Space Age Whiz Kids …
In recent years, there has been a small trend toward the opening of what are often called “brewcades” (or beercades, or barcades). Bars that prominently feature video games (often vintage ones) as the primary feature (aside from the craft beer taps).
The beginning of the genre actually goes back a decade or so, but – as is typical in the Midwest – has only reached Ohio in the past three or four years. 16 Bit, the first of which opened in Columbus in 2013, followed closely by Cleveland and Cincinnati, takes an upscale approach with a broad range of high-end and boutique whiskeys and bourbons as well as a sleek, well-designed décor. The establishment does not offer food, but the games are free as long as you are drinking. (Seems legit.)
One of the newer chains came to Austin Landing last November. Bar 145 is a more “Joe Six-Pack” vibe, and adds regular live music to the mix. Technically, the section with the arcade is dubbed “Reset” and is a “bar-within-a-bar” … although the separation is really just in the owners’ minds, ads far as it matters to the patrons. Games are also free to play. The food is hyped as “upscale gastro-pub” fare. But since this author tries to focus on the culture of the bar, I will leave it to the reader to decide how they achieve.
As Arlo Guthrie might say, however, “I’m not here to talk about that.”
I’m here to talk about the place that is executing perfectly their vision of the brewcade. DK Effect. (As in – one assumes – Donkey Kong, not Dunning-Kruger.)
DK Effect opened this summer on East Third Street, across from the very popular Taqueria Mixteca. A “neighborhood bar” vibe complements perfectly the great combination of retro (some would say ancient) games, side-by-side with more recent options the Millennials will find familiar.
Put simply – “I love this bar.”
The bar itself has embedded video screens which offer free play of “emulated” games such as Pac Man and Galaga. The selection of taps is impressive (30, I believe?), and the prices are VERY reasonable. Original cocktails inspired by video games are clever, if tending a bit too much toward “they are all too sweet”. (Possibly popular with the audience, I will admit.)
With each drink you order, you are handed a soufflé cup filled with tokens … encouraging you to leave the bar stool and explore the arcade. This is brilliant. Even for people with little interest, the motivation of “well, they handed us these tokens so we might as well go use them” is actually a BETTER plan than just offering free play on the machines. It promotes “flow” and social interaction, and gently nudges the whole place toward a lively atmosphere.
DK Effect offers pizza by-the-slice which is brought in by Pizza Factory. They also do “Taco Tuesday” featuring the aforementioned Taqueria. Periodic visits from food trucks, such as S&S Meathouse rounds-out the offerings. Again, I think it is a wise choice to keep their focus on the drinks, the games, and the vibe.
Owners Tony Clark and Kimberly Green are engaged, present, and make great ambassadors for the brand. They clearly had a dream for this place, and they are executing it flawlessly. I will be back, and highly recommend a visit, for Space Age Whiz Kids of all ages.