I have a secret – I love dive bars. So when we are on a trip and I hear about a local dive bar that cranks out killer food, offers micro-brews, pours a stiff drink and has pinball, I have no choice but to check it out.
Here’s what Terri and I found.
The Highlander late night bar in midtown Atlanta has been filling bellies and slinging drinks since 1992. The crowd at The Highlander is mostly alternative lifestyle types and after all of the other bars have closed in ATL, this is where the bartenders, cooks and waitstaff apparently come to decompress.
The exterior seating area of The Highlander
On any given night you will likely find folks shooting pool, feeding quarters into the video games and yes, playing pinball on one of their two machines:
The Walking Dead LE (Stern, 2014)
Star Trek Pro (Stern, 2013)
These games are in the back room by the pool tables. Both games are quarters only; $1 per game or 3 games for $2. The games have been well maintained and are a great deal of fun. Star Trek seems to have been set particularly generously for free games and matches.
It may be of interest to you that AMC network’s popular TV series The Walking Dead was principally filmed in Atlanta and nearby Senoia, GA. We visited Senoia (a.k.a. ‘Woodbury’ in the TV series) on this trip.
A popular location for filming
Supposedly there is a TWD pinball for sale in The Woodbury Shoppe also known as The Official Walking Dead Store located on Main Street in Senoia. We couldn’t confirm this because the store was closed when we visited. It would have been nice if Nic and Norman’s restaurant in Senoia, where we went for dinner, had a TWD game in the bar area. No such luck.
The sign outside Nic & Norman’s restaurant
But I digress.
I am at a loss for words to describe The Highlander’s menu other than possibly say that it is ‘Gastro Punk’, if there is such a phrase. Take for example their Pasta-Rella which is a new twist on the bar favorite fried mozzarella sticks where the cheese is wrapped in pasta prior to deep- frying.
Pastarella at The Highlander
The Highlander’s Jamaican Jerk Chili put them on the culinary map and also was featured on an episode in season 4 of the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives television show hosted by Guy Fieri. Since that show, The Highlander’s head chef ‘Ice’ Jahumpa has crafted a very sat isfying white vegetarian chili with many of the same complex flavors but without the meat.
Jamaican Jerk Chili
On Tuesday nights, The Highlander offers ‘All You Can Eat’ crab legs served from 11am to 9pm. Wednesday ‘The Devil’s In The Kitchen’ and all burgers are $6.66.
Crab Legs – it must be Tuesday
Thursdays feature $5 pitchers of PBR and three styles of tacos for $2.95 a piece.
Friday’s special is Nashville Hot fried chicken with home-style macaroni and cheese.
Weekends are the time for local metal and punk bands to take the stage at The Highlander (hearing protection suggested).
On any night you can order a pitcher of their award winning tater tots. The Highlander’s ‘Tots All The Way’ were recently voted best in ATL by the Atlanta Thrillist. They are smothered with so much goodness that it would make any plate of nachos jealous.
Tots all the Way
The Highlander proudly offers beer from local breweries such as Three Taverns, Eventide Brewing, 5 Seasons, and so on. Beer not your thing? Shots of Maker’s Mark or Jack Daniel’s are also available.
The Highlander supports local artists, proudly displaying and selling their work featured on the walls.
As you might expect from a hard rock bar, the so called decoration (read: graffiti) in the rest rooms is creative, but on top of that the main entrance is literally opaque with stickers from local bands and record companies. Because of this first timers who might be disoriented are advised to look for the stickers to find the entrance.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), The Highlander is one of the few bars in the Atlanta area that allow smoking inside. Be aware that the inside area of the bar is absolutely saturated with the smell of tobacco smoke. If you are at all sensitive to the smell of smoke, this is not a place for you.
I found The Highlander to be an engaging and fun dive bar with an over-achieving menu, a great selection of drinks and fun to play pinball games. The Highlander is located in an interesting neighborhood with quite a few small shops and places such as The Atlanta Cupcake Factory to explore when you visit.
I understand that dive bars may not be everyone’s ‘thing’ but a visit to The Highlander in mid-town Atlanta might just make this dive bar a favorite.
AMT scale model kit company will be releasing the all new Dirty Donny’s ‘Pinball Punk!’ unassembled and unpainted resin figure kit in June 2017.
The kit includes a stand-up pinball machine with multiple graphic option decals. The figure and pinball machine when assembled is approximately 1/8 actual size.
Dirty Donny’s Pinball Punk! resin kit
As Pinball News readers may recall, Dirty Donny (Gillies) has done backglass and playfield art for several games including the recently released Pabst Blue Ribbon Can Crusher, Aerosmith and Metallica, all produced by Stern Pinball.
Dirty Donny has collaborated with AMT in the design of other model kits including the Vantasy and Dirty Donny’s Super Bee. Suggested Retail Price (USA) $34.99.
AMT is a registered trade mark of Round 2 LLC, 4073 Meghan Beeler Court, South Bend, Indiana 46628, USA.
“One of the best bars in the U.S.” – Esquire Magazine
Manuel’s reminds me of how neighborhood bars used to be in the heartland of America; a visitor can find, at any given time, a broad cross-section of American culture rubbing elbows, discussing the news item of the day, arguing the merits of a particular sports team, or supporting the idea of the century.
The exterior of Manuel’s Tavern
I found the waitstaff to be friendly and attentive as needed, but not overly so. The selection of beers and other refreshments should satisfy anyone’s needs and I felt that the menu is outstanding.
Inside Manuel’s Tavern
Manuel’s has been in the same location in Atlanta Midtown since 1956 – the owner modeled it on the taverns he had visited while stationed in England during the second World War. He filled the Tavern with salvaged furnishings – mismatched chairs and tables, booths, lighting fixtures, wall paneling – from grand old homes and stores scheduled for demolition.
Manuel’s recently completed a complete renovation and interior re-construction that kept the most recognizable parts of the classic decor while cleaning up and modernizing the rest.
Just before the six-month renovation, a project was completed to digitize all of the photos, paintings, pennants, etc. on the walls of Manuel’s Tavern. The project brought together Georgia State University, Emory University, Savannah College of Art and Design and the Atlanta Studies Network who worked to preserve the ‘organic archive’ that these items represent.
Many items were discovered including an unmarked container above the bar housing the ashes of original owner Manuel Maloof, dusty beer cans, moldering sports pennants, law enforcement uniform patches, snapshots of well-known politicians (including former President Jimmy Carter) and anonymous tipplers, risqué oil paintings traded as payment for ancient tabs and a stuffed rodent, the subject of an inside joke (“Darrel Caudill Memorial Door,” a plaque beneath it reads) that the owners will not spoil.
Historical paraphernalia behind the bar
I visited Manuel’s during a weekday lunch hour and ordered their ‘Stadium Dog’ with a side order of fried onion rings. I was asked what I wanted on my hot dog and I said, “everything”, without fully understanding what that meant. ‘Everything’ at Manuel’s means ‘Loaded’ and includes chili, sauerkraut, cheese sauce, coleslaw, chopped onion, pickle spear, relish, and other things that I couldn’t identify. There were so many toppings on the Loaded ‘dog that it couldn’t easily be eaten like a sandwich – it had to be eaten with a knife and fork.
