Until 2 in the morning, the sounds of billiard balls hang like offbeat commas in the conversations of players leaning on their cues. Of the 18 tables at Pockets Pool & Pub, 10 are regulation Brunswick Gold Crown pocket tables, 6 are coin-operated, and 2 are Spider Elite Carom tables, which are heated to keep balls moving smoothly. Like deserted kangaroo towns, carom tables have no pockets—the game is played based on one’s position against the rails. Every week, the tables host nine-ball, pool, and one-pocket competitions.
The thin, twanging guitar notes of songs from the ’40s drift from a jukebox near the pro shop, which furnishes players with gear. Elsewhere, backgammon pieces and dice click against boards sliced by the characteristic triangles, and players hoist glasses of brews and cocktails over plates of sandwiches and fried snacks.
Many sports bars are judged on the size of their televisions. Too few are evaluated by the number of side-by-side stock-car and motorcycle drag races that happen on their premises. At World Sports Grille, there are both. More than 30 high-definition TVs—including one with a 103-inch display—broadcast sharp resolution of sports heroes’ graceful moves and sports anchors’ autograph-covered toupees, and nearly 75 racing, action, and other gaming consoles pit players into virtual battle. In the game room, TVs and videogames join forces, with sounds of cracking baseball bats and crunching football pads mingling with bells, whistles, and engine throttling. This mixture of athletic entertainment and interactive play powers part of the formula that launched World Sports Grille to the top of Tucson Weekly's list of Best Sports Bars for four straight years (2009–2012).
The menu of classic bar food and snacks has also snagged accolades: half-pound Angus burgers capped with brioche buns have taken home the Great Tucson Hamburger Contest title. Guests can sample the winning burgers—such as the barbecue bacon smothered with a tangy house-made, beer-flavored sauce—while sidled up to the square bar under autographed jerseys and memorabilia, or while out on the patio next to fragrant coriander or cacti plants guarding the restaurant from balloon invasion. World Sports Grille also partners with the Tucson Padres for events, and UFC fights have drawn standing-room-only crowds.
Bowling is the great social equalizer—a common ground where grizzled undercover clowns, blue-collar English lords, LARPer librarians, big and tall lingerie models, hordes of hive-minded hipsters, and the other two social demographics that comprise America can unite in common cause and topple a gaggle of stuck-up, inanimate wooden pins. Brunswick has been a household name in this egalitarian pastime almost since the beginning, with a company history that dates back to the 19th century, providing classic American good times to all manner of patrons across the country. And with today's Groupon tying the room together, you'll get to play two games (up to a $10 value) in its hallowed halls wearing a pair of freshly disinfected bowling shoes (up to a $4.39 value).
It's hard not to be impressed by FlipSide. It's a family gaming center and bowling alley, so one would expect it to be hectic and sticky with the spills and stains often left in rambunctious children's wake. But in fact, it's impeccable. The brand-new digs have gleaming wood floors, modern furniture, and industrial open ceilings.
As you settle into one of the plush banquettes at the end of a bowling lane, FlipSide becomes even more impressive once you realize what else the space is clean of. There's no stale smoke lingering in the air or puddles of stale beer on the tables; there's no gruff banter coming from the tipsy league players a few lanes down. That's because FlipSide is truly a family place?they don't serve alcohol, and the lanes are exclusively for open bowling. As families toss colorful balls down the 28 AMF-standard lanes, projection screens above the pins let Mom and Dad check the score of the football game while they're teaching the kids how to pick up a spare and get a salon-quality blowout using the lane's hand dryer.
Elsewhere, kids and parents can strategize attack plans in the two-floor laser-tag arena, battle each other in nearly 60 arcade games, and send each other spinning in collisions of bumper car crash pods with 360-degree range of motion. Parents will also appreciate high-end touches such as a billiards area.
Fueling the activities is the Roundtrip Cafe, where an experienced kitchen staff serve up brick-oven pizzas, sirloin burgers, and even rib eye steak. Families can gather and enjoy a meal that's far more satisfying than the hunk of cheese at the center of FlipSide's laser maze.