* Bar arcades are making a comeback in the American nightlife scene
* Vintage video and arcade games from the “Golden Age of Arcades”
* Many venues compliment games with craft cocktails and hip food menus
Why go to your standard bar when you go to one that also let’s you play games while you get buzzed? Well, this logic is apparently catching on, and the revival of the arcade bar, or bar arcade for short, is sweeping the nation–and understandably so. There’s something nostalgic and effortlessly fun about playing video games in a retro setting, as opposed to standing in crowded bar forced to make small talk with strangers that you can barely hear over the blaring music.
Why not unleash your inner child with a retro–and buzzed–gaming sesh next time you decide to go out for the night. To help get you motivated, we’ve rounded up the best bar arcades across America. Game on!
1. Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade
Portland’s beloved old school arcade bar spans an impressive 4,000 square feet, with 60 classic video game options, 27 pin ball machines and two space-age, Fifth Element inspired bars. Plus, they have nightly events including karaoke, Indie Game Night, Trivia, comedy shows and plenty of tournaments. Originally opened in 1999, this arcade was ahead of its time, and it’s become a favorite spot for Portlanders and tourists alike.
2. Round 1 Bowling & Amusement
(City of Industry, CA)
This Southern California super-arcade is famous for its expansive gaming options, but also because it’s seated in the Puente Hills Mall, where they filmed the 1985 flick Back to The Future. Regardless of its cinematic appearances, this arcade also offers bowling, a full service restaurant, and of course, a full bar. They’ve also got an impressive vewlix and candy cab lineup, with plenty of rare games that you won’t find elsewhere.
3. Headquarters Beercade
HQ Beercade in Chicago’s River North neighborhood takes a “low maintenance” bar setting to a new level with an ample selection of vintage entertainment. The impressive, two-story venue is well stocked with over 65 vintage arcade and pinball games, plus more than 28 rotating drafts and 40 canned craft beers to choose from.
Even if you’re not a gamer, the interior design and eclectic decor in this arcade is enough to draw you in. It’s a mash-up of old world swank mixed with 80s era disco. The walls feature contemporary graffiti art, neon signage, recycled type writers, sinks, and discarded tape cassettes. HQ also operates a second location in Nashville, TN.
4. Cobra Arcade Bar
This hip, Downtown Phoenix arcade bar offers over 40 different “holy grail” vintage arcade games and a well-stocked full service bar offering signature game-themed cocktails including the Crazy Kong (Jameson, banana liqueur and ginger beer), the Princess Peach (rose prickly pear vodka, stone fruit and orange bitters) and a decent selection craft beer.
Most week nights are themed, with popular events including Ladies Night Out, Pretty in Black and Cobra Sunday’s, where a different DJ performs each week. Cobra is a no frills arcade bar for an old-fashioned fun without pretense. There’s no food served and no kids (21 and under) allowed.
5. Coin Op Game Room
(San Francisco, CA)
An elevated spin on the classic arcade bar, the Coin-Op Game Room in San Francisco is a Tron-themed bar serving up science-inspired cocktails with unexpected, experimental ingredients. For instance, your gin and tonic will be infused with peppermint chlorophyll and may or may not contained colored ice cubes.
The arcade is equipped with the classics, from pinball to Pac Man, and an impressive gourmet food menu serving up dishes like quinoa tater tots and sausage donuts. There’s also another Tron-themed addition to the venue–a hidden futuristic speakeasy called The Grid in which guests can only access The Grid through a door designed to look like a Tron arcade game.
6. BoxCar Bar + Arcade
(Raleigh & Greensboro, NC)
Operating two North Carolina locations, Box Car + Arcade strives to offer gamers the ultimate drinking and gaming experience with wallet-friendly prices. The Raleigh location boasts over 100 different arcade games, including classic and modern arcade cabinets, interactive and console games and pinball machines, with a full service bar offering an impressive curation of craft beers and cocktails.
Both locations host free, weekly tournaments and live music shows. They also have a packed monthly event calendar with themed nights such as the Selfie Pinball Tournament and Fireball Fridays, where you can enjoy a shot for just $3.
7. Button Mash
(Los Angeles, CA)
Located in the heart of LA’s ultra hip Echo Park neighborhood, Button Mash not only offers rare and one of a kind arcade games from what gaming aficionados have dubbed “the Golden Age of Arcades,” or more simply, the late 70s and early 80s. You won’t find mortal combat or Halo in this venue, but you can indulge in more deep cut games like Frogger and Mushroom World.
They’ve also got a pretty impressive restaurant get up, supervised by the masterminds behind Starry Kitchen and Grand Star, chefs Nguyen and Thi Tran. As expected, the cuisine features a creative array of Asian fusion dishes, specializing in vegan, vegetarian, and of course, gluten-free cuisine (it is in LA, after all). If you’re a carnivore, no need to fret, they’ve got a killer double cheeseburger and spicy Korean pork sandwich.
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