Have a Ball at These Bars Made for Gamers
Ideal for a fun date or alternative night on the town with friends, game-focused bars are increasingly sprouting up around the city. Pair your beer with some healthy competition at these joints and it’s sure to be a winning occasion.
SPiN (48 E. 23rd St.)
The casual concept of a ping pong bar is dressed up into an upscale lounge that verges on being a posh club at SPiN, Manhattan’s location of this global chain of ping pong extravaganza. In Flatiron, it’s a weekday hotspot for young professionals in the area coming to play out some steam after work, while on weekends, big groups come in for night-long tournaments that can last until 2 a.m.
A full-service bar and kitchen offers a variety of beer on tap, bottled craft cocktails, and locally sourced dinner fare such as market green salads, short rib poutine, and pizzas topped with fennel and sage honey. Due to this spot’s popularity, reservations are recommended, especially during “peak hours” listed on SPiN’s website. Or, you can always pop in and sip a Backspin—Monkey Shoulder, coffee-infused rum, banana and bitters liqueurs, and a spiced syrup—while you wait and suss out the competition.
Two Door Tavern (1573 Third Ave.)
American pub food has made year-old Two Door Tavern a spot favored on the Upper East Side for its utter lack of pretense and casual neighborhood bar vibes. There are weekly deals like $2 tacos on Tuesdays, and brunches of red velvet pancakes and three-egg omelets are automatically made boozy by a choice of two complimentary cocktails, set in a lovely atmosphere flooded with sun shining through the skylights.
The spot also fills up in the evenings for its daily happy hours, when guests filter in, sundazed from lounging in Central Park or worn from perusing the halls of the Met, in want of nothing fancier than a cold draft beer or frozen cocktail and a couple games of skeeball and pinball to keep the fun going.
The Gutter (200 N. 14th St., Williamsburg)
Nowhere feels like a more appropriate place to spend some quality time in Brooklyn than The Gutter, an old-school bowling alley that’s a watering hole for anyone looking to slip on some two-toned shoes and have a good time. Some might call its vibe “vintage,” but this place has no qualms about being straight-up grungy—that’s part of its appeal.
Reservations for the eight lanes aren’t accepted (nor is anyone under 21 allowed), meaning that bowlers will likely have to spend some time hanging out on the worn banquettes or playing arcade games in the front room. Notably, however, the selection of beers is decidedly modern, with taps bearing handles from a variety of craft breweries to ensure that bowlers are well hydrated, in one sense of the term, when their turn for a lane rolls around. Some say it helps with their aim.
Barcade (388 Union Ave., Brooklyn; 6 St. Marks Pl.)
The Brooklyn version of Dave & Buster’s is Barcade, which has stood since 2004 as a temple of nostalgia for arcade game lovers. Here, a quarter can buy you a game on more than 30 different machines, including favorites such as Crazy Taxi, Ms. Pac-Man, Star Wars Trilogy, Ninja Turtles, Soviet-themed Tetris, and Time Traveler, Sega’s 1991 “holographic game” that was meant to revolutionize game playing with 3D effects.
Bring a sack of coins, because cards aren’t taken for the games themselves, though you may need one to start a bar tab in order to sample some of the craft beers on tap that are nearly as numerous in options as the games. A second location on St. Mark’s Place along with three other locations around the Northeast have sprouted up following in the wake of Brooklyn’s success, while those who fear they may not be back for a while can download the Barcade phone app. Alternatively, use it to prepare in advance and impress your fellow gamers with your Tetris-fitting prowess.
The Creek and the Cave (10-93 Jackson Ave.)
Long Island City’s The Creek and The Cave is fast becoming one of the best comedy spots in the five boroughs—or, scratch that, entertainment spots. This multi-level joint offers nightly stand-up and open-mic comedy in the theater upstairs, along with a calendar of DJs and live music and studios open to book for band practice or to shoot a film project, drawing a crowd of creative entrepreneurs at all hours.
That said, it’s also a generally great place to come have a bite in its Mexican restaurant, sip on south-of-the-border cocktails, and hang out. There’s a back patio for nice weather, while gamers can hole up in the room of eight pinball machines.