When I was growing up, my mom and I used to go to a local laundromat at least once a week. Naturally, a child gets stir crazy in a space like that. Luckily, our laundromat had a PAC-MAN arcade game. My mom would even join in the fun, using the extra quarters we had to play one of her fav games: Galaga. Two decades later, I'm obsessed with playing Galaga every time I notice it in a room.
Recently, The Corner Pub — one of my constant hangouts for you non-readers — got rid of a Golden Tee game and replaced it with a multicade machine complete with Galaga! Enter: the resurgence of my passion. Usually, I'm a person who hates games. Anytime someone mentions playing beer pong, flip cup, cornhole, etc., I'm always the one that rolls my eyes and opts out. That's why my boo was shocked that I was flipping out over this new discovery.
Next thing you know, we were creating our own tour of a handful of arcade game bars in the Queen City. A couple I'd been to before, and I visited one new one. Check out three of my go-to arcade bars instead of hitting up your usual spots this weekend.
Lucky's Bar and Arcade
Lucky's is your best choice for gaming if you're looking to stay Uptown. It's conveniently located where the old BAR Charlotte was in North Side Station. This spacious venue has been open for almost two years.
Pros: Convenient location. Unlike some of the divier arcade bars across the city, Lucky's has plenty of space for you to move around. While I'm not a huge fan of the taste of the cocktails I've tried, their drink menu features "interesting" drinks like the martini with a piece of Nerds rope. While you can't get food direct from Lucky's, you can order food from Flight Beer Garden & Music Hall. You can check out some of their games online before you visit. Also, the '90s pop culture mash-up murals adorning the walls alone make it worth at least one trip
Cons: There's a minimum purchase upon entry. Instead of quarters, you get tokens, so you'll have to hang onto them and hope you don't lose them before your next visit. Most people avoid the specialty cocktail menu. Also, on several occasions multiple games have been out of order during a visit. Overall, I'd argue most patrons are more interested in the "clubby atmosphere" versus the gaming experience. (300 N. College St. #104, luckycharlotte.com)
Abari Game Bar
Charlotte's first true game bar. Let's be real, most of y'all bit off owner Zach Pulliam's innovative idea. If you remember, I interviewed him before the spot opened and got the inside scoop. Three years later, this intimate arcade and game bar is the preferred choice for gamers when overhearing conversations between true gaming geeks.
Pros: Memberships are $1 (bring cash). Private parking. You can get cash back at the bar by using your debit card. You put quarters, not tokens, in the machines so you can take home the extra cash at the end of the night and actually use it. They serve craft beer, cheap domestics and liquor. This venue is perfect for experienced gamers. Check out all of their games — including rare machines like 10-player Killer Queen — on their website.
Cons: No food, womp womp womp. Even Joe's Doughs next door is officially closed, although a food truck is sometimes parked out front on busier nights. While the small space is cozy, the game space can feel a bit congested. (1721 N. Davidson St., abarigamebar.com)
This was the only arcade bar that I hadn't been to yet. I was in South End and the boo thang suggested we go try our hand at pinball and arcade games at a different spot. The latest addition to the arcade scene, this spot is an underrated choice for gaming in the Q.C.
Pros: Memberships are $1 (bring cash). Private parking. No cash back at the bar for games. But all vintage games are FREE. Yes, I said free.99! And pinball is only 50 cents. Not to mention, the setup of the venue leaves plenty of elbow room while you're playing. They do have a food menu, however, it's not the one you'll find on Yelp: pretzels, pretzel bites, corn dogs and chips.
Cons: There weren't any corn dogs left when we went and I left my card. *insert sad face* Game selection was limited to 40 machines. While vintage games were free, there were only a few. Other than that, based on the time we went on a Saturday until 6ish, I have no complaints. (412 W. Palmer St., facebook.com/palmerstgamebar)
Now get your game on, Queen City!