Bar arcades bring a spirited wave of nostalgia to Metro Phoenix.

Joy Schtick

Written by Desiree Pharias Category: Valley News Issue: May 2016
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Cobra Arcade BarPHM0516PF JS 02

Location: 801 N. Second St., Phoenix

Quick pitch: Classic arcade games meet contemporary art in an alcohol-fueled time warp.

Owners: Ariel Bracamonte and Chuckie Duff, in partnership with Genuine Concepts

Opened: January 2016

After years of accumulating nearly 120 vintage arcade games from all over the country (he even had games shipped in from New York), Ariel Bracamonte

PHM0516PF JS 01opened Cobra Arcade Bar in the Downtown Phoenix arts district. Bracamonte’s passion for art permeates the arcade, from sprawling murals in the bathroom hallway to the vintage games themselves, many of which – including Galaga, NBA Jam and Battletoads – have had their cabinets painted by local artists, including Thomas “Breeze” Marcus and Noelle Martinez. Bracamonte, who has called Phoenix home for 15 years, rotates the lineup of vintage games (only 40 are on the floor at a time), and says the idea is that Cobra Arcade Bar is a place for everyone to enjoy, “whether they grew up playing these games, or barely discovered them.” Along with the nostalgic feeling of popping a coin into a machine to get your game on, guests can sip on game-themed cocktails such as an Asteroid, or enjoy a glass of wine or one of 14 draft beers, which include local favorites like Huss Brewing Co.’s Scottsdale Blonde and Oak Creek Brewing Co.’s Nut Brown. Bracamonte has plans to open multiple locations, perhaps one in Tucson, as well as to bring pinball machines to the Downtown location. “There is not another bar out there like this,” Bracamonte says. 

Endgame Bar & Restaurant 

Location: 699 S. Mill Ave., Tempe 

Quick pitch: A console gamer’s paradise hits a crossroads after calling Mill Avenue home for years.

Owner: Ryan Scott

Opened: October 2014 

Ryan Scott had long dreamed of a hangout for gamers, a place with a “nerdy atmosphere” bolstered by cosplayers clustered around gaming consoles. After seeing the bar arcade scene in Portland, he brought the concept home and opened Endgame in Tempe a couple years ago, replete with PCs and gaming consoles from Dreamcasts to Xbox 360s. On most nights, all 15 PCs are in use, and classic games (from a library of more than 723 different titles) such as Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog bling and ding across the screens. Scott completed his vision with local beers on tap and mixed drinks with appropriate names like Yoshi’s Island Punch. Sadly, Scott will be closing his current location in early June and will be looking for a new home.

The Grid: Games and Growlers

Location: 525 S. Gilbert Rd., Mesa

Quick pitch: A neighborhood pub geared toward fans of classic coin-ops, home consoles and RockBand. With lots of beer.  

Owners: Michael Goosens and Matthew Robbins

Opened: October 2015

Grid co-owner Michael Goosens decided to try a bar arcade out in Mesa because there is “not much going on, but a lot of people.” Well, there’s plenty going on now at The Grid – along with classic arcade games such as Killer Queen (which you can play against others on Thursdays at Killer Queen League Night) and gaming consoles, you can find live music from retro synth-pop artists like Who Ha and Future Holotape and weekly competitive leagues. RockBand Mondays are popular, as guests choose from more than 900 songs to grind out on plastic instruments. They have numerous craft beers on rotating tap, which could include local brews from Desert Eagle Brewing Company or a geek-tastic beer like metal band Iron Maiden’s Trooper English ale.