Barcade is a retro arcade, bar and restaurant with 9 locations in the US. Since 2011 they’ve had a successful location in Fishtown Philly, and this Saturday they open their second Philadelphia, with the new location in Center City on Chestnut St near Broad.
The team at Barcade invited me to a preview event last night, and I had an opportunity to play classic video games and more modern pinball machines, drink delicious craft beers, try their tasty food… and take a lot of photos which I share here with the 42Freeway readers!
This new Center City Barcade is in an excellent location at 1326 Chestnut St, directly next to Lucky Strike Bowling. They are a block off of Broad Street, a block from City Hall, and across from Fogo De Chao and the rear of Macy’s (Wanamakers Building).
The new Barcade provides plenty of reasons itself to check it out (which we’ll get into), but this area has really become a popular hotspot for interesting and exciting bars and restaurants within a short walking distance. The long-time popular McGillan’s Ale House is a 2 minute walk!
So it could make for a fun day in the city for everyone including South Jersey folks! Uber to a Patco station, and the train will take you just a few blocks away.
But let’s focus on the excitement that is the new BarCade Center City!
Barcade Center City
Barcade Center City is a two-story bar, restaurant and classic arcade venue which is configured in a deep rectangular space.
The floor between the lower and upper levels is removed for a significant portion, which creates more of an atrium/mezzanine feel for the space. From the second floor this offers a great vantage point to look down to the bar below, and patrons.
Inside, the decor leans towards a darker modern industrial theme with black painted walls and floor structures. That being said, the long wall that runs along Juniper Street has a significant amount of large windows to the outside.
The entrance is on Chestnut Street and is a more recently added modern glass front foyer. You walk in to a more narrow entrance lined with a row of games… and then about 30 feet in the space opens up to the full Barcade venue and its large two story open-atrium bar and arcade area.
Taking those first steps into the main open bar and arcade is likely to elicit a “oh wow, this is cool” response… not too much different then when the adventurous kids first walked into the colorful Wonka Chocolate factory main room.
The preview event started at 5:00pm and my buddy and I arrived close to that opening time. Early in the evening it was initially quiet, but within an hour or two the place began to fill up.
It was nice timing for us because we had a chance to grab a bite to eat, check out the place and get photos… all before things got more crowded
The large open space features a long bar which is positioned along the outer wall (Juniper Street side).
A center position draft system features 24 taps. Barcade has implemented a simple but very effective way of describing the selection… by painting a chalkboard surface directly above the taps, where they can very easily update the beer selection names, and it just makes sense to be listed at the center of the bar over top of the taps.
They’ve made a smart move by allocating ALL 24 taps to unique craft beers. I would think you can get a Corona, Miller Lite or some other high volume beer… but you’re going to get them in a bottle or can. The fresh poured draft beer taps are reserved for the more unique craft offerings.
And understand when I say this… while I am a huge beer fan, I am not a “beer nerd”… but only two of the 24 offerings at Barcade Center City were things that I had heard of before! So if your looking to try a new-to-you beer, this could be your place!
And of course it’s the full liquor license so you can get the latest cocktails or wine.
UPDATE: After posting this they updated their location website and they are offering Happy Hour Specials, a Citywide All-Day Special, and Lunch Special! check the website for details
This lower level features a variety of games on the opposite wall of the bar including a large selection of pinball machines which lean more towards modern digital machines. There are also several pinball machines on the second level.
The arcade games and pinball machines were likely split evenly between the two floors, although I didn’t take the time to count!
The first floor across from the bar featured the larger pinball machines selection which included Star Wars, Iron Maiden and more. On either side of the pinball section were a variety of arcade video games.
The pinball machines were on the more modern multi-level, chutes, digital scoring a display screen era… whereas for video games Barcade leans more towards the classic variety.. from the arcade Hey-Days of the 80s and 90s.
Probably the first game we pumped our tokens into was Asteroids. Still known today as one of the top all-time greatest video games despite… it being released back in 1979!
With the arcade being new it was also nice to easily capture a top score on the games, and get our initials on the screen… at least temporarily. Barcade does also maintain a top score board for a large selection of games.
I should mention at this time that barcade is using a token based system, and some of the machines do require multiple tokens. I found that the classic video games were basically all one token, but a few of the more modern pinball machines required up to three tokens.
I like the choice of the token system. It’s not as old school as straight up quarters, but it still gives you the classic arcade experience that you just don’t get with the swipe cards that you’ll find with other big name arcades.
Galaga and Miss Pac-Man were also a fun walk down memory lane, as well as the colorful Williams games… Joust and Defender were on hand. But to my disappointment, my favorite video game Robotron 2084 (from that same Williams series) was nowhere to be found! But I’ll let them slide for that one small transgression!
But then of course they even go more old school with a classic cocktail table style pong game (which originally dates back 50 years to 1972) and the Fire Truck game from 1978!
That being said the overall mix of video games definitely is centered on the heyday of arcade gaming from the 80s and 90s… Burgertime, Mr Do, Smash TV and many other games that will have you saying “oh how did I never know of this one?”
I grew up in Bellmawr on the West side, and playing these games stirred up many memories of my regular bike rides to the arcades at Westbrook Lanes, Weber’s Wave skateboard park or the numerous local stores that all had one or two video games!
Back them while we had home video game consoles, the tech behind the home systems and televisions was so blocky and archaic, paying arcade games was a regular if not daily thing for young kids of the era! But I digress!
For Barcade Center City, as mentioned the upstairs was configured like a mezzanine with a large notch cut out of the floor.
There is a center mezzanine walking area lined with arcade games, and then at the front and back end of Barcade are full width sections.
The front portion of the second level featured additional arcade games as well as several tables. The back corner room of the second floor area features several more pinball machines, a few games… as well as the restrooms.
I mentioned that the overall style was a darker industrial vibe, but Barcade was still well lit and offers windows in the main bar area. I need to stop back during the day to see how the natural light changes the aesthetic.
One of the bonus advantages of this preview was that food was provided to us, with a variety of choices set up on the second floor in a buffet style.
While I didn’t get to order entrees from the menu, I did try a variety of their delicious wings, tacos and sliders. I assume these are items right from their regular menu but you’ll have to stop in to check! Honestly everything was very good!
As I mentioned, this area really has developed into a deliciously fun place to visit with shopping, restaurants, bars and fun activities all within walking distances around Barcade.
The Barcade Center City corner is at Chestnut and Juniper. Juniper is a little side street which connects down to Sansom. Now I only mentioned this again because I think it’s a significant landmark for people trying to understand where Barcade is located, but in the middle of the narrow Juniper is where Drury Ave connects… and that is where McGillans is located! You can seen the Irish Pub’s signature front entrance sign from inside Barcade.
Also very close are Tradesman’s, Bru, Fergie’s, Wicked Wolf… and for a little bit longer the virally popular Tinsel holiday pop-up bar!
So consider a visit to Barcade Center City, and make sure you give yourself time to check out what this area of Philadelphia has to offer!
Links and Location
Barcade Center City
1326 Chestnut St