Despite knowing better, I still half-expected to push open the doors at Shamrock to find a vintage bowling alley with a zydeco band performing on stage.
 
After all, this same address had been Rock ‘n’ Bowl for so many years — and I’d ascended the steep staircase here on so many occasions for that bowling/zydeco combo — that the impression was still strong when I first visited Shamrock, even though it’s plain even from the outside that a lot has changed here. Rock ‘n’ Bowl took its whole show down the road two years ago, and Shamrock is the new operation that materialized in its old spot.
 
It’s possible to understand the place as a pool hall, but it’s more than that.  It’s more like a local, homemade, somewhat edgier version of a Dave & Buster’s, a vast hall of amusements with beer coursing throughout.
 
As before, reaching this establishment means climbing that hard, echoing, tall staircase. At the top, though, just about everything we knew as Rock ‘n’ Bowl is different. The bowling alleys are gone, and their removal reveals the full dimensions of the space. It’s so immense it feels like it could be a warehouse in Elmwood, yet here it is above a strip mall in Mid-City.
 
From the entrance, stretching on to the back wall, which might as well be in a different zip code, there are nearly two dozen pool tables. There’s a collection of foosball tables and a bank of dart boards and crammed in between shuffleboard and skeeball games and all kinds of arcade games. Of special note is a corral of ping-pong tables, each enclosed in chicken wire and accessed by its own screen door. This is sensible engineering, since it keeps runaway balls from befouling a nearby pool game, but the enclosures do give the impression that cage-match ping-pong games might develop.
 
Shamrock hosts live music, though instead of the zydeco and New Orleans R&B specialty of Rock ‘n’ Bowl the music listings here are all over the map. Last Friday I caught an amazingly entertaining night of metal. Bräh, the city’s leading headbanger cover band, a theatrically faithful and musically tight adulation to the glory age of 1980s  metal, rocked the place hard. They got some help too from opening act Mrz. Crowley, an Ozzy tribute band led by Asian beauty Rachel Shields. This was a night of music as far from the New Orleans standards as possible, and Shamrock proved an excellent venue for it, with a spinning, swirling multi-color light array worthy of a small arena, a smoke machine and an elevated stage perfect for strutting and thrashing. 
 
This formidable setup isn’t put through such paces too often, though. Friday is the only regularly scheduled live music night at Shamrock, while a disc jockey spins on Saturdays and Sunday is karaoke night (don’t say you weren’t warned).
 
Rock ‘n’ Bowl’s huge, old horseshoe shaped bar has been replaced with a much smaller one that is nonetheless stocked with about 30 beers on tap. Order a pitcher and the barmaids will plop in a frozen plastic water bottle to keep it chilled.
 
Working through one of these, with Bräh shredding its way through “Holy Diver” and a young Friday night crowd chalking their cues, paddling away in the ping-pong cages and throwing the devil horn salute into the laser-light air, it was clear to me Shamrock would be back in my rotation sometime soon.
 
Shamrock
4133 S. Carrollton Ave., New Orleans, 504-301-0938