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Bar Review: Barcade

Submitted by on November 9, 2009 – 6:04 PMOne Comment
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388 Union Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Hours: Mon – Fri – 5 PM to 4 AM

Sat, Sun – 2 PM to 4 AM

In the early 1980s the arcade scene was at the top of its game. With quarter crunching games like “Robotron,” “Donkey Kong” and “Berserk,” these spots drew in huge crowds of kids, teens and young hearted adults all across the country. Then, as the home video game market started to expand, arcade-going began to dwindle, and today, save for a few garish imitators like Jillian’s or Dave and Buster’s, the arcade has all but disappeared from our daily lives.

barcadeAll is not lost, however, as the arcade tradition lives on in the form of Barcade, a Brooklyn bar/arcade hybrid that serves as a throwback to video games’ nascent golden years. The walls are lined with over 25 early titles like “Joust,” “Marble Madness” and “Dig Dug” all in their original cabinets, good as new–well, operational, at least (Quarter-Saving Tip: the joystick doesn’t work for Lizzie the Lizard in “Rampage”). And while the games may seem like a gimmick to draw in the nostalgia-addled crowd of Williamsburg, the bar’s impressive list of upwards to 25 American microbrews on tap is impressive enough to satisfy even the most particular drinker.

There aren’t many bars in New York that offers up the opportunity to play “Ghouls and Goblins,” much less do so while sipping on craft brew and listening to The Fall. Part geek reverie, part hipster nostalgia-mining, Barcade’s appeal relies on a well crafted mix of beer, games and music to draw in the crowds.

For a bar as hung up on the past as Barcade, its music and atmosphere generously resists relying too heavily on 80s-era new wave and sticks mostly to the an indie fair with a sprinkling of older music for color. Sadly, because of the music the games are muted, which makes you realize how important sound is to the experience of retro-gaming. It feels wrong to play “Ms. Pac-man” without the familiar sound of her chomping dwon power pellets, but between the chatter of the bar and the drone of the music, adding the din of 25 arcade games to the mix would likely burst an eardrum.

A popular spot in Williamsburg, Barcade does get packed pretty quickly on weekends, and the service suffers from it. The size of the bar and the amount of staff on hand typically isn’t enough to accommodate the crowd, and waiting for the overwhelmed and inattentive bartenders is like watching a bad game of “Tapper.” They often lose track of who’s next and can sometimes be seen chatting with each other as patrons quietly glare at them. Still, if you can manage to get their attention, the bartenders are helpful and quick to make suggestions, and happy to talk about the beers they have on tap.

Barcade manages to be legit as both a bar and arcade. Its leaderboard boasts names from professional gamers and their astronomical scores (perfect scores for “Centipede” and “Robotron,” a “Star Wars” score that took something like 24 hours to achieve), and its regularly shifting beer list features beers from several local breweries like Brooklyn, Chelsea, Coney Island, Climax and more. Between the warm buzz of the beer and the pleasant clatter of frustrated gamers, Barcade proves to be an excellent way to spend laundry money.

Pros: Games, beer and music. Can’t ask for more.

Cons: Crowded, inattentive service, broken “Rampage” machine

Rating: 5 out of 5