The fully-loaded Stadium Dog, with onion rings
Although I did not have the courage to order it, Manuel’s most popular hot dog is called the Dogzilla. It is a ½lb grilled tube steak on a bakery style roll served with french fried potatoes.
The Dogzilla can be ordered ‘Loaded’ the same as the stadium dog mentioned above. I was told by the bartender that on the typical day Manuel’s serves two miles of hot dogs.
I felt that my lunch with two Pabst Blue Ribbon draft beers (don’t judge) was very reasonably-priced and left lots of change for a generous tip and quarters for the game room. The featured beer when I visited was Prairie Artisan Ales’ Prairie Bomb, which is a 13% ABV decadent descent into coffee, chocolate, and vanilla bean taste sensations. I had a small sample but felt since I was driving it was a bit too potent.
Although I didn’t have a chance to try breakfast at Manuel’s this trip, I was told that their eggs are provided by the free-range chickens that roost on the roof of the tavern.
Manuel’s game room is located to the left of the main entrance near the newly reconstructed washrooms. In the game room is the Golden Tee video game seemingly found in the majority of bars in America, Big Buck Hunter, darts, and two nearly-new and well-maintained pinball games:
• Ghostbusters LE (Stern, 2016)
• Batman 66 Premium (Stern, 2016)
The two pinballs in Manuel’s Tavern game room
Both are priced at 50 cents per 3-ball game – quarters only. While I was at Manuel’s the Ghostbusters game was in constant use so I played Batman 66; my first time playing this game.
Ghostbusters Limited Edition
Batman 66 Premium
As someone mentioned on the Pinball Map website, the left flipper return spring for the Batman 66 at Manuel’s is either broken or dislodged so that was a bummer. The game is still very playable and I was able to win a game on points my first try. I found the game to be addictive and played quite a few games until the time for my visit had expired.
Playing the Batman 66
There is no change machine in the game room but the bartenders are happy to change dollars to quarters with a smile if needed.
On weekend nights, certain rooms of Manuel’s Tavern are reserved for board-gamers; including one of the largest Dungeons and Dragons gaming groups in the USA.
Manuel’s Tavern has been a family-run treasure of a working class bar and restaurant with friendly staff and a huge history in the Atlanta community if not the whole of Georgia. Even today Manuel’s is a gathering place for local politicians, blue-collar workers, the press, writers, actors, policemen, and just about anyone else you can imagine. In Manuel’s parking lot there is a prominent sign marking a prime parking space as ‘Clergy Parking Only (Seriously)’.
President Obama visited Manuel’s on March 10th, 2015 (picture: Atlanta Journal Constitution)
I would encourage you if you are in the Atlanta area to give Manuel’s Tavern a visit- hopefully they will have the left flipper on Batman 66 fixed by then so you can take a shot at the high score.
For a place that’s bordered on three sides by states with lots of locations, it used to be relatively hard to find a good game of pinball in Indiana. That all changed in January of 2012 when Dan St. John opened Main Street Amusements in the small city of Lafayette, about an hour’s drive north of Indianapolis and two hours south of pinball’s Mecca, Chicago.
Main Street Amusements is part of the recent trend in retro arcades that have been opening up in the last few years. Located in an old but nicely-maintained downtown store front, it is surrounded by funky stores and restaurants.
The pins are clearly visible through the large front windows, inviting the player inside.
The classically styled store front
It is open from 7pm to 11pm Tuesday through Saturday, and closed most holidays. When I arrived at 9:30pm on a Saturday night, the streets were almost empty but the neighborhood appeared relatively safe.
Inside, the arcade is clean and bright, with ample room and a high ceiling. There is a vintage pop machine that dispenses decidedly non-vintage 20oz sodas, and a tiny two-person dining area where you can relax with your drink. Most of the decor is inspired by the owner’s affection for White Castle and Bob’s Big Boy restaurants.
Games at Main Street Amusements
A full-size fiberglass Big Boy statue – just looking at it makes me hungry for a signature double-decker cheeseburger
There are a total of twenty-seven pins and two video games. Overall, it’s a good, solid collection of games: A few A-listers, some player-favorites, new Sterns, some classics, and just enough rarely-seen titles to keep things interesting.
The Medieval Madness has been outfitted with a ColorDMD and looks great.
Medieval Madness with ColorDMD
The four newest Stern games are all LEs, though I would argue that Avatar’s and The Rolling Stones’ LE versions don’t add much over the standard Pro versions; Transformers LE at least has the two mini-playfields and TRON LE has lots of eye candy. There are even two 1940s games from the early years of the flipper.
Rocket and Morocco, for when you feel like some post-war gaming
Pricing is pretty reasonable. Games run on 25 cent tokens. All the newer games are three tokens per credit, older DMD games and solid-state classics at two tokens, and the E-M games are one token. All the games I saw gave a price break for multiple credits.
The two ’40s games are cash-only and cost a nickel per play, just like the old days. Tokens are dispensed from a change machine in the back which takes credit cards as well as bills — a nice convenience in our increasingly cash-free society. I was briefly confused by the $2 minimum on the change machine until Dan explained what was going on.
Generally, the games were well maintained and very playable. When I was there, only Viper Night Drivin’ was out of order. A few games had minor issues — Medieval Madness had a flipper that was out of adjustment, which made the lock and catapult shots easy but everything else tough — but otherwise these games are clean and in great shape.
Toys that are chronically broken at most locations (Stewie Pinball on Family Guy, the motor on Corvette) were in good working condition. I did not play Demolition Man to see if the claw was functional, but based on the condition of the other games I’ll bet it is. Even the ’40s E-M games had good strong flippers and bumper action.
The back of the arcade was devoted to a clean and well-organized repair shop (I was extremely jealous), guarded by fierce attack dog and Rin Tin Tin look alike Wham-o.
You’re OK as long as you stay on this side of the barrier
Dan does pinball repair, and in the back were a Tri-Zone, a Space Shuttle, and a third game being refurbed while I was there (I thought the third game was a Flash, but looking at the pictures now I don’t know). I’m not sure if these were games for the arcade or for customers. Dan is very personable and I chatted with him a few times about the history of pinball and fast food.
I think this is everyone’s dream repair shop… plus, stealth Big Boy!
Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy
Chicago Cubs Triple Play
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Eight Ball Deluxe
Harley Davidson (Stern, 3rd Edition)
Bobby Orr Power Play
Revenge From Mars
Star Wars Episode One
The Rolling Stones LE
Viper Night Drivin’
Main Street Amusements is a great place to play pinball and I highly recommend it… the world needs more locations like this. If you are trapped in Indiana and want to get your game on, this is the place to do it.
UPDATE – May 2017
Report by M.G. Brown
Main Street Amusements, located in the college-y town of Lafayette Indiana, boldly claims that they are “Indiana’s Largest Pinball Arcade‘. I can’t confirm that claim but they certainly have a great line-up of pinball games.
