are her favorite cocktail. There are also two refreshing vodka slushies made with Spring 44 vodka, one with house-made horchata and Zeke’s cold brew coffee and the other with a house-made lavender lemonade.
The fare might seem typical at face value – burgers, nachos, fried chicken – but each dish has its own original twist. The buttermilk fried chicken thighs come with masala-spiced carrot puree and braised greens with a bacon and fish sauce. The chicken wings are coated in a General Tso’s-style sauce, the hushpuppies are made “elote loco-style” and the loaded hot dogs come with the optional add-on of kimchi.
Along with its quirky menu, The Eleanor offers a very convenient location across the street from the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro station. There is also free, onsite parking.
Stein considered Ivy City before settling on The Eleanor’s NoMa space on Florida Avenue. He was tempted by Ivy City’s warehouse spaces because they could fit full-sized bowling lanes, but he says he ultimately chose the right neighborhood.
“[NoMa is] only going to see an explosion of growth in the next two-and-a-half to three years,” he says. “We’re looking forward to it.”
The Eleanor: 100 Florida Ave. NE, DC; 202-758-2235; www.eleanordc.com