Arsenal Bowl
Photo by Melanie Linn Gutowski.

You smell Frankie’s long before you see it. The pungent aroma of frying onions permeates the air around the restaurant for blocks in every direction. The familiar smell of Frankie’s is the Proust’s madeleine of Lawrenceville—for more than 50 years a reminder of the neighborhood’s working class roots with its unfussy, unapologetically odorous menu of hot sausage, kielbasa, meatball hoagies and, of course, extra-long hot dogs.

Arsenal Bowl. Photo by Melanie Linn Gutowski
Arsenal Bowl. Photo by Melanie Linn Gutowski.

Arsenal Bowl
4310 Butler Street

Arsenal Bowling Lanes, Arsenal Lanes or whatever you call it (and it’s been called different names by the many generations that have experienced the place), Arsenal Bowl has been in continuous operation since 1938.

While the game of bowling itself has changed throughout the decades Arsenal Bowl has been open, from duck pins to ten-pin to automatic scoring, the customers have changed, too. Owner Paul Buncher’s customer base is “less league oriented,” he says. “As much as we love them, they’re not around as much as they used to be. It’s more of a nightclub atmosphere now.”

The 22-lane alley features live entertainment and disc jockeys most nights of the week, along with bowling and drink specials.

“It’s fun,” he says of the bowling business. “When everything’s going right, it’s a party.”

Buncher claims he was the first to start the trend of restoring Lawrenceville’s historic building facades. After buying the row of buildings housing the bowling alley in 1988, he set about restoring the outsides to how they looked in the late 1930s and early 1940s when it first opened. “We held a big ribbon-cutting,” Buncher says. “Mayor Masloff threw a bowling ball down Butler Street!”

The best thing about the past few years in Lawrenceville for Buncher is that “it stayed unique. It’s still mom-and-pop,” he says. “There’s really no big box stores or chain stores, still no Starbucks.”

“Even though it got nicer, it’s stayed true to its roots,” Buncher says.

Melanie Linn Gutowski

Melanie Linn Gutowski is a public historian and Gilded Age geek. You'll usually find her at the Sharpsburg Library, the National Aviary, or stalking the Mac & Gold truck. Melanie is a three-time finalist...