Main Street Amusements’ postcard
At the time of my visit the following thirty-four pinballs were available for play:
Avatar LE (Stern, 2010)
Batman 66 Premium (Stern, 2017)
Big Indian (Gottlieb, 1974)
Big Lebowski, The (Dutch Pinball, 2016)
Black Knight (Williams,1980)
Bobby Orr’s Power Play (1977)
Capt. Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (Bally,1976)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (Midway, 1992)
Cybernaut (Bally, 1985)
Firepower (Williams, 1980)
Game of Thrones Premium (Stern, 2016)
Ghostbusters Premium (Stern, 2016)
Harlem Globetrotters On Tour (Bally, 1979)
Hollywood (Chicago Coin 1976)
King of Diamonds (5-ball, Gottlieb, 1967)
Laser Cue (Williams, 1984)
Little Chief (Williams, 1975)
Medieval Madness (Williams,1997)
Metallica Premium (Stern, 2013)
Monopoly (Stern, 2001)
Olympic Hockey (Williams, 1972)
Rapid Fire (Bally, 1982)
South Park (Sega, 1999)
Spanish Eyes (Williams,1972)
Spider-Man (Stern, 2007)
Star Trek Premium (Stern, 2013)
Strikes and Spares (Bally, 1978)
Theatre of Magic (Midway,1995)
Tri Zone (Williams,1979)
Tron:Legacy LE (Stern, 2011)
Twilight Zone (Midway,1993)
Walking Dead Premium, The (Stern 2014)
Chicago Gaming Company’s Attack From Mars Re-make and Spooky Pinball’s Total Nuclear Annihilation are on order but are not yet in-house.
I had been told prior to the visit that Main Street Amusements had a few post-war Gottlieb wood- rail games to play for a nickel/credit, but I wasn’t able to find them.
As if this wasn’t enough, add to this already impressive list a number of classic video and novelty games (such as Skycurser, Funland, Stargate, Burgertime, Bull’s Eye Drop Ball, Ms. Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and the new 8 foot screen World’s Largest Pac-Man) that I didn’t have the time to write down (sorry!).
World’s Largest Pac-Man
Taking all of this into consideration, I feel that they are making a very legitimate claim to the largest arcade in Indiana, if not one of the largest in North America.
All of the games at Main Street Amusements (MSA) accept only their custom brass-colored tokens, while the token dispenser takes credit cards as well as cash. Buying tokens in ‘quantity’ gets you bonus tokens. You can also pay for game credits from your phone – download the app, load the money from your bank account, and play.
If you’ve spent all your money on playing games, you can at least request the 1950s-vintage Ask Swami machine to read your fortune for a penny. When Ask Swami isn’t foretelling the future, it doubles as a napkin holder.
MSA publishes their ‘Top 20’ most played games weekly on their Facebook page. OK, they OCCASIONALY publish the Top 20 games… The May 30th Top 20 list was:
World’s Largest Pac-Man
Bulls-Eye Drop Ball
The Big Lebowski
Bobby Orr’s Power Play
Harlem Globetrotters On Tour
Donkey Kong Junior
Game of Thrones
Theatre of Magic
It is worth noting that many of MSA’s older games are one credit per play (25 cents or less) – an insane entertainment value!
Next door to MSA is DT Kirby’s bar and grill which is a converted movie theatre complete with marquee.
This somewhat upscale dive bar is popular with the University-esque folks and claims to serve the best burgers in the area.
The sign at DT Kirby’s
One of DT Kirby’s best selling burgers is the Stacked Slaw Burger which is a Kaiser bun toasted with two 1/4-pound patties with bacon in middle topped with slaw and fresh onions. They have a mind-boggling half menu page of specialty hot dogs called “Indiana Dogs”.
One of the burger optionat at DT Kirby’s
The Mac-n-Nap burger
DT Kirby’s Last Call Dog
DT Kirby’s also has small-batch beverages from Sun King Brewery which is located in nearby Fishers, Indiana. Lack of time didn’t allow me to visit DT Kirby’s beyond a walk in-walk out. Next trip I will check DT Kirby’s out in-depth and let you know what they are all about.
Main Street Amusements’ web site has a pinball-cam (web-cam) – you can see two views of what’s going on there during the hours they are open. It doesn’t say so explicitly, but it’s implied on MSA’s website that MSA is available for private parties by appointment. Check with them if you are interested.
MSA hosts the Lafayette Pinball League as well as tournament pinball play on Tuesday nights. The 3rd Tuesday of every month is tournament night, most other Tuesdays are league nights. Play starts at 7:30pm. Contact them for more details.
MSA will be hosting ‘Main Street Mayhem II: More Mayhem’ which is a two-day match-play format tournament held on September 16th & 17th, 2017. The entry fee is $75 per person and that includes a custom designed T-shirt and sticker available only to tournament players. Check the event page on Facebook for more information and to register. The tournament is limited to 48 players, with 16 spots on the waitlist, so don’t delay.
Main Street Amusements does repair and servicing of nearly all coin-operated games from their surgically clean and well-equipped on-site repair shop. MSA is well lit, clean, and attracts a primarily adult clientele. The prices on the games are very reasonable (you can play for hours on $20 worth of tokens), the majority of the games are working 100%, and are well maintained. I saw that MSA has a checklist where they go around daily and assure that each game is fully functional.
Although Lafayette, Indiana is quite a road trip from where I live, it is one that I plan to make again soon when I have more time to relax and enjoy playing all of their games (probably more than once).
MSA is a fantastic place to put on your personal pinball site bucket list.
In the ancient days, back when dinosaur poop was still warm (the 1980s), nearly every shopping center in the part of the country that I grew up in had a Family Fun Center or game arcade. I was even night manager of a Bally’s Aladdin’s Castle in West Main mall for a brief while.
The Aladdin’s Castle chains at that time were mostly stocked with pinball games and only had a few of those new-fangled video game things. During this time it was not at all unusual for young people to spend their pocket change playing games while their parents shopped.
In other words, arcades were a thing.
Unfortunately, at least in the greater Chicagoland area, the few arcade chains that remain have few or no pinball games; video games and other games of skill such as mini-golf, skeeball and claw machines have taken over.
There is a large arcade in a mall near my home called Tilt Studio that does not have ONE pinball game. I feel that’s an irony if there ever was one.
But I digress.
When on a road trip recently, I made a small side excursion to visit an arcade that is a genuine throwback to the days of disco and shopping centers with family entertainment centers.
Mega Play in Mishawaka, Indiana
Mega Play in the Town & Country Shopping Centre (not far from the campus of the University of Notre Dame) combines elements of the past and the present. They have an indoor mini-golf course, American Gladiator jousting area, air hockey, billiards, laser tag, ball pit, skeeball, whack-a-mole, virtual batting cages, kiddie playland, bumper cars, old school video as well as driving games….. and PINBALL!
American Gladiator jousting at Mega Play
It would have taken me a very long time to go around and write down the names of all of the video games at Mega Play; hopefully a list of their video games exists somewhere on-line? The majority of the games were 1980s and 1990s vintage, but in very good condition.
Mega Play had 11 pinball games in their own area apart from the video games.
