The electronic zips, dings, bleeps and bloops of arcade games are making a comeback, and this time, there’s beer. Welcome to the arcade bar, where the nerdy middle schooler in you is welcome to hang out, grab a drink and finally dominate Donkey Kong.
In Downtown St. Louis, Start Bar boasts an impressive 25 cabinet games, six pinball machines and three Skee Ball alleys, plus private lounges featuring consoles for Nintendo 64, Xbox or PlayStation4. “The theme when we opened [in July 2016] was late ‘90s and early 2000s,” says general manager Geo Guinn. But Killer Queen, a five-verses-five arcade strategy game that has amassed a devoted cult following since its debut in 2013, has necessitated a weekly Wednesday night tournament; Start Bar’s Killer Queen is one of fewer than 25 cabinets in the country. Just a block away from Busch Stadium, it's an ideal stop before or after Cardinals games, too. And if bottomless mimosas on Sundays don’t tempt you, then perhaps you’ll be swayed by Start Bar’s Sunday through Thursday night practice of “unlocked” games: You can play as much as you want for free. There’s a field outside for pingpong and beer pong, upwards of 80 cans of beers and four on tap, plus boozy slushies, milkshakes and ice pops, along with a food menu designed for snacking. “We try and give people something to do beyond the usual,” Guinn says.
Start Bar, 1000 Spruce St., Downtown, St. Louis, Missouri, startbarstl.com
In Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District, Tapcade is a force to be reckoned with. There are around 40 games to choose from at any given time, the majority of which are arcade cabinet games; these are rotated frequently to ensure that the machines can be cleaned and maintained for longevity. There’s also a handful of rotating pinball machines and three different consoles. With 48 taps and 50 bottles and cans, the beer list spans several pages, with a heavy emphasis on local and craft brews. The food menu is a little more eclectic: you’ll have a hard time saying no to items like the 420 Melt Down, a burrito stuffed with steak, chicken, guacamole, french fries and Doritos. Kids who are tall enough to reach the consoles are also welcome until 8pm. “We’re family oriented – at least until 8pm, and after that, it’s more of a bar scene,” says manager Christina Sanchez. “It’s nice, because the grown-ups can hang out and play the games they used to play when they were a kid with their kids.” Sanchez isn’t surprised by the rising popularity of the arcade bar phenomenon. “It’s not just arcades – a lot of nerdy stuff from the ‘80s and ‘90s is coming back,” Sanchez says. “People are interested in comic books and cult movies. That kind of thing is resurfacing because that’s what people in their thirties and forties grew up with, and now they’re all having kids, so it’s kind of natural to want to share that and bring it back.”
Tapcade, 1701 McGee St., #200, Crossroads Arts District, Kansas City, Missouri, tapcadekc.com
Two Plumbers Brewery & Arcade
Sometimes the people who stop into Two Plumbers Brewery & Arcade in St. Charles, Missouri, couldn't care less about the bar’s 25 arcade cabinets and 11 pinball machines. They’re more interested in the 10 taps behind the bar, including two that belong to Two Plumbers’ house brews, which rotate as frequently as they sell out. Owners Robert Schowengerdt and John Simon believe that it’s a good problem to have. “We’ve seen people from 21 years old up to retirees,” Schowengerdt says. “We’re surprised by how broad the demographic is.” Games at Two Plumbers all cost between 25 and 50 cents a play. The most popular offerings tend to be the earlier issues: Time Crisis II, Ninja Turtles and Galaga. “We’re pretty much across the board. We’ve even got some Japanese stuff, which is cool,” Schowengerdt says. “People miss the feeling of having something to occupy their time beyond their phone. And a lot of it is just nostalgia – people missing going to arcades, because that feeling is totally different from anything else.”
Two Plumbers Brewery & Arcade, 2236 1st Capitol Drive, St. Charles, Missouri, twoplumbers.com