The golden age of arcades has long passed but that doesn't mean you can't relive those glory days of yesteryear. The last few years have seen an influx of arcade bars, entertainment venues and ping pong clubs pop up all over the city, letting patrons unleash their inner child on a variety of activities — and there's even a shuffleboard club coming. From Street Fighter and NBA Jam to skee ball and mini golf, the following spots are perfect for a trip down nostalgia lane or some intense competition. Just make sure you still have enough quarters left over for laundry day.Read More
12 Action-Packed Chicago Bars & Restaurants to Get Your Game On
Arcade games and WhirlyBall and ping pong, oh my
London-based concept AceBounce is the latest to get in on the ping pong action. The sprawling multi-room space is chic and stylish with U.K. flair. During evenings, the lights are dimmed and guests can enjoy glow-in-the-dark matches on one the 16 tables. Refuel afterwards at the club’s restaurant, 1901, and nosh on chef Rick Gresh’s spread of shareable plates, salads, pizzas and more, as well as multiple bars.
Emporium Arcade Bar
The arcade bar that kicked off the retro revival in Chicago is still going strong. Relive childhood with pinball machines and classics such as Street Fighter, NBA Jam and the X-Men arcade game while sipping on a variety of craft beers. There’s no food aside from bar snacks (although the Logan Square table game-themed location has more food) but guests are welcome to bring their own and host parties. The venue also frequently holds video game tournaments for those who want to test their mettle against fellow competitors, as well as live music.
This ain’t like any of the arcades you grew up with. FTW dazzles the senses as a Steampunk-inspired wonderland full of neon lights, cutting-edge games and even an indoor mini golf course. Customers can showcase their skills on more than 130 games including air hockey, basketball, skee ball and pinball. Prove yourself worthy and redeem those hard-earned tickets for prizes. Then chow on bar fare such as poutine, tacos, wings, sliders and more. It’s like Dave and Busters, only better.
When the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel was reborn last summer, the building’s former billiards room was turned into an all-encompassing game room. The throwback space offers a wide range of activities such as billiards, bocce, cards checkers, chess, foosball, shuffleboard and more while the food menu features concession stand favorites and finger-friendly bites. Acclaimed beverage director Paul McGee complements the experience with variations on classic cocktails so guests can kick back with an Old Fashioned or seasonal frozen concoction.
Lakeview’s late-night hangout is always a popular and packed destination. The pinball playground has dozens of machines for guests to try and beat the high scores on along with an equally impressive selection of arcade games, as well as whimsical 80's and 90'-inspired cocktails and craft beer. Best of all? All the games are free to play. There's also a second location in River North with a full kitchen.
This massive, Pac-Man-themed entertainment complex opened early last year, bringing the fun to Schaumburg. The venue is owned by Namco, developer of the iconic game, and features a full-service restaurant, multiple lounges, two bars and 16 bowling lanes, all decked out with memorabilia. In addition, ping pong tables and a number of old school arcade cabinets like Donkey Kong and Space Invaders help ensure there’s something for everyone to play.
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What was once a vinyl haven has transformed into a neighborhood arcade tavern boasting arguably the best collection of vintage cabinets and pinball machines in town. It’s also home to Killer Queen, a 10-player indie game that has quickly cultivated a loyal fanbase. Logan Arcade was the initial battleground, where the rules of engagement can be overwhelming, but vets are usually on hand to show newcomers the ropes. Just thank them by buying shots of Malort when you lose. And if you win? Well … take a shot of Malort anyway.
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Punch Bowl Social
Three levels of entertainment, multiple bars and a “gastro-diner” are just a few reasons why Denver import Punch Bowl Social is a great spot for a fun night out with friends and family. Charge up with a wide array of comfort food dishes, as well as cocktails and boozy milkshakes, and enjoy diverse activities including bowling, darts, ping pong, shuffleboard, skee ball, arcade games, pinball, karaoke and more.
Replay Beer & Bourbon
A night out doesn’t get much better than with arcade games and an extensive selection of bourbon and craft beers. Soak it up with a seasonal, eclectic menu of bites including soy miso-glazed crispy pork belly, beef empanadas, smoked meatloaf and a Cubano sandwich. Afterwards, head next door to cocktail lounge Elixir—which is open until 3 a.m. on most nights—and enjoy a nightcap. There's also another location in Boystown.
If there was any doubt that ping pong is on the upswing, it vanished when Susan Sarandon brought her social club to Chicago earlier this year. The award-winning actress is a co-founder of the ping pong concept that originated in New York and has since expanded nationwide. When you’ve worked up an appetite, try the farm-to-table flatbreads, sandwiches, salads and shareable small plates.
Uptown continues to thrive with the addition of its very own arcade bar. Patrons can play around 35 arcade games and pinball machines for free or bust out board games such as Battleship and Clue. The drink list places an emphasis on local craft brews and whiskeys and customers are welcome to bring food from the numerous surrounding restaurants in the area, which often means a plethora of delicious banh mi and spring rolls.
Lacrosse meets bumper cars for a uniquely unathletic team sport. The 50,000 square-foot complex in Bucktown plays host to competitors in the indoor five-on-five game that’s become a cult hit around the country. In between games, guests can also go bowling, grab a drink or indulge in the revamped food menu that includes items like craft pizzas, burgers, Japanese crab cakes, bruschetta, smoked mac & cheese and more.