The pinball line-up at Mega Play
One game was switched out while I was there so I was able to play 12 different games; it was a bonus for me, but probably not the typical experience.
The newly-added Corvette
Like many game centers in the 21st century such as Dave and Busters, at Mega Play you purchase credits on a plastic card and swipe to add credits on whatever game you want to play. If you don’t have a Mega Play card, the credit dispenser machines will sell you one for $1.
Card readers on the front of each machine
I have never seen ‘card swipe-enabled’ pinballs, but they have them here at Mega Play. In spite of being charged a dollar for a play card, I wanted to mention that the more credits you buy at one time, the more bonus credits that you get over and above the usual 4 credits for a dollar. For example- if you put $20 on your card, you get 110 credits. Mega Play also has party packages at what appear to be reasonable prices.
Card credit prices
All of the pinball games were in very good condition and the only one showing any wear that I could see was South Park which had some wear around the edges of the ball exit holes under Kenny and Cartman.
FYI, this particular South Park game is uncensored with the early ‘profanity’ ROM that generates rude (but funny) character comments, the ‘carpet munching‘ game on the DMD and of course Mr. Hanky in the toilet tank and on the playfield graphic in full view.
The pinball games at Mega Play when I visited were:
• Corvette, Bally-Midway
• Star Wars, Data East
• Attack from Mars, Midway
• Batman Forever, Sega Pinball
• The Simpsons Pinball Party, Stern Pinball
• South Park, Sega Pinball
• Black Knight 2000, Williams
• Dirty Harry, Williams
• Fish Tales, Williams
• Star Trek: The Next Generation, Williams
• Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Williams
Attack from Mars
The credits per game are not listed on the pinballs but they were a mix of 75 cents and $1 per three-ball game.
I wasn’t able to confirm this but it would appear that occasionally Mega Play has contests – most recently they had a Dance Dance Revolution contest.
There is a huge parking lot outside of Mega Play while inside they have sandwiches, snacks, pizza, desserts as well as soft drinks available to purchase at reasonable prices.
PS: I was told that there are two ‘kids pinballs’ at Mega Play. I was only able to find one:
• Super Mario Brothers Mushroom World, Premier Technology
It has short legs fitted and is set up as a ticket redemption game for prizes.
I enjoyed my visit to Mega Play and wished that I hadn’t been quite as pressed for time and that I was able to stay a little longer. I felt the combination of the well maintained games and the achievable free credit thresholds made playing their games very fun and engaging. For sure I will visit Mega Play again soon.
It delights me to visit old school arcades that seem to be frozen in time; some other people seem to prefer having more current games to play. If you are like me and enjoy playing the late 1990s and early 2000s games as much as the current ones, then Mega Play is probably your kind of place too.
In the early 1930s, my grandparents lived in one of Chicago’s southern suburbs. My grandmother has always been fascinated with Asian clothing, art and culture. When they lived in Chicago they were afraid to go to Chicago’s Chinatown because of the crime and violence shown in movies of the day, such as the ‘Charlie Chan’ movies.
It was a shame that they had these fears, because Chicago’s Chinatown is a charming place in its own way, especially during the Chinese New Year celebrations. My grandparents missed out on all the entertainment, dining and drinking establishments Chicago’s Chinatown had to offer because of fear.
Today, it seems as if some people in our society have similar fears – they often fear people who they have been told by the media live different lifestyles than what the so-called ‘majority’ of people are accustomed to. Unfortunately, these sort of fears keep a certain number of people away from parts of Chicago that in fact are more welcoming than threatening.
One of the Chicago neighborhoods that I feel has an undeserved negative reputation is Lake View / Wrigleyville, also known as Boystown. I can say with certainty that there is a good number of interesting entertainment, dining and drinking establishments in Boystown that welcome any and all people that are willing to put aside their fears for just a little while.
But what, you may well ask, does this have to do with pinball? That is a fair question for certain, but if you’ll indulge me by reading on, you’ll find out.
Terri and I were recently invited by friends to join them for an early Sunday brunch in the Lake View neighborhood, with a few drinks afterwards to catch up with each other’s lives.
After a great brunch of omelettes and bottomless mimosas at SIP near the intersection of Southport and Irving Park, our intrepid crew went south on Clark Street, past Wrigley Field to a local place called Replay Beer and Bourbon.
Replay Beer and Bourbon in Lake View
Replay is located on the famous Halsted Street gay bar ‘strip’. During our visit the neighborhood was still recovering from the Saturday St. Patrick’s Day parade and festival of debauchery.
Somehow Replay hadn’t popped up on my radar as a place to visit, but it is a very interesting and in many ways unique retro barcade.
Replay doesn’t have a particularly impressive or inviting exterior but that all changes once you show the doorman your ID (21+ only because they do not have a kitchen) and your eyes adjust to the relatively dim lighting of the interior.
Inside Replay Beer and Bourbon
The first thing that I noticed inside Replay is that it has quite an impressive collection of vintage video games along the walls of the bar, including Galaga, Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac-Man, Frogger, Asteroids, Mortal Kombat, Burgertime, Super Mario Bros., Cruisin’ World (twin), and Centipede. Closer inspection showed that these games are all set to ‘free play’.
Brunchtime is not Burgertime
Having wrapped my head around that, I also found over 25 beers on tap; the majority being craft beers, with some favorite mainstream beers thrown in. The bar tender told me that they also have seasonal beers on occasion.
The draft beer list
Add to THAT a countless array of bottled beers, over 40 bourbons, 18 whiskies, 13 scotches and 9 brands of rye. Wow!
Lots of bourbons, whiskies, scotches and ryes
Replay’s mixed drink menu also features Pokemon specialty drinks such as the Pikachu, Jigglypuff, Bulbasaur, Golem and Charmander. cleverly presented with the tagline “Gotta Drink Them All”.
Perfect after a hard day’s fighting at the gym
But wait, that’s not all!
Free popcorn actually worth eating! Outdoor patio/beer garden (in the summer months) with its own bar. A networked jukebox with an impressive selection of tunes. And ’90s television reruns on the video screens (e.g. American Gladiator) unless there is sports on (usually soccer).
Classic TV or sports too
Whew! I’d say that’s a lot to offer; but still no pinball mentioned yet. What’s up with that?
I’ll be totally honest and confess that I didn’t think there was pinball at Replay, until by chance I happened to the furthest corner away from the entrance where there were three shiny and well maintained pinball tables just waiting to empty my wallet of dollar bills.
The pinballs at Replay are:
The Sopranos (Stern, 2005)
Metallica Pro (Stern, 2015)
Junkyard (Williams, 1996)
The three pinballs at Replay
All three games appeared to be in excellent condition, but I am told that the one machine that we weren’t able to play (The Sopranos) had a couple of things broken on the playfield, although it was still playable.
All games were $1 for a 3-ball game except for Junkyard which is also 6 games for $5. It’s a shame that they aren’t set to free play like the video games but I guess you can’t have everything.
The easiest way to find the pinball games is to look for the Ms. Pac-Man game and then do a 180-degree about-face.
