By Meredith Heil
When Paul Kermezian and four of his buddies opened the first Barcade in 2004, it was a total game changer… literally. Set in a cavernous converted Williamsburg metal shop, Barcade masterfully united Kermezian’s two great loves: vintage video games and excellent craft beer, a marriage that has delighted New York beer geeks for over a decade. The concept was so successful, in fact, that Kermezian and his crew went on to open more Barcades, first in Jersey City, then Philadelphia and now Manhattan, hitting the city hard with not one, but two brand spanking new sudsy arcades. Both island locations offer a killer craft lineup, a diverse lot of glimmering retro games and a full menu of snacky bites to fuel joystick-happy drinkers.
Perched on a quiet stretch of 24th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, the eldest of the twin Barcade Manhattans is sandwiched snuggly between Chelsea to the West and the Flatiron to the East. The space is big – especially for Manhattan standards – and features a long, winding bar surrounded by clusters of arcade games and hulking support beams that strategically break up the room into smaller, more intimate table-lined segments. On a recent Monday night, upbeat 90’s rock set the tone as a sizable post-work crowd munched on Tetris-shaped tater tots, sipped expertly poured pints of craft favorites like Lakefront Fuel Cafe Coffee Stout and Gun Hill 13 Star XIPA and squared off against their comrades in heated Mortal Kombat battles. As expected based on the address, the vibe was Silicon Alley hipster-geek heavy, with a smattering of collegiate nerds and newly graduated frat bros all appearing to hover around the age of 25. While the patronage might be a bit homogenous, Barcade 24th Street boasts friendly bartenders, quick service, tasty food options, a full bar with an extensive tap list and a sweet, sweet, futuristic Sega game called Hologram Time Traveller (trust me, you’ll want to play this), all of which add up to a HIGH SCORE in my book.
Barcade Chelsea is located at 148 West 24th St. in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Closest subway is the 1 train at 23rd St.
The newest member of the Barcade family is Barcade St. Marks, a sloping, den-like outfit situated inside a former Kim’s Video in the heart of the East Village. This Barcade has an undoubtedly awesome location going for it, along with the same bangin’ snack menu as the 24th Street Barcade and 24 rotating taps showcasing the best in American craft beer. There’s no liquor at this spot, but on a Wednesday evening visit, that didn’t seem like such a bad thing, as the handful of folks milling about were decisively older, wiser and much, much chiller than the bar’s uptown counterpart. The bar itself is reminiscent of a nerdy dungeon, a narrow hall with exposed piping and jet black walls lit by the glow of Tekken 2 and Speed Racer machines. Like a little brother nearing the cusp of adolescence, Barcade St. Marks does feels a bit overshadowed by its looming older siblings, but definitely worth a pre-game stop if you find yourself wandering Manhattan’s famed craft beer triangle. And while this might be the scrawniest of the Barcades, the beer flows just as freely and each arcade game is still only a quarter, so a quick hour was all I needed to down a couple Bear Republic Crazy Ivan Belgian IPAs and complete a “solid gaming run,” as my accompanying co-worker put it. Mission accomplished.
Barcade St. Marks is located at 6 Saint Marks Pl in the East Village. Closest subway is the 6 train at Astor Place.