The Arcade Bar That’s NOT a Barcade

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Barcade. It’s the new buzzword. It’s the cool hip new edgy thing people are into. If you haven’t heard of or been to a “barcade”, you’re so last summer.  But seriously, let’s talk about arcade bars and what they bring to the table (or console).

First things first, the word “barcade” is trademarked by a bar chain in the NYC area. It’s a chain establishment that really started and coined (pun intended) the idea of an arcade bar back in 2004. Nevertheless, the idea has caught on and arcade bars have been popping up all over the place. Each has its own unique design and offerings. The thing they all have in common? Games and booze. Power up!


A couple months ago, Catlin and I had the pleasure of road tripping out to Nashville. Just a few blocks away from the Parthenon in midtown Nasvhille we found Two Bits. This arcade bar features a full menu, bar, outdoor patio, tons of board games, shuffleboard, arcade games and some small booth areas to play console games. It’s a good mixture providing endless possibilities. While enjoying our drinks and eating some incredible food, we played some classic favorites like Scrabble, Jenga, Connect Four, and Guess Who. Some of the outside guests were playing some epic giant Jenga matches. The arcade game selection is limited, but solid. They’re also free! We didn’t partake in the console games, but they seem to offer a decent variety. Overall, we were very entertained.

Like the TARDIS, Rec Room is bigger on the inside

Here in Memphis, we’ve only just begun or adventures into bar aracading. The Rec Room just opened this spring. As of right now, they offer a full bar with beer, liquor, jello shots and even a few wine options. They, of course, offer non-adult beverage options like pop (or soda). I’ve also heard rumors of upcoming video game themed drink options. Who doesn’t need a Mana potion or a super mushroom while battling it out with the boss? While they don’t offer a full menu, they do have pizza and chips as well as a popcorn machine. Yes, the popcorn is free. Help yourself! One good thing about Rec Room is the food trucks. Why have standard menus when you can have a rotating selection of meals on wheels? Some fellow gamers suggested Rec Room get a more solid schedule of food trucks. Others thought Rec Room could offer a mini menu. Just some better snacks such as your standard bar food staples. Pizza logs, jalapeno poppers, fries, wings…you get the idea. Rec Room itself isn’t set up for sit down dining, so any food they offer needs to be portable.

The greatest feature of Rec Room is the living rooms. These bad boys boast ample seating in front of a 20 foot screen for all your gaming glory. Rentals are by the hour and can be done online. This is super critical if you’re planning for a weekend gaming binge fest. I recommend taking advantage of the cheaper rental fees during the week. You’ll also find the atmosphere much quieter and relaxed. Some patrons find the weekend crowds to be a bit raucous. Of course, Rec Room is great at broadcasting local sporting events on 1 or 2 living room TVs (college football anyone?). Unfortunately it also means the audio is dominated by touchdowns and cheers. When you’re in a huge warehouse that’s all anyone will really hear. Some arcade bar fans would love if enclosed rooms became a thing. Some games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band could be offered in these venues. On top of that, an enclosed room would make the overall atmosphere much more family friendly. It’s much easy to isolate the adult language and gamer rage that can occur when alcohol and video games collide.

I'm a huge pinball fan, and any place that considers adding a cupholder gets an A+ in my book

Like most arcade bars, Rec Room offers a wide selection of arcade games and board games. There’s everything from ski ball, to pinball (a favorite of yours truly), to classics like Ms Pac Man and Donkey Kong. For board games there’s the crowd favorite Cards Against Humanity as well as Settlers of Catan. Could they use a better variety? Or several decks of Cards Against Humanity? Probably. There’s a large gathering of board gamers here in Memphis. Many would hope to see table top gaming nights become a regular thing. Furthermore, with a full bar Rec Room could capitalize on D&D an Magic nights.

Trivia nights are becoming more and more common in your local bars and pubs. Rec Room is no different. It’s almost laughable for a bar not to host a slew of events throughout the week. Rec Room has done a great job of hosting Pay-Per-View events like UFC fighting at no cost to guests. Some gamers have taken notice and attempts have been made to host other events. Most recently, Rec Room hosted a Hackathon evening. In the past, they’ve had a few video game tournaments, but it seems there isn’t a solid schedule (yet). It’s difficult to nail down what events a bar arcade should do and when. What’s going to be successful? What do people in the area like? It’s been mentioned Rec Room should host a viewing party for the League of Legends World Championship. Then of course, people would want the same for DotA. From there, I’m sure people would advocate for LAN parties to become a routine event. Where does it end?!

 As you can see, bar arcades are really gaining speed. Lots of the people I spoke with have been to other arcade bars and they all agree: each one is unique. The beauty of the arcade bar is that it can tailor itself to the locals and change with what’s in season or what’s popular. They can help highlight new releases, bring back classics, or just give a comfortable place for friends to share drinks. I encourage all of you to find your nearest arcade bar. See what they have. Think of what they could have. What they should have. Here, in Memphis, we’re lucky enough to have such a versatile establishment. With such a new venue with open minded management, the possibilities are endless.

About the Author

Janet Havel

Janet Havel

My name is Janet, but you can call me JoJo Tough as Nails. I laugh too loud and watch too much TV. But can you ever have too muchlaughter or Netflix? Or bacon? I vote no.

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