So in summary, Replay Beer and Bourbon is a place that is fun and welcoming, that has pinball and I had no idea existed.
I hope that if you are in that area for a sporting event or concert at Wrigley Field that you will take a short walk or hail a cab to Halsted, north of Newport, and check out what Replay has to offer.
An exhibition that begs the question ‘Is Pinball a Legitimate Art Form?’
In recent years, there have been several art exhibitions in the greater Chicago area that have attempted to tell the story of how pinball, art and Chicago are interwoven. I feel none have done as complete and easily-absorbed presentation as the current showing of Kings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago at the Elmhurst Art Museum.
The exhibit’s Curator, New York’s Dan Nadel, has studied and written books and articles on the Hairy Who Chicago Imagist artist’s collective which have many works displayed in this exhibition.
Dan is also the co-editor of The Comics Journal and has published essays and critiques in such publications as The Washington Post, Frieze and Bookforum. Dan has curated past exhibitions presenting psychedelic and alternative art collections for museums in New York, Los Angeles and Lucerne, Switzerland.
Kings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago has three elements of interest for the Pinball News reader.
The exhibition has sixteen classic games loaned to the museum by Jim Schelberg, Logan Arcade, Scott Sheridan, Mark Weyna, Sharon Paschke, Vince Giovannone and Steven Malach. These games are intended to not only be viewed as works of ‘visual’ art, but also played as ‘interactive’ art that ﬂashes, makes sounds and captures the visitor’s imagination.
Games from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s are represented;
Gottlieb’s Kings and Queens, Atlantis, Sheriff, Duotron and Expressway
Bally’s Fireball, Old Chicago and Nip-It
Williams’ Apollo, Black Knight, Black Knight 2000, Blackout, Time Warp, Firepower, Gorgar and Spanish Eyes
It is worth noting that Elmhurst was the spiritual ‘home’ of D. Gottlieb and Co. who in the 1960s-1970s produced pinball machines considered to be the ‘Cadillac’ of pinball games.
In the main exhibition gallery alongside the Williams Blackout game is the original oil on canvas Blackout (1980) proposal for the game’s backglass, designed and painted by Ed Paschke who, of course, was well-known in the Chicago Imagist art scene and had his works featured in Playboy magazine and, for a number of years, in the ﬁrst ﬂoor windows of the Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company department store.
Ed’s proposal for Blackout was deemed to be too ‘far out’ by Williams executives and it was adjusted in collaboration with frequent collaborator Constantino Mitchell to bring it a little closer to a normal pinball style of artwork.
The exhibition shows a number of Paschke’s works such as Cobmaster, Chicaucus, Hairy Shoes, and Green Ava. Mitchell is also represented in the exhibition with his acrylics Deadly Weapon, Female Thunderball, Robo-War backglass and Thunderball backglass.
The last pinball collaboration by Paschke and Mitchell would be the backglass for Gottlieb’s Bad Girls (1988).
Any exhibition of Chicago Imagist art would be incomplete without at least some of the works of Barbara Rossi, Christina Ramberg, Ed Flood, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Karl Wirsum, Roger Brown, Ray Yoshida and Suellen Rocca.
Elmhurst Art Museum comes through with high marks by showing some of the most iconic works from these artists including Wirsum’s Click (1971) and Nutt’s Ofﬁcer Doodit (1968) which have become larger than life examples of the Chicago Imagist style.
If pinball wasn’t invented in Chicago, the so called ‘second city’ has become pinball’s center of gravity and where it has achieved its pop culture status.
An impressive number of pinball’s classic manufacturers such as Bally, Williams, Gottlieb, Data East, and Chicago Coin as well as many of pinball’s best recognized personalities such as engineer Jim Shird, author-historian Roger C. Sharpe and artist Greg Freres have at one time called Chicago their home city. Stern Pinball, probably the largest pinball company in the world, designs and produces new games in Chicago to this day.
Many reasons exist for this, such as the large graphic arts community found in Chicago’s advertising agencies and the Chicago art collectives such as the Hairy Who and and other self-described artistic outsiders drawing (no pun intended!) inspiration from comic books, carnivals and arcades.
The presence of such incubators as the School of the Chicago Art Institute, Northwestern University, The Chicago Cultural Center, and the Whitney Museum of American Art (to name but a few) each made signiﬁcant contributions to the pinball-friendly climate in Chicago.
During the early 1930s when pinball was beginning to become popular in America, Chicago was becoming known as a capitol of ‘adult’ entertainment. This rubbed off on pinball possibly in error and possibly not. Many pinball games in Chicago were in fact owned and operated by ‘gangsters’; as many cash-based businesses were in those days.
Likely because of pinball’s ties to the mob, mayors of cities such as Chicago, New York and Los Angeles came to the conclusion that pinball was a form of gambling rather than an entertaining game of skill. Former New York mayor LaGuardia even went so far as to label pinball as a ‘tool from the devil’.
Elmhurst Art Museum’s Kings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago blends and ferments these three elements into a brew worthy of the latest frothy yellow refreshment from Two Brothers Brewing in Warrenville, IL.
By coincidence or design, Two Brothers Brewing supplied samples of their new craft brewed American Pale Ale Pinball for the opening night of Kings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago on February 24th. I’m sure that you are thinking that Martin sent me to cover the exhibition because there was beer, and you’d be half right.
In addition to the exhibition itself, Elmhurst Art Museum has planned these events as an enhancement and extension of it:
18th March at 1:30pm – Kings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago and Elmhurst College collection highlights tour with Suellen Rocca.
31st March at 6pm – Documentary ﬁlm screening of Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists at Elmhurst College
21st April at 6pm – Talk with Suellen Rocca, Curator and Director of Exhibitions at Elmhurst College
29th April at 12pm – Tilt Roger Brown eyeballs popular culture. Works from 1970-1997 presented and discussed
29th April at 1:30pm – Kings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago and Elmhurst College collection highlights tour with Suellen Rocca
Kings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago runs until 7th May, 2017 at the Elmhurst Art Museum, after which a modified version will run from 19th May to 21st August, 2017 at the Illinois State Museum.
You could possibly be forgiven if you mistook the low-profile building in the off-harbor area of Port Allen for a warehouse of some sort, but at most times of the day, the number of autos parked along Waialo Rd. tell a different story.
Approaching a doorway near the nearly half-story high “Kaua’i Island Brewery & Grill” sign it is easy to see the neon sign in the window brightly proclaiming ‘Game Room’.
But wait- entering the bar/dining area, there is no sign of a ‘game room’ either visual or auditory, so we took the sensible route and asked for a menu and ordered a brew to better assess the situation. Choosing your drink might be the most difficult, but at the same time easiest, decision you make during your visit to Kauai Island Brewery and Grill.
The far wall above the grill shows the beverages of the day – selections the day we visited included Lilikoi Ale, Leiani Light, South Pacific Brown, Captain Cook’s IPA and Cane Fire Red, to name but a few.
The printed beer menus on each table list their Kauai Island Brewery’s house made beers with a full description. Can’t decide? 5.5 Oz “sampler sizes” are available for any and all beers.
