Brews and video games go together like Mario and his princess. Here’s why we love these 8-bit arcade bars.
by Christina Couch
BROOKLYN, N.Y. | BARCADE
Barcade served craft beer before “craft beer” was a thing, and gets some credit for spawning Brooklyn’s Great Hipster Movement. It feels like the world’s coolest basement: a mixed crowd worthy of a house party, a lot of beer and arcade classics pushed against brick walls. Gaming record holders stop by to smash high scores, while brewing stars come to take over the taps. IN YOUR MUG: Look for locals from Brooklyn, Bronx and Chelsea (the breweries, that is) on the 25 always-rotating taps. HOW TO BLOW YOUR QUARTERS: Asteroids, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Smash TV join 40 more arcade-style games from the ’80s and ’90s.
GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. | PYRAMID SCHEME
Audiophiles head for the indie rock venue at the back; pinballers stay up front, where 21 machines (free the first Sunday of each month) cater to novices and league players alike. At the bar, friendly staffers pour 16 all-Michigan drafts, including the largest selection of Short’s Brewing craft beyond the brewery. Video gamers can get their kicks across the street at sister bar Stella’s Lounge, which corrals about 100 of the classics. IN YOUR MUG: All 10 Short’s taps are half off Wednesdays; try the peppery wheat beer Nicie Spicie. HOW TO BLOW YOUR QUARTERS: Play 16 of Pinside.com’s top 25 games of all time (including No. 1, Medieval Madness).
CHICAGO | EMPORIUM ARCADE BAR
Only a year old, this Wicker Park tavern already re-upped with a new pinball room this summer. Patrons take the 24 craft taps and 75 classic arcade games (most from 1979 to 1996) seriously, but when they collide, it’s all fun. Case in point: A Duck-Duck-Goose night that paired a Duck Hunt tourney with Goose Island brews. Bring your own food (Mexican mainstay Antique Taco is two doors down), or nibble on joystick-friendly bar snacks. IN YOUR MUG: Twenty-four taps highlight Chicago’s finest; look for stouts by still-new Spiteful and Begyle breweries. HOW TO BLOW YOUR QUARTERS: It’s one of the few arcades in the country with a working version of Tapper, a 1983 Budweiser game wherein players scramble to serve pixelated beer to an ever- growing crowd of patrons.
DALLAS | BARCADIA
The Dallas member of the Barcadia family (New Orleans and Fort Worth host sister bars) is a quiet grill by day; casual lunchers score a patio seat to soak in the sun and nearly 100 beers. By night, DJs roll in and transform the ’50s pinup-themed arcade into a thumping nightlife magnet. Skee-ball and 20 classic arcade games rule the floor; go Tuesdays for free gaming and $3 Texas-brewed pints. IN YOUR MUG: Steady your nerves with Numb Comfort, Deep Ellum Brewing’s 11%-ABV barleywine. HOW TO BLOW YOUR QUARTERS: Mortal Kombat, Galaga and the usuals are all here, along with lesser-known titles like Moon Patrol and Spy Hunter. Trigger finger tired? Unplug with jumbo versions of Jenga and Connect Four.
EXTRA LIFE: Big Boss Brewing in Raleigh, N.C., has the only game that rewards players with beer. Rolled out for the brewery’s special events, The Last Barfighter is a Street Fighter-style arcade game that dispenses 3 ounces of Big Boss craft to whoever wins the best of three rounds.