Southern California has a new ‘retro’ pinball and video game spot that focuses on the way arcades existed in a now-bygone era, without the domination of prize and/or ticket redemption games that are now the norm.
And that’s exactly how owner Bob Elson envisioned his place from the very beginning, with special emphasis on a family-friendly environment that preserves that same fun and magic that people fondly remember.
The appropriately-named Retrovolt Arcade is located in Calimesa, California, about 75 miles east of downtown Los Angeles (less than a 90-minute drive depending on the time of day). The arcade first opened in April 2017 in the neighboring town of Mentone but was forced into a 3-month-long relocation to its present site because of zoning issues at the original location.
As of this writing, the arcade is open for business four days a week (Thursday thru Sunday); doors open at 4pm Thu & Fri, 12 noon Sat & Sun, and close nightly at 11pm (9pm Sunday).
Retrovolt at present has approximately twenty-three pinballs and forty video games, all set on free play. Admission into the arcade is $10 (€8.47/£7.57) per hour per person, for unlimited play. Currently this is the only rate offered (no half-hours, child rates, etc.), but Bob says this may change in the future as the business gets more established.
Upon pre-paying your time at the front door, you are given a large white sticker (like the kind used for address labels) that has your “end” time written on it with a Sharpie, and you apply this sticker to the front of your shirt. Customers’ time is overseen using a large LED digital clock that hangs high over the front counter, and the Retrovolt employees walk the floor at regular intervals, letting people know their time is up as is necessary. Additional time can be purchased anytime at the front counter (up until one hour before closing, obviously).
The pinball lineup focuses on late-’70s to mid-’90s solid state pins, with some variation either way. The newest games presently on site are Star Trek and Ghostbusters (both Pro models).
The pins have all had considerable cleanup and restoration work done on them, resulting in very good overall playability. (One small example that caught my eye was the presence of a brand-new ‘Dunk the Dummy’ drop target on the 1985 Williams Comet pinball.) Several of the older pins have had their bulbs changed out to LEDs and are, for the most part, kept true-to-form in terms of lamp color and appearance. (Attack from Mars looks especially nice in this regard.)
The current Retrovolt pinball lineup:
Attack from Mars
Genie (w/PI-1 CPU board)
Indiana Jones (Williams)
Lost World, The: Jurassic Park
Monday Night Football
Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man
Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Simpsons, The (Data East)
Star Trek (Stern, Pro)
Star Wars (Data East)
Tales from the Crypt
World Cup Soccer
The video games are likewise from the ‘golden era’ of arcades, and all the biggies are here (Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Mario Bros. and Zaxxon, just to name a few). A small handful are modern-day recreations and/or outfitted with LCD screens, but many are vintage originals. There was even one multi-game cabinet that had 600+ games to select from (I believe it was called Pandora’s Box 4.)
No food or alcohol is available on site, but sodas and bottled water can be purchased from a cooler kept behind the front counter. There is also a New York-style pizzeria next door to Retrovolt that specializes in pizza, pasta and subs for dine-in or take out.
Retrovolt Arcade offers a well-thought-out and well-done look back at arcade gaming the way it used to be, and this, along with the friendly and knowledgeable staff, is already earning tremendous player appeal based on reviews on the site’s Facebook page and elsewhere online.
For those in the Inland Empire (or anywhere else, for that matter) that were part of those days – as well as those that simply can’t wait a full year for the next Arcade Expo show in nearby Banning – Retrovolt Arcade is definitely worth a look.
Call it fate, call it serendipity, but whatever it was, it was a nice surprise to stumble over Flip Flip, Ding Ding on the way back from a nice meal at Stellar Pizza in Georgetown, south of Seattle.
We were staying in Georgetown and using it as a base to explore the greater Seattle region prior to the Northwest Pinball & Arcade Show. Hotels in central Seattle are notoriously expensive, so we picked the Georgetown Inn as a good compromise location.
Georgetown is an up-and-coming suburb which has that ‘shabby-chic’ semi-industrial feel to it. Sitting in the shadow of the I-5 to the east and bounded by Boeing Field to the south, the Duwamish Waterway to the west and the BNSF railroad to the north, it looks rougher than it feels.