Kauai Island Brewing Company’s slogan is ‘Last Beer Before Tomorrow’ which is a reference to the Hawai’ian Islands proximity to the international date line.
The luncheon menu has a lot of great choices; Terri ordered the Kalua Pork sandwich topped with provolone cheese and BBQ sauce, while I had the house made veggie burger, which I must comment was unlike any that I have ever had anywhere.
Our sandwiches came with french fried potatoes which appeared to be ‘double fried’. Waffle fries are apparently available also but we did not see them on the menu. Sandwiches also come with ‘Java Slaw’ which had a unique flavor and texture.
After our lunch we asked the server “Where are the games?” to which he pointed up into a darkened loft area. Intrepid investigation found a change machine and the pinball tables – all turned off. We learned that they are normally ‘off’ and customers are asked to turn them on and off as needed. I wondered if the average person ‘off-the-street’ would know where the power switches was on a pinball?
The upstairs loft area overlooks Waialo Road and had a scenic view of the harbor if you were standing in just the right location. I could imagine the locals using this as their Saturday night command centre while enjoying a brew or five.
Now on to the games. There were six on site when we visited, one of which was being repaired, which left more pins available to play than any other site that we found during our Hawai’i travels.
The games at Kauai Island Brewery and Grill were:
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1992, Bally/Midway) which was designed by John Trudeau and has a 1950s drive-in movie theme. I have never seen this game before in-the-wild and it was a pleasure to be able to play it for 50 cents per game.
Monopoly (2001, Stern) which was designed by Pat Lawlor and as you might expect, is based on the board game of the same name. It was 50 cents per game also.
X-Men (2012, Stern) was designed by John Borg and has visual as well as play aspects from the Marvel comic books and the movies that were based on the comic characters. It is 75 cents per play or 3 games for $2.
Indiana Jones (1993, Williams) was a Mark Ritchie design with themes from the first three theatrical movies. This machine has an optional shaker. It is set at $1 per game.
The Wizard of Oz (2013, Jersey Jack) was being serviced so we were not able to play or examine it for condition. We were told it is the newest game in the house so I would expect it would play like a new game.
Star Trek (2013, Stern) was designed by Steve Ritchie and is based on characters and themes from the recent movie ‘reboot’ of the Star Trek television series franchise. It is set at $1 per game.
As briefly mentioned above, there is a dollar bill change machine near the games for those that only accept quarters.
There is little to say about these games other than they are in immaculate condition and play like brand new. It is obvious that they have been cared for very well and are maintained to be in tip-top shape.
Due to many factors – not the least of which is lack of trained pinball mechanics – the pinball machine is a rare sight indeed in the 50th of the United States. We were told that an arcade chain on O’ahu removed all of the pinball games that they had within the last year due to difficulty with service and obtaining parts. The high humidity and proximity to the ocean probably plays havoc with mechanical parts of games also.
Our visit to Kauai Island Brewery and Grill was a glimpse at one of the last of a handful of sites in the Hawai’ian islands still offering pinball.
If you are in the area I would encourage you to visit Kauai Island Brewery and Grill; if not for the games, then for the refreshments.
After doing a self-guided tour of the majority of the locations in the Kalamazoo, Michigan metro area, I came away with the feeling that a person could easily make the case that on a per-capita basis, Kalamazoo might just be the pinball site capital of the USA.
I was able to confirm eight sites with a total of sixteen games, a single arcade with 19 games and five unconfirmed sites with one game each, serving a population of 75,400 (2013 census).
The most unexpected things I found during my rounds were how many games on site were 50 cents per credit, and the number of games that were set for five balls per credit.
The majority of the games that I found were located in dive bars, gastropubs and brew pubs; each site had its own character and unique bill of fare that I will do my best to describe to you later in this article.
Unless otherwise noted, the games were found to be in good to excellent working condition. It would appear as if there is a real effort in the Kalamazoo area to keep games well-maintained and playable.
So without further ado, let’s begin an excursion through what I was able to discover during my trip.
Kalamazoo Beer Exchange 211 E. Water Street – Pinballs located on lower level.
Bar food, micro-brew beer and cocktails, beer flights available
Possibly one of the most unique concepts in adult beverage sales I have ever experienced. The Beer Exchange is modeled after the New York stock market with electronic tote board displays on the walls.
Prices for beer change every 15 minutes depending on if people are buying that beer (price goes up) or not (price goes down). It’s easy to see the ‘trends’ as the name of the beer will be in red if the price is falling and green if the price is rising.
Several times during the evening the beer market will ‘crash’ and people will rush to the bar to get bargain prices on their favorite beverages.
In the lower level, there are pinball and pool tables. They have a change machine and a nice area to set your drink while you are playing.
The pinball games are Kiss (Stern, 2015), Monopoly (Stern, 2001) and Game of Thrones Pro (Stern, 2015).
All were in excellent condition and apparently serviced regularly. Kiss and Game of Thrones had dollar bill acceptors while Monopoly took quarters only.
Kiss and Game of Thrones are $1 per credit or 3 for $2, where Monopoly is a flat 50 cents per credit.
It’s a shame in a way that the games are in the lower level since the upper area was where most people congregated during our visit.
The flip side of this is that the games are visible through the windows at ground floor level and even have a stylish neon ‘pinball’ sign in the window to let passers-by know that there are pinballs there for their enjoyment.
When we visited there was no waiting to play and in fact very few people in the game area whatsoever. I am told the area around the pinballs fills up to capacity on weekends.
Southern Tier Brewing Choklat Oranj
Ginger Peach Julep
Green Top Tavern 250 E. Michigan Ave.
Typical bar food, cheap macro-brewed beer, full bar
The apparent slogan of the Green Top Tavern as published on their whiteboard is “We Have Beer as COLD as Your Ex’s Heart“.
This is a popular place with locals, the university crowd and pinball players. It was one of the few sites that I visited where there was a wait to play pinball.
I spoke with several people here who said they were regular pinball players and got some leads on sites that I didn’t initially have on my ‘to-visit’ list.
There is a twist to the play at the Green Top; there is a list behind the bar titled ‘High Bowler Club’. As you might imagine, this list isn’t about bowling. If you get a high score on their Ghostbusters LE pinball, have the bartender add your name to the list. At the end of each month a name is randomly drawn from the list and that person wins $50.
The kitchen isn’t always open, so ask before ordering. I didn’t try them but I was told they have one of the best cheeseburgers in the area!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Fried battered fish basket with fries
(4 large pieces)
16oz Pabst Blue Ribbon cans – $2
Rupert’s Brew House 773 W. Michigan Ave., since 2013
Nano-brewery with other micro-brews on tap
Pinballs located in room with pool table and piano
Rupert’s is housed in a 90+ year-old historic building on ‘Campus Corner’ that once was home to Boogie Records. The new owners chose to keep the original greeting near the entrance to the building from May 1926: “Where Good Friends Meet“.
Located on the eastern cusp of the Western Michigan University campus, Rupert’s attracts what appeared to be a mix of student, counter-culture, wannabe and genuine hipster clientele. I would describe Rupert’s as “A Brewery with Soul”. Patrons as well as staff were very friendly and helpful.
