The WISCH LIST
By Dave Wischnowsky
The 1980s were good to many in America.
But they weren’t very good to pinball.
After the introduction of microprocessors elevated pinball into the wildly popular realm of electronic gaming during the 1970s, the video game boom of the ’80s turned the blinking lights out on pinball’s heyday.
As tastes changed, arcades began yanking out rows of pinball machines and replacing them with the trendier likes of Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Galaga. And if there was a reason for an arcade to expand, it was because of video games, not pinball.
But, ironically, in Chicago those tables have now been turned.
Or, perhaps to better use pinball lingo, flipped.
Last fall, I introduced you to Headquarters Beercade, a new hotspot in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood from nightlife entrepreneurs Mark Kwiatkowski and Brian Galati that uniquely combined a vintage video game arcade with a bar. It was a great concept that drew many old-school gamers and new-school craft beer aficionados by offering them a fantastic escape back to the 1980s when many a kid would cash in his or her allowance for a fistful of quarters and a chance to beat Donkey Kong or survive as Frogger at the local arcade.
Now, however, Headquarters is allowing you to travel even further back in time to the ’70s and immerse yourself in the era of pinball wizards.
On Memorial Day weekend, the bar at 950 W. Wolfram St. completed its expansion into the former Uncle Fatty’s Rum Resort next-door, adding 7,000-square-feet of space dedicated to pinball – and drinks.
The spacious new “Pincade” features a trio of bars and a lively center area that Headquarters refers to as “pinball alley,” which features three lanes that include 20 of the noisy iconic machines. There, you’ll find a dizzying array of pinball themes ranging from Indiana Jones to X-Men to Guns & Roses and from Tales From the Crypt to the Avengers to the Addams Family.
The interior design of the Pincade is as unique as the experience it offers with one side of the bar lined with Jameson barrels topped with reclaimed wood that’s outlined with the metal piping from the barrels. Overhead lights in the room are made from old metal kegs, and on the metal shelves above the bar glass containers filled with colorful housemade infused alcohols are strategically arranged, leading one visitor to describe the feel as that of an old grocery store.
The drinks at Headquarters also set high scores with its truly impressive craft beer list rotating out every 10 days while a beefed-up array of specialty cocktails in the Pincade feature fun-loving names such as Sodapopinski, Mott’s, Gin’etics, Cereal Killer and Assault & Pepper.
The “Beercade” side of the bar continues to feature every video game your 12-year-old self could possibly desire, from the aforementioned Pac-Man, Frogger, Donkey Kong and Galaga to other favorites such as Dig-Dug, Double Dragon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Street Fighter II, NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat, along with many more.
Throughout Headquarters, visitors also can chuckle at the 1980s cheesiness of old TV shows such as “American Gladiators,” “Double Dare” and WWF Wrestling as they play on screens overhead. Although with the Pincade, they may want to put some ’70s shows into the rotation as well.
When he opened the bar, Galati told CBSChicago.com that, “We took a lot of out-of-the-box ideas and used them. It’s just a collection of a well-rounded and very creative concept. You’re always being entertained.”
Now, in more ways – and decades – than one.
Headquarters is open 7 days a week until 2 a.m., 3 a.m. on Saturdays. For more information, visit hqbeercade.com.