“ People love being at Bayside,” says Bayside Bowl co-owner Charlie Mitchell. “They come here not only to see their friends on the lanes, but also to see their friends at the bar and in the kitchen. It’s a great community.”
Mitchell has long had an interest in community building through sport. While working as an attorney and lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C., Mitchell created an office softball team, complete with nicknames and play-by-play game write-ups. “As much as the lobbying work was important,” says Mitchell, “the softball team brought the office together, and increased the effectiveness of the organization.”
Raised in Vassalboro, Mitchell returned to his home state in the fall of 2007. Seeking new social connections—and admittedly concerned about the upcoming Maine winter—Mitchell and his sister created the Bowl Portland league. Bowl Portland, which was patterned after Portland’s long-running ultimate frisbee group, began with 12 teams. Three years later, there were 32.
Mitchell sensed an opportunity. Teaming up with fellow bowler (and current Maine state senator) Justin Alfond, Mitchell decided to find a permanent abode for Bowl Portland. “We both had been to a place in New Orleans called Mid-City Lanes Rock ‘n’ Bowl,” says Mitchell. “They had great bands, food, and bowling. When we discussed a home for this league, he and I had the same vision.” Bayside Bowl opened its doors in 2010.
Housed in a former industrial space on Alder Street, Bayside Bowl has a 12-lane bowling alley, restaurant and bar, and large common area for events. “If you go to Bayside Bowl from open to close, you really see everything,” says Mitchell. “It starts with a seven-year-old’s birthday party and people with their grandkids. Then you’ve got the lunch crowd and people coming to the bar at night. You’ve got every age group,” says Mitchell.
Bayside bowlers can also enjoy performances by local and national bands, and engage in other seasonally appropriate pastimes such as bocce and cornhole.
The Bayside Bowl menu reflects Portland’s culinary inclinations. Standards such as nachos and sweet potato fries are creatively complemented by macaroni-and-cheese pizza and the bacon-and-fried-egg burger—dubbed the Drunk on Lane 9. There are multiple meatless options, including a savory vegetarian chili and a vegan tempeh and sauerkraut sandwich.
And then there is the bowling. On any given night, you might encounter chefs serving up strikes in the restaurant league or financiers hitting the pins with their business colleagues. In 2015, Bayside Bowl will host the Professional Bowlers Association for an event to be televised by ESPN. “We take our bowling extremely seriously,” says Mitchell.
At Bayside Bowl, everyone has a bowling name or handle. Mitchell bowls as Karl Hungus, a character from the cult classic film The Big Lebowski. “Your bowling name sticks with you,” says Mitchell. “When you are at Bayside Bowl everybody knows you by that name.” Many of the bartenders, kitchen staff, and managers at Bayside Bowl have been there from the beginning. This, says Mitchell, is relatively rare within the industry. “We are a family. Everyone is an important part.”
Bayside Bowl offers good food, great entertainment, and a high-quality bowling environment. It has become the place where, in an increasingly anonymous world, everybody knows your name. Mitchell cherishes this. “The people from Bayside Bowl show up in every aspect of my life. I work with them professionally; they are some of my best friends. I could be bowling with these guys for the next 30 years.”