Rupert’s is a little grungy or rustic looking inside like you might have stumbled into the party room of the Delta fraternity house. Rupert’s boasts a house dog which is a 197 pound (that’s over 14 stone), a Great Dane named Capt’n Stooby.
He is very mellow and mostly can be found chilled-out in his area of the main bar, but I am told that sometimes the dog will get up to bark at the live band with great comedic effect.
Speaking of bands- Rupert’s features live music five-nights-a-week with no cover charge and occasional stand-up comedy, which is good since they do not have a juke box.
In addition to their in-house nano-brews (the fermenting tanks are clearly visible from the pinball area), there is a tempting array of beverages from other local micro-breweries.
The particular day that we visited all pints were $3.50. Rupert’s house brews had somewhat tongue-in-cheek names such as Blacker the Berry, Match The Drapes and Deep In Cider.
If you can’t decide what to order, Rupert’s has beer flights available at reasonable prices. The bartenders are happy to fill your growler or you can purchase a glass growler for ‘take away’ use.
The games at Rupert’s are Game of Thrones Pro (Stern, 2015), Indiana Jones (Stern, 2008) and The Simpson’s Pinball Party (Stern, 2003) located in the back room with the pool table, upright piano and chandelier.
The day we visited a coed attempted to play the piano. It was clear that she desperately needed more lessons.
Rupert’s games are all set for five-ball play and are 50 cents per credit. All were in excellent condition and well-cared for. There was no change machine but the bartenders are glad to give change for bills or coins as needed.
Rupert’s apparently takes pinball history to heart with a few classic pinball backglasses on their walls as ‘art’.
Rupert’s offers T-shirts and other souvenir items with their logo emblazoned on them if you want to take home a memory of your visit.
No kitchen but bring your own food or delivery allowed
(tie) Rupert’s Peanut Butter Porter / Deep In Cider
Shakespeare’s Pub 241 E Kalamazoo Ave., since 2003
College sports bar with a huge selection of micro-brews from around the country
You could be forgiven if the name of this pub conjures up memories of the Bard of Avon, but the name actually comes from the pub building being a part of the former Shakespeare Company manufacturing facility.
Shakespeare Company was founded in 1897 and produced fishing rods and reels including the famous ‘Ugly Stick’.
Unfortunately Shakespeare moved their facility from Kalamazoo to South Carolina in 1970 and re-branded themselves as K2 Inc. in 1996. It is somewhat lucky that the elaborate art-deco building that is now Shakespeare’s Pub was saved from the same destruction suffered by the manufacturing plant.
The draws to Shakespeare’s are the 44 beers on tap, and the daily food and drink specials. Shakespeare’s also features stand-up comedy in their lower level which has been repurposed as a informal arena.
Shakespeare’s is somewhat unique in that they have a ‘traveling tasting room’ that they drive to local events and fairs during the summer months. I can imagine that it is effective in helping to educate the public’s palate about micro-brewed beer.
They have The Avengers Pro (Stern, 2012) which is in a somewhat awkward area of the first floor near the entrance to the room with the pool tables.
It is nice that they have a table near-by which is about the height of the game glass to have your drink at the ready in-between plays. There is also a change machine if you need it.
I got the ball stuck under the Hulk toy once while playing the game, but was able to gently work it loose without tilting. The lower slingshots also seemed a bit weak. A five-ball credit is $1.
Old Dog Tavern 402 E Michigan Ave., since 2010
Quirky gastro-pod with entertainment
This site, like many others in this report, is in a building recently repurposed from manufacturing space. Old Dog Tavern now occupies the building that was formerly part of Star Paper Company’s manufacturing plant near the railroad tracks that bisect downtown Kalamazoo.
Old Dog Tavern is the new home to the former ‘Club Soda’ bar which was THE place to go for live entertainment in the late 1970s and through the 1980s. Old Dog continues the tradition with live music most days of the week (check their website for the schedule) and have preserved many of the fixtures from Club Soda.
Apparently graffiti in the men’s room is a tradition in bars anywhere near campus, and Old Dog Tavern is no exception. I guess it gives you something to read while you are returning the beer you “rented”.
The Cornish ‘Pasty’ is a meat or vegetable filled pie originally prepared as an easily portable lunch for miners, fishermen and other laborers of Northern Michigan. It is unusual to see them on the menu as far south in Michigan as Kalamazoo, but Old Dog has them in three varieties and they are deliciously authentic; having just the right texture and slightly-sweet flavor to the crust.
The Big Buck Hunter Pro (Stern, 2009) and Game of Thrones (Stern, 2015) pinball games are located in the table tennis room to the right as you enter the pub. I was told that GOT was recently serviced and it certainly played like a brand new machine.
Both games are $1 per five-ball credit.
Authentic Michigan Pasties and home style soups
Ballast Point Brewing Company Grapefruit Sculpin
Park in the nearby paved medical center parking lot after 6pm instead of the muddy hole-filled unpaved parking lot next to the tavern
One Well Brewing 402 E Michigan Ave.., since 2014
Craft beer gastropub catering mostly to suburban families
This site was definitely on my ‘to visit’ list because I was told that they had five pinballs. Unfortunately one had been taken out, but four on site is certainly not bad for in a brewpub.
Quite a selection on hand of micro-brews and flights available for those indecisive among you.
One Well also has their version of the ‘mug club’ popularized by coffee houses in college towns – only with beer!
It was nice to see that school age children were interested in the games at One Well Brewing. They even provided booster stools for the younger kids to better be able to see what they were doing. I do wish that the kids were in the habit of putting the stools under the machines when they were done but a kick put them out of the way of we adults fairly easily.
The evening that I visited the house was packed and the pinball games were popular with both young and old. One Well Brewing also has over 150 classic board and card games (including the popular Cards Against Humanity) for patrons to use for free.
The star of their menu is the brick oven baked deep-dish pizza described with entertaining names such as All Choked Up , A Plant Named Egg, It’s Me Mario and Meat Me In The Middle to cite a few.
The games are located along the back wall and include: Demolition Man (Williams, 1994), The Addams Family (Bally, 1992), Kiss (Stern, 2015) and Metallica Pro (Stern 2013). F-14 Tomcat was in the house when they opened, but has been replaced in the last year.
All games are in excellent condition with the exception of The Addams Family which had a right drain lane that would trap the ball; it was necessary to tilt the machine to loosen the ball. The floor under the Addams Family was also uneven and distracted me when trying to play the game.
All games were 50 cents per credit.
Under Construction build your own pizza
Sweet Water Street (ABV 7.1%)
Avoid the dinner hour crowd on weekends unless you like that sort of thing
CJ’s Pub 1027 Schuster Ave.
Rocking and Rolling Sports and Game Bar
I didn’t have CJ’s originally on my list of sites to visit but I was told by a local that they had pinball so I checked them out.
CJ’s is apparently where the so called Woodstock Generation that you see at classic rock shows or festivals hang out. There’s another phrase that would more accurately describe this particular bar crowd having something to do with mobile homes and refuse.
