Skip to main content

5 of the Best Arcade Bars in America

The video arcade isn’t quite what it used to be — or is it? More people are gaming at home these days, teaming up with folks from around the country and world via the power of the web. But there are still quite a few arcade bar, the entertaining mashup of nostalgic video game culture and hooch.

The beauty of the arcade bar is hands-on activity. The bar side of the coin encourages socializing and engagement. The arcade side spawns competitive bouts between your favorite pals or fellow gamers you just met. And the stakes can be quite high when you’re contemplating going with Sub-Zero or Johnny Cage for that next Mortal Kombat battle—the next round’s not going to buy itself.

Ground Kontrol

Ground Kontrol
Ashley Anderson

Portland, Oregon’s Ground Kontrol touts itself as the West Coast’s premier classic arcade. It’s tough to argue with the claim, given a lineup of games that includes everything from Asteroids and Bubble Bobble to Shinobi and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There’s also plenty of pinball and often DJs spinning retro jams. Oh, and it’s Portland, so there’s an impressive cocktail list and some local draft beer to enjoy while trying to remember a cheat code.

Button Mash

button mash
Button Mash/Facebook

Set on L.A.’s iconic Sunset Boulevard, Button Mash brings Double Dragon, NBA Jam, Frogger, Tron, and more to the Angelino Heights and Echo Park hoods of the city’s east side. The food is surprisingly good, with offerings like double-fried tamarind chicken wings and spicy Korean cold noodles. And with about a dozen brews on draft, a healthy can selection, and even a few wines, a quick game or two can easily turn into an entire quarter-dropping evening.



The Twin Cities is home to Up-Down, an expansive joint with fifty arcade games from the 80s and 90s, skee-ball, and colossal Jenga and Connect Four sets. As a nod to the thriving Midwest craft beer scene, the place boasts 60 draft beers and pizza for grub. A few of its best games include Battletoads, NFL Blitz ’99, and Punch Out. The small Up-Down chain includes sibling spots in St. Louis, Nashville, Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Des Moines.

Two-Bit’s Retro Arcade

Two-Bits Retro Arcade
Two-Bit’s Retro Arcade

The Barcade franchise in New York City is perfectly fine but the harder-to-find games are found at Two-Bit’s. This Lower East Side establishment has late-night tempters like Big Buck HD but also treasures like Spy Hunter and After Burner. Better still, plenty of booze (including some sake), simple but satisfying snacks, and daily specials. It’s perfectly dive-y and there’s a good chance an old Simpsons episode will be playing on the projector.


Pinballz Arcade/Facebook

Austin, Texas has a surprising number of arcade options. Pinballz is among the best, fit with a wonderfully casual BYOB policy at its original location. There are 80‘s themed nights, live bands, and weekly specials if the largest collection of new and classic pinball machines in the state isn’t quite enough for you. At their Buda location, there’s even a German-inspired beer garden. The three Texas locations are also some of the relatively few arcade bars that are family-friendly, with distractions like bumper cars and laser mazes keeping the kids busy while you work on besting your top scores. 

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
The 7 best whiskey subscription boxes in 2023
Subscription services are still all the rage. A good whiskey option is a great choice to enhance your appreciation of the spirit.
Flaviar subscription with whiskeys on table.

A subscription service is a sweet thing indeed, setting us up with specialty items delivered straight to where we live. These days, the spectrum is broader then ever, with the category dealing in things from clothing subscription boxes and grooming kits to bacon and healthy meal kits.

Spirits have entered the fray too. Whiskey fans can sign up and receive special selections of their favorite spirit, sourced from all over the map. It's a great service for the novice and expert alike, as there are many options, tiers, and educational levels. Plus, they show up at your place, turning a regular mail day into a celebratory one.

Read more
The best breweries in America: The ultimate bucket list if you love craft beer
Want to combine craft beer and travel? These breweries have great ales and more, worth booking a vacation for

There's so much great beer out there, you can built an entire vacation around the stuff. There are fantastic IPAs and well-rounded amber ales from Seattle to St. Petersburg, and everywhere in between. And because the breweries often do one-off beers, tours, and more at their headquarters, the reasons to visit are many.

Which ones should you visit? Start with what's right in your backyard, shopping local is almost always the way to go. But if you need further advice on some great breweries turning out both amazing beer and also set in cool venues, we have 15 great candidates to consider. They're making exceptional suds and also doing great things for the community at large.

Read more
Valentine’s Day calls for the very best Champagnes: Our top picks
Valentine's Day calls for real, true blue Champagne. Here are some great options to crack with those you love.
Champagne in glasses

Champagne and Valentine's Day go together like Daniel Day Lewis and Oscar nominations. And while there's great sparkling wine to be enjoyed, increasingly so here in the states, a holiday as romantic as this probably deserves the most iconic options within the effervescent category. Yep, real Champagne — you know, the prized and celebratory stuff from the famed and eponymous region in France.

The pop of a bottle of Champagne alone means there's an occasion at hand. Couple that with the wine's lovely texture and food-friendliness (ready the oysters and caviar), and you have a romantic evening in the making. Valentine's Day is steeped in tradition, passion, and the joy of bring together. Much the same can be said about a great bottle of Champagne.

Read more