So I didn’t get out to many events at Chicago Craft Beer Week. Working temp jobs and a family at home will do that to you. But I did get an intriguing invitation that I could squeeze in some time to check out.
Headquarters Beercade is one of those new places in town that combines two of my loves: good beer and old arcade games. I know they hold a warm places in many of your hearts, too. There’s even the long in the works Arcade Brewery whose whole design sense is wrapped around the old 8-bit aesthetic. I had not been there, nor to Headquarters’ competitor, the Emporium Arcade Bar (1366 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773-697-7922). Until I got an invite to Headquarters expansion, with a new pinball gallery, at a soft opening Thursday, the 23rd.
It’s been a lot of presidents since anyone invited me to go play pinball. So off I went.
Headquarters Beercade is at 950 W. Wolfram, one block directly north of the Brown Line’s Diversey stop, near the DePaul campus. In fact, as I got off there, I caught the first of a phalanx of Pin-ups for Pinball roller girls, Jessica and Amanda, handing out mixtape cassettes with printed labels inviting people in during the rest of the Grnad Opening weekend.
HQ Beercade, as it is wont to call itself, originally opened in the old Coach House last October with dozens of video games on free play, and a few pinball games. Owners Mark Kwiatkowski and Brian Galati also owned the adjoining Uncle Fatty’s, the space now remodeled into the pinball arcade.
Of course they were still finishing the remodeling while us media types were standing outside. Finally, we were let in after they roped off a few sections where the tools were still sitting.
Pinball! What I see now before me is far beyond the game (to quote Roger Daltrey). As promised, about a dozen consoles, all being eagerly attacked. I wouldn’t quite call it a nostalgia buzz, as I think the oldest game there would have been the 1991 Midway/Bally “Addams Family” movie tie-in. I go back to the first electronic games, “Black Knight” and “8-Ball Deluxe.” But I digress, and besides, all these newer games were in working order. There was “Playboy,” “Family Guy”, “Star Wars,” and I think it’s required that every arcade have a game named “Arabian Nights” that doesn’t have enough balls to run a multiball feature. If games are not your thing, you can revel in videos of old "American Gladiators" and 90's Wrestlemania events (what's with the "Miami Vice" colors on that guy pretending to knee Hulk Hogan's chin, anyway?).
Wait, why was I there? Oh yes, to check out the beer menu. Quite an impressive list they had. Taps were only in the original space only, and it was closed during the soft opening. But each of the three bars in the annex had plenty of true craft cans and bottles, plus a stocked liquor bar specializing in cocktails. The menus were presented in laminated comic book covers, with interior pages also laminated to the beer menus, I was easily able to find and enjoy some brews I had never had