That having been said- CJ’s has a brand new Ghostbusters LE (Stern, 2016) pinball in excellent condition as well as a Golden Tee next to it and a change machine. $1 per credit with a dollar bill acceptor.
CJ’s has pool tables, and electronic darts are available also. The bar area prominently featured electronic Keno games which apparently is the latest attempt by the Michigan lottery to pick your pocket.
During my visit there must have been some sort of a party going on because between the volume level on the jukebox and the hooting and hollering of the patrons it was nearly impossible to concentrate on playing pinball. I ended up playing two games before making a hasty retreat to more serene surroundings.
I didn’t check the menu or bar, but from what I could see it looked like typical macro-brewed beer, a full bar and the usual fried foods.
There’s an outdoor beer garden area available in the warmer months
I did not visit these sites on this trip, but information presented here was gathered from locals:
The Tivoli Bowling Lanes are located in the lower level of the historic Tivoli building which was constructed in 1928. The building is located across from the Metra (commuter rail) station in the heart of the Downers Grove business district. It takes a sharp eye to find the entrance and a relatively long climb down stairs into the bowling alley area proper.
The bowling alley has been in the present location for nearly a decade, but has been steadily updated with modern equipment, a bar, a dining area and a game room that in recent years has included two pinball games.
I re-visited Tivoli Bowl in the early part of November 2016; I had some time on my hands before the doors opened for a screening at the Tivoli Theater of Eight Days A Week- The Touring Years which is a film directed by Ron Howard documenting the Beatles during the period 1965-1969.
Currently the Tivoli Bowl has Batman: The Dark Knight (Stern, 2008) and Pirates of the Caribbean (Stern, 2006) in the game room.
They are set to fifty cents per game or five games for two dollars. Both games accept quarters or dollar bills and both are set up for ‘tournament mode’ if the player so desires.
The pinball games had been relocated slightly from when I had last visited. This apparently was to accommodate some new games that were not there before. Unfortunately the pinballs are now directly under a very harsh florescent light fixture which casts a terrible glare right in the glass covering the lower third of the playfields. It takes quite a bit of concentration to “look beyond” the glare and see where the ball is at when in play. I felt that the glare makes accurate shooting quite difficult.
Batman was in fair to good condition and I felt that the free game threshold was set so that an average player with some luck could win a game. Everything seemed to be working on the game with the possible exception that the right overhead ramp would randomly drop the ball in the playfield instead of the scoring gate for no apparent reason. The bumpers and rubber cushions seemed to be quite lively and allowed ‘saves’ that might otherwise had not been possible.
Pirates of the Caribbean was in only fair condition, having a quite dirty playfield and some features that seemed to be malfunctioning. I suffered stuck pinball syndrome a couple of times and discovered that the tilt mechanism was set quite generously; fortunate for me! Overall this game was more frustration than joy to play correctly because of the need for some basic maintenance.
In summary, I feel that the Tivoli Bowl game room is a decent place to pass some time waiting for a train or a movie to start.
Perhaps next visit I will have time for a pint to help me improve my game play?
The Lake County IL ‘Meetup’ group hosted an informal pinball league during the Summer months of 2016.
The reason for forming this league was to elevate awareness of the locations that have pinball in the northern Chicago area, and also to enjoy an evening of fun with people who were interested in playing pinball.
There were a number of people who said “it has been years” since they had played pinball, and a few said that they were unaware that pinball games were still being manufactured.
There were in excess of 15 players who participated in this league, each participant receiving a ticket good for the drawing of a grand prize at the last event. The more events that they attended, the more tickets a player received.
The games and locations in the league were:
#1 March – The Addams Family at Lake Villa Public House (game now removed)
#2 April – Iron Man at R.J.’s Eatery, Lindenhurst
#3 May – Ghostbusters LE at Kristoff’s Entertainment Center, Round Lake
#4 August – NASCAR at Lighthouse Miniature Golf, Waukegan
#5 September – The Simpsons Pinball Party at Bill’s Pizza Pub North, Grayslake
#6 October – Metallica at Kristoff’s Entertainment Center, Round Lake
At the end of each event, a small ‘fun’ prize was given for high score of the night. At the October game there was also swag from the 2016 Pinball Expo in Chicago.
The grand prize was awarded following the October game. The prize was a translite from the Stern Pinball game Star Trek autographed by Gary Stern. Many thanks to Stern Pinball for providing this prize!
Thanks to everyone who came out to participate and hopefully raise awareness of places to play pinball in the northern Chicago suburbs.
Five & Dime in the west downtown Evanston area is a brand-spanking new combination restaurant, bar and entertainment center on Davis Street, just steps from both the Metra Rail and the CTA Purple Line.
Five & Dime’s rooftop dining and game room is one of the newest places in the northern Chicagoland suburbs that has pinball machines.
Outside seating has picnic tables and round wire mesh tables that are cozy for four.
All the pinballs at Five & Dime are in very good condition, fully functioning with CLEAN playfields.
Radical! (Bally) is set to 50 cents for one play, 75 cents for two plays, and I felt that the free game threshold was quite achievable by someone with average playing skills.
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends (Data East) is also in excellent shape and plays well. $1/1 play or $2/3 plays; bills only.
Kiss Premium (Stern) is also set to $1/1 and $2/3 plays. It is a bit more challenging than the other two, but very playable.
If you want a break from pinball (say what??), Five & Dime has other games for you to enjoy on the rooftop area: Jumbo Connect 4, Ping Pong, Foosball, Baggo/Bags/Cornhole and Jumbo Jenga.
The menu at Five & Dime appears to be somewhat of a work-in-progress with a relatively small number of items. In spite of that we both were able to find food items that we wanted to try. I got the impression that when the affiliate businesses Lulu’s Dim Sum and Then Sum and Diablo Taco are relaunched (in the same building, on the first floor) that the menu for Five & Dime will change. We feel that the biggest value on the menu is the chips and guacamole.
The service is somewhat of a work-in-progress too – not horrible by any means, but not yet as polished and effortless as places that have been in business for many years. I have faith that given a few more weeks they will be up-to-speed. The key thing is that the servers and hostesses seemed to have a friendly and outgoing attitude which is certainly pleasant to see.
Since this is primarily a drinking establishment, I feel a few words about the drinks menu are in order. The OG Margarita is delicious (it’s hard to drink only one), the Negroni Frozen Slushy is well regarded but usually not available until a couple hours after opening time; apparently the slushy machine needs to be primed or something. The Five & Dime beer list includes Evanston’s Sketchbook Brewery’s Et Tu Yuzu citrus spiked sasion, in addition to the usual suspects in bottles and cans.
One interesting thing that I was glad to see is pre-teen young people playing the pinballs. One boy I talked to had no idea that there was a way for more than one person to play the same machine. Aside from that, it was nice to see kids clutching a Ziploc bag of change waiting to play.
Some of the ‘kids’ at Five & Dime had unusual playing styles as shown by this photo.
I would say that Five & Dime is a great new addition to the pinball scene in the Northern Chicago ‘burbs. It most likely will only get better as time goes on.