Former home of the Rainier Brewery, Georgetown is now home to several newer beer makers, including Elysian Brewing, Machine House Brewery, Georgetown Brewery, Lowercase Brewing, Counterbalance Brewing and Jellyfish Brewing.
On our way back to the hotel from Airport Way on Sunday night, we spotted what looked like a pinball machine in the window of a distant shop unit on 12th Ave S.
Upon closer investigation, we discovered it was actually the well-known Flip Flip, Ding Ding pinball bar/arcade. We were so unprepared we didn’t even have our good camera with us, so please excuse the mobile phone pictures here.
We had heard good things about Flip Flip, Ding Ding, so wasted no time investigating what they had to offer.
Seattle, like much of the Pacific Northwest of the US, has a seemingly unquenchable thirst for both craft beer and pinball. So any bar/arcade hoping to succeed here needs to have plentiful supplies of both.
First, to the beer. Flip Flip, Ding Ding has eight taps mostly dedicated to local craft beers but with a nod to the staples such as Bud Light.
Additional cans are available from their large fridges.
The bar area is suitably functional and characterful, featuring numerous bumper stickers offering words of wisdom to patrons.
And so onto the games.
Flip Flip, Ding Ding has a mix of pinball and videos, with pinball dominating as you might expect from the name. We counted twenty-seven pinballs in total:
Addams Family, The
Black Knight 2000
Champion Pub, The
Game of Thrones
No Good Gofers*
Phantom of the Opera
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Walking Dead, The
Wheel of Fortune
World Cup Soccer
*indicates machine not working
Grand Lizard and Fire!
The business’s floor area is not huge, so the games are split between two floors with the addition of a side room containing another eight machines. We found the pinballs to be in good condition with reasonable tilt settings and priced even quite conservatively. The all take quarters (there’s a change machine by the stairs) and were mostly 50c a game.
The Champion Pub, Phantom of the Opera and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Diner, No Good Gofers and Atlantis
Xenon, Pinbot, Starship Troopers and Rollercoaster Tycoon
Videos mixed in with World Cup Soccer, Robocop, Black Knight 2000 and Earthshaker!
More videos – a multi-game cabinet and Mario Bros.
A multi-player Hydro Thunder
As befits the area, there’s a cool and laid-back vibe at Flip Flip, Ding Ding, with customers spilling out onto the street or just sitting at the bar, ignoring all the games surrounding them.
There are plenty of food options at neighbouring restaurants, at the end of the street, and along Airport Way, from great burritos to multiple pizza choices and some solid burger combinations.
Although everything is very casual here, if you want something a little more organised they run a monthly pingolf tournament at 1pm on the last Sunday of each month. It’s $10 to enter with a limit of 36 players.
If you can’t make that date, other tournaments are often held here too, along with league meetings.
Flip Flip, Ding Ding is an unassuming but welcoming place to visit. It’s a short way outside the centre of Seattle, but a 124 bus or a $10 taxi ride quickly gets you there.
It’s the essence of a good pinball bar – great games and great drinks in a truly fun atmosphere.
Thinking of visiting the Silver Ball Planet pinball arcade in Osaka? It might not be as easy as you think, so Stefan Riedler – who has visited the location several times – has written this useful guide showing the best way to get there.
He also updates us on the most recent arrivals which he discovered at the arcade during his trip there in June 2017.
How to get to the Silver Ball Planet Arcade from Kansai International Airport
The Mario Bros. welcome you to Kansai International Airport
Step 1: Exit the airport on the 1ST FLOOR.
Step 2: Go to the BUS AREA.
Step 3: At BUS STATION C you can buy a bus ticket for Bus 7 which costs 1,550 Yen (around €13) and can be paid for by credit card. The timetable for Bus 7 can be found at kate.co.jp/en/timetable/detail/UH.
Buy a bus ticket at the arrowed point – Bus Station C
Step 4: When the bus arrives, enter and tell them you want to go to the SHINSAIBASHI area. The journey takes around one hour.
