Somewhere Only We Know: Barcade

Located in the heart of Brooklyn, just a stone’s throw from the Lorimer subway stop (G and the L train), Barcade is a gamer’s paradise. The love child of Flynn’s arcade from Tron and a dive bar come to life. If ever the story of how “Castles and Cooks” came to be was to be told, the story would start with the idea being hatched in a bar like this. In reality, the idea was sparked in a bar, but that’s another story.

Alternative rock band Keane has a song called “Somewhere Only We Know” that tells a tale of secret hideaways. For gamers and foodies alike, there’s a lot to relate to regarding that song. Gamers spend large portions of their time ferreting out arenas where they and their brethren can gather away from prying and judging eyes. The classic “parent’s basement” situation, though from experience, sometimes the basement is the best part of the house. Foodies revel in finding quiet neighborhood gems and surprise locales that don’t show up on the normal top ten lists and travel guides.

Barcade aptly fits for both groups. Though, for the gamers of the world it’ll probably hold a more special place in the cockles of your heart. A complete throwback to the 80s and early 90s when quarter munching arcades filled the malls of this country. The setup of the bar is really nothing more than a large brick room with a bar in the middle and few benches and tables. Around the outside edge of the space are old arcade gaming cabinets and a coin machine. Patrons grab a pint, seek out their favorite game and spend the evening making friends and rivals. All while trying desperately to supplant George Costanza’s record on the Frogger machine.

Most of the arcade classics are present, including Rampage, Qbert, Pacman, Gauntlet, Outrun, Donkey Kong Jr. and many many more. Bring plenty of dollar bills or spare change. Aside from being a great conversation starter to meet new people, the games offer a fantastic way to enhance an evening out with friends. Who doesn’t want to have a friendly competition over who can get the furthest in Pacman, or try and re-create scenes from King of Kong (am I the only one who wants to re-create scenes from a documentary?) If gaming isn’t actually your thing you’d be surprised at how mesmerizing and entertaining it can be to watch other people play classic arcade games, especially once the players have been drinking awhile.

As for the bar itself, it boasts a pretty wide variety of choices and given all of the different specialty breweries and micro-breweries in and around Brooklyn, Barcade does well to represent a strong array of beers that you probably won’t find a lot of other places. They have as many as 15 beers on tap at once and rotate them regularly, so frequent patrons will find new reasons to take a break from gaming to grab a drink. Food is relatively non-existent so those looking for a little nosh to add to the drinking and gaming are sort of out of luck. They do sell beef jerky at the bar and there is a diner right across the street for the most part, so if you really are in need of a post- Pacman snack, it can be had.

The atmosphere is really laid back, and while music is often playing, it isn’t the mind flaying techno beat that you’ll find elsewhere. Barcade really is all about relaxing and gaming, with some good refreshments thrown in. Anyone who ever went to a LAN party knows that’s the proven trifecta for a good gaming time.

Whether you’re an epic level gamer, or just looking to switch up your normal weekend outing, Barcade is a perfect spot. It has the same feel of a neighborhood bar, but with a unique twist that makes it the type of place you tell your friends “I HAVE to take you here”. Quite simply, Barcade is the type of place that is too cool to keep as “somewhere only we know”.

For more info on Barcade, check out their website: http://www.barcadebrooklyn.com/ which includes a list of drinks currently on tap and a photo essay showing how they built and setup the entire bar (a task which can only be described as EPIC).

Food & Beverage:
Barcade doesn’t offer much in the way of food options, but they have an expansive beverage menu with plenty of local or micro-brew options and are always rotating their beers on tap.

Service:
The guys at the bar know their stuff and how to handle a crowd. Friendly and always willing to make a suggestion if the selection appears too daunting, you’ll rarely wait very long for a drink.

Atmosphere:
The perfect dive bar for geeks and gamers alike. The iridescent glow from old school arcade cabinets, along with the relaxed atmosphere of a cool Brooklyn dive bar makes for the perfect laid back spot to grab a few drinks and use up those extra quarters you have from the laundromat.

(photo courtesy of brownstoner.com)