A beer arcade or "beercade" is an arcade that serves beer or a bar specializing in vintage video and pinball games. As opposed to Dave & Busters and Gameworks, these beercades are small and independently owned. It's not entirely a new phenomenon to serve alcohol at an arcade, but these three venues reclaim older machines in good repair like Atari's Caterpillar, Space Invaders, Pac Man, Mrs. Pac Man, Mario Brothers, Duck Hunt, Mortal Combat and a dozen pinball machines ranging from Jurassic Park to a new Metallica and Avatar game.
Where these neighborhood joints differ is the old school arcade games, craft beer, and bring-you-own-food policy. No matter which one you venture to, these beercades pack them in. So get in line next to your favorite game and fortify yourself with a cold draft beer.
Emporium makes you nostalgic for traditional arcades you used to find at your local shopping mall. This beercade is truly an arcade first and a bar second, which is why you pay a quarter for each game. Bring plenty of cash, but a little goes a long way. The bar is located at the center of the venue, but the black box interior draws all the attention toward the games. All the beer here is on draft mostly from the Midwest, which will warm the heart of any beer aficionado.
The bartenders here are knowledgeable about the beer selection, including which ones are locally produced. The beer menu changes regularly according to the season and availability, which is a good incentive to return and experiment with something new. There is an extensive list of whisky and bourbon, and if you're hungry, the bar is BYOF (bring your own food).
This beercade attracts a preppy crowd because of its location in the Sheffield corridor, an artery extending south from Wrigleyville. However, the combination of beer and arcade games is a total equalizer. Half of the beer here is served in tallboy aluminum cans but is produced by craft brewers. The space is much deeper than Emporium and more cavern-like. There are three bars to Emporium's single long bar, but only the back bar at Headquarters serves beer on draft.
If wasting aluminum cans hurts your environmentalist heart, stick with pint glasses, but feel reassured that the bars are made with recycled Jameson whisky barrels. What sets Headquarters apart is the free play. No tokens are required on any machine, which means there's more money to drink with. Also, Headquarters has partnered with GrubHub to deliver food from outside directly to the bar door, which is a really nice touch.
This is the only beercade in Boystown, but the clientele is not the only thing that sets it apart from Emporium and Headquarters. It's the former home of Buck's Saloon, one of original gay bars on Halsted street. The incredibly large back patio has a full bar serving the same 24 rotating craft beers on draft that are available at the front bar. A bartender nicknamed, Vegas, gladly talked us through the extensive shelf of bourbon, whiskey, rye, and scotch and helped us select a sipping bourbon to cap off the night.
The bar is decorated with Moose Heads and dark bourbon barrel color wood. The music is a mix of 80s era gay favorites and modern house music. Vintage games are free to play and the pinball machines are 75 cents. This Boystown bourbon and beer arcade should appeal to any taste. Just make sure you don't waste your order on a bud light.
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