Step 5: Leave the bus at the second stop in Shinsaibashi, at the HOTEL NIKKO.
Hotel Nikko Osaka
Step 6: Looking at the front of Hotel Nikko, turn LEFT.
Step 7: Walk two blocks to the APPLE STORE.
Step 8: Turn RIGHT following the front of the Apple Store.
Turn right at the Apple Store – there is a bank with an ATM here
Step 9: Walk around 250m and the BIG STEP shopping centre is on the right.
Step 10: Go right next to STARBUCK’S to the elevator.
The shopping centre floor listing
Step 11: Take the elevator to the THIRD FLOOR.
Go to the 3rd floor
Step 12: Exit the elevator to the RIGHT.
Step 13: You have arrived at the SILVER BALL PLANET PINBALL ARCADE.
Stefan with the founder of the arcade, Yuske Namba
Inside the Arcade
The favourite games of the founder of the Silver Ball Planet Pinball Arcade, Yuske Namba, are Capt. Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy and Rolling Stones – older games but with great original artwork.
The Capt. Fantastic game at the arcade
Another of Yuske Namba’s favourites
The seven machines marked as new arrivals at the Arcade are:
The Pabst Can Crusher (Stern)
Rob Zombie’s Spookshow International (Spooky)
Aerosmith Limited Edition (Stern)
The Hobbit Limited Edition (Jersey Jack)
Batman 66 Super Limited Edition (Stern)
Ghostbusters Limited Edition (Stern)
Transformers Limited Edition (Stern)
Batman 66 SLE in the Batman collection
Another new arrival – Ghostbusters LE
Maybe another new arrival soon in the Star Wars collection?
Here’s a video showing all the games at the Silver Ball Planet Pinball Arcade.
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.
“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.
When the original Pinballz Arcade opened in Austin, Texas, in 2010, we were one of the first to tell the world about the amazing selection of pinballs and other arcade games bought and set-up in a bespoke gameroom by Darren and Mikki Spohn.
After a couple of years establishing the business and preparing for growth, they opened their second location – Pinballz Kingdom – situated around fifteen miles south of Austin.
Although there is some development work to complete at Pinballz Kingdom to finish the transformation from truck stop to pinball and arcade heaven, that hasn’t stopped the push to open a third location, and in May 2016 the Lake Creek branch became the third Pinballz operation.
Pinballz Lake Creek
While the first two Pinballz business are positioned to the north and south of Austin in rather isolated locations, this third Pinballz is a mere nine miles further north than the original location and can be found in the heart of the Lake Creek Festival shopping centre, nestled between a Burlington Coat Factory and a Hobby Lobby.
If you have been to either of the other two Pinballz businesses then the sight as you walk through the doors will be a familiar one. Rows of top pinballs stand waiting for you as you come in, with large single piece arcade games off to the side.
The view as you enter Pinballz Lake Creek
Two rows of around eighteen pinballs lead from the entry desk to the back of the building.
The left bank of pinballs
The right bank
While these games might be considered a excellent collection by themselves, there are several rows more to explore.
…and more, including the two High Speed games and both Pinball 2000s
Pinballz uses a nice dual coinage system where either quarters or tokens can be used. Prices are typically either 75c or $1 per three-ball game. Replays can be won, as can extra balls, and the settings on the games we played seemed to be moderate to easy.
Beyond these rows of pinballs lies the newest Mikki’s Tavern and Wine Bar – the Pinballz bar and diner.
Behind the pinballs is Mikki’s Tavern
Any modern bar has to offer a wide range of local and guest craft beers, and Mikki’s Tavern is no different, offering thirty draft beers alongside a comprehensive selection of bottled beers, spirits and soft drinks.
The thirty beer taps
They also serve a full menu of classic bar snacks and meals, including pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, salads, wings and BBQ dishes. You can check out the full menu here. Because our time here was fairly brief we didn’t get the opportunity to try any of the food or beverages, although the both looked highly tempting.
Move right from the Tavern and we find… yet more pinballs.
