Chances are, you’ve probably been to a dive bar with one lonesome pinball machine, but some of Chicago’s most exciting bars are home to entire arcades. After popping up in neighborhoods such as Wicker Park and Logan Square, arcade bars are now a citywide phenomenon. So start gathering your loose change because The Phoenix found the best bars to play arcade games at while drinking in Chicago.
The Game Room at The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel (12 S. Michigan Ave.)
Originally known as the building’s billiards room, this space was beau- tifully restored in 2015 and is now known as the Chicago Athletic Association’s Game Room. The Game Room is located on the second floor of the hotel and offers guests a wide variety of games to enjoy including an area for bocce ball, foosball, shuffleboard and pool, all of which are free of charge. The menu consists of finger-friendly concession stand classics that were inspired by the original menu from the 1890s. Famed Chicago mixologist, Paul McGee, is the brains behind the hotel’s cocktail menu. His idea was to have a list of house cocktails, a rotating selection of historic cocktails and, of course, a healthy selection of beer. Open daily 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
AceBounce (230 N. Clark St.)
Ping-pong and partying go better together than you would’ve ever thought. Located on prime real estate adjacent to the Chicago River downtown, you’ll find AceBounce, Chicago’s ping-pong themed bar and restaurant. AceBounce’s Chicago bar is the first location outside of England, and the spacious venue is perfect for birthdays or group events. The interior is modern and trendy, especially with the neon paint on the walls and backlights. AceBounce boasts 16 ping-pong tables and a sectioned-off area just for glow-in-the-dark matches.
The restaurant and bar has solid cocktails, and upscale but accessible food which include dishes such as a tender porcini crusted skirt steak accompanied by sweet and sour brussel sprouts, beef short rib and mushroom ragu over pappardelle packed with flavor, and the mouthwatering fried mushrooms with tarragon aioli for dipping. While serious ping-pong players are welcome, AceBounce encourages guests with no skill to give it a try. If you do plan to go here, make sure to book a table in advance because the wait can get pretty lengthy during weekends and evenings. Open Monday-Thursday. 4 p.m-12 a.m., Friday-Saturday. 12 p.m.-1 a.m. and closed on Sunday.
Emporium Arcade Bar (2363 N. Milwaukee Ave.)
Emporium’s retro arcade bar is the perfect spot for old-school gamers. With two locations in Wicker Park and Logan Square, Emporium’s popularity is slowly increasing. You can play games from the last 30 years, including shuffleboard, air hockey, pinball and a wide array of arcade games including Donkey-Kong, Pac-Man, and Rampage. You can also sip on craft beer and whiskey while listening to live music performances. Emporium has you covered on food, too. At the Wicker Park location, staff offer a number of bar food options. If you aren’t feeling those, they even let you bring your own food. The Logan Square location enlists various food trucks to stop by the bar, giving customers a small glimpse into the vast scene of Chicago mobile dining. The owners and staff ensure a community essence by installing artwork made by people living in Chicago. If you are an artist, you can send your material to them and they might even put your work on display. Open Monday-Thursday 5 p.m.-2 a.m., Friday 3 p.m.-2 a.m., Saturday 12 p.m.-3 a.m. and Sunday 12 p.m.-2 a.m.
Headquarters Beercade (213 W. Institute Pl.)
River North’s vintage Beercade bar offers pinball and arcade games, and all games are free to play. When you walk in, you’ll notice the vintage television sets and pop art covering the walls. The bar offers affordable food and has some of the tastiest hand-crafted cocktails inspired from the 1980s and 1990s. Many different events are hosted here including the upcoming funky brunch event with electronic music duo MSTRKRFT performing on Feb. 26, and tickets are available to purchase through their website. Headquarters Beercade separates their bar from the stereotypical nightlife seen in River North and takes on a more low-key with high energy approach by mixing nostalgic games from the past and craft cocktails. Open Mon.-Thurs. 5 p.m.-2 a.m., Fri. 3 p.m.-2 a.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-3 a.m. and Sun. 11 a.m.-2 a.m.
Logan Arcade (2410 W. Fullerton Ave.)
Logan Arcade was originally located in the back room of Logan Hardware, a record store and vintage arcade museum. But once that moved down the street, the Arcade took over the space. With a large base of returning customers, Logan Arcade hosts weekly music and arts events. Pints of beer are $2 off Monday through Friday as part of their happy hour. They also have Movie Mondays where guests are invited to enjoy a movie and free popcorn. It’s a laid back environment with a friendly neighborhood feel. Killer Queen is an old game that many gamers used to play and specifically come here to play it. Open Monday-Friday 3 p.m.-2 a.m., Saturday 12 p.m.-3 a.m. and Sun- day 12 p.m.-2 a.m.
Replay Beer and Bourbon (5358 N. Clark St. and 3439 N. Halsted St.)
A newer addition on this list, Replay stands out in that they have the largest bourbon and whiskey collection of any of the arcade bars in Chicago. They have something on the menu for everyone and use only sustainably raised, locally sourced ingredients. Replay, with two locations, one in Andersonville just South and West of the Lake Shore Campus, and another in Lakeview, serves lunch, dinner and late night snacks daily. Open Monday-Friday 3 p.m.-2 a.m., Saturday 12 p.m.-3 a.m. and Sunday 12 p.m.-2 a.m.