The second group of pinballs begins
Some older machines
Some more unusual titles including Lights! Camera! Action! and Time Machine
Here’s the list of the 77 pinballs we recorded on this visit:
Addams Family, The
America’s Most Haunted
Big Hurt, Frank Thomas’s
Black Knight 2000
Bow and Arrow
Bride of Pinbot, The Machine
Capt. Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy
Champion Pub, The
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Cue Ball Wizard
Dracula, Bram Stoker’s
Dungeons and Dragons
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley’s
Freddy: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Getaway, The: High Speed 2
Guns ‘N Roses
Lethal Weapon 3
Lights! Camera! Action!
Medieval Madness Remake
Party Zone, The
Revenge from Mars
Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
Simpsons Pinball Party, The
Star Trek Premium
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Wars (DE)
Star Wars Episode 1
Street Fighter 2
Tales from the Crypt
Theatre of Magic
Most of the remainder of the floor space is taken up by large arcade video games, from single-person drivers to collaborate shooters, taking in dance machines and giant LED display versions of classic titles.
Dance and driving games in the video section
Skee-balls alongside collaborative shooter games
Giant Space Invaders Frenzy
But giant games weren’t the preserve of the video and redemption realms. Pinball had a game to offer in that category too.
Hercules by Atari
Large redemption pieces
Redemption means tickets, and tickets mean prizes
More large skill-based games
We said earlier that most of the floor space is given over to pinballs and arcade games, but Pinballz Lake Creek also has a room dedicated to playing laser tag.
The Galaxy Warz laser tag room
One thing you might have noticed in our pictures is the lack of customers. Our visit was just after lunch on a Wednesday afternoon in March, which is far from prime-time and outside any school holidays. So, we don’t know how busy Pinballz gets on Friday nights or at the weekend.
Pinballz Lake Creek opens from 10am until midnight during the week, and stays open until 2am on Friday and Saturday nights.
The location is the best of the three branches as far as local shops and amenities are concerned – there are numerous shops, restaurants and even a movie theatre in the same complex – so it certainly should be an attractive destination.
Pinballz itself has good lighting, great games and looks attractive, from the clean surfaces, well-maintained pinballs and the custom carpet design.
The carpet design at Pinballz
The Pinballz operation seems to be going from strength to strength. The Austin area is very well served, so we understand thoughts of a fourth location are centred on the Dallas area, around a three-hour drive north.
With such a great mix of games, food and drinks, we look forward to visiting that branch as soon as it opens.
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.
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?
We have paid several visits to the Silverball Museum in Asbury Park, New Jersey, dating back to the time before it moved to its current home on the boardwalk. So when we heard a second branch had opened in southern Florida on May 28th, we started planning our visit.
It took until October before we could jump on the Florida’s Turnpike and drive around two hours south from Orlando to Delray Beach on the east coast.
While the Asbury Park museum is highly visible with its seafront position, the Delray Beach location is in the city in an area with less footfall. Pinball fans will need to search out the Museum rather than simply stumbling across it.
Walk through the entrance and the first thing you will encounter is the reception desk. It is here that entry to the Museum can be purchased, merchandise bought, and any questions you might have answered.
Entry to the museum is bought on a timed basis. At the time of writing, a 30-minute pass costs $7.50 (€6.73 / £6.00), while extending that to a full hour takes the price up to $10. $15 buys a half-day pass and $25 gets you all-day access. Kids aged four and under get in for free with a paying adult.
For locals there are several monthly payment pass options for $30, $50 or $100 which are also valid at the Asbury Park location.
If you need time to consider the options or just want to enjoy some refreshments then opposite the reception desk is a bar area.
The bar features stools reclaimed from the Howard Johnson cafe chain when they closed their locations. Behind the bar, the history of the chain is related on an illuminated sign.
The bar itself has a wider range of drinks, both on tap and in bottles in the two refrigerated display cases. They also have quite a wide range of food available in their menu.
But back to the Museum, and assuming you have purchased entry, you enter the collection to be met immediately by the older machines in the building – four woodrail games from Gottlieb and Williams.
As with most of the pinballs at the Museum, the woodrail games have information cards atop the backboxes as well as high score records in a number of categories.
The games on the main floor are then divided into six long rows. There is a strong leaning towards electromechanicals and early solid-state machines amongst the collection.
Many of the games have LEDs fitted which makes them appear much brighter than originally intended, but the warm white effect is more sympathetic to the original look than we have seen at some other locations. It also greatly helps the Museum’s techs since they don’t need to keep replacing burned-out lamps.
There are around a dozen dot-matrix games at the museum. At the time of our visit there was nothing there from the current decade, although since then two Jersey Jack Pinball titles – The Wizard of Oz and The Hobbit – have been added.
It’s not all pinball though. On the far side of the hall from the modern pinballs is a row on mostly non-pinball arcade games, including bowlers, shooters, pitch-and-bats and video games.
Meanwhile, at the back of the hall is a row of skee ball games.
Behind the skee ball lanes is another small room with a couple more electronic pinballs and the bottom of a staircase which leads to the mezzanine level.
At the back of the hall on the mezzanine level are four more pinballs and a bunch of video games.
From the mezzanine you also get a great view of the main floor.
On the mezzanine level at the front of the building is a second bar and yet more games.
At the front, a large shuffleboard greets visitors to the bar area along with some exhibition games from pinball’s earliest days.
To the left of the bar is another row of pinballs with some interesting examples, such as both Bally Kiss backglasses and a New York pinball which is a version of Spirit of 76 designed just for the New York market.
Here’s a complete list of the pinball machines set up to play at the Silverball Museum:
Abra ca Dabra
Addams Family, The
Big Bang Bar
Getaway, The: High Speed 2
Guns N’ Roses
Hearts and Spades
Hit the Deck
Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure
Monday Night Football
Roadshow: Red & Ted’s
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Theatre of Magic
Tommy: The Who’s
World Cup Soccer
World Poker Tour
There’s no doubt the collection is skewed heavily towards what could be called the golden age of pinball – the ’60s and ’70s when Gottlieb alone were producing a new machine every month and selling around 40,000 pinballs a year.
That’s quite understandable. Those machines still represent how pinball is remembered by a large majority of the population, and provide an easy introduction into the game for new players.
The challenge is easily understood but difficult to achieve, and in an environment where your stay is timed and restricted, playing a 30-minute game of The Lord of the Rings is liable not to give great value-for-money. In addition, these classic games continue to inspire features and mechanisms in games designed today.
The Silverball Museum in Delray Beach is a must-visit location for any pinball fan either visiting or living in Florida, and it’s well worth the trip for out-of-state and international visitors too.
The next time we’re in Florida we’ll be back, and making plans to stay locally so we can enjoy everything the Silverball Museum has to offer over several days.
You can find out more about the Silverball Museum at Delray Beach, opening hours, and upcoming events and promotions on their website at silverballmuseum.com.
After leaving the Iwakura shopping centre, we proceeded to our second pinball location – Korona World Komaki. It only took around 8 minutes by car.
Korona World is a big amusement centre in Komaki. Through a collaboration with the Japan Game Museum, the centre has set up a dedicated area for retro games since early this year. It is a so-called “mini-JGM”.
There are six pinballs and some vintage video games
Surfing (1972, Sega Japan)
Carnival (1971, Sega Japan)
Playboy (1978 ,Bally)
Rocky & Bullwinkle (1993, Data East)
The Addams Family (1992, Bally)
It was very exciting and amazing for me to see the Gemini game. According to the ipdb.org, only 300 units were produced in 1978. I believe, it is one of the few still functional in the world.
Again, I could get high score and 3 replay credits on my first play of this game. (^o^)/
I believe the Rocky & Bullwinkle game might have been acquired from the Mono Mania Shopping Centre, so this is my second time seeing it within four years.
Another amazing game is the Sea Raider (1969). As I understand it, the game was totally not functional when it was first delivered to the JGM. It eventually became functional after JGM spent a lot of hard work and passion on it.
Here’s some additional information about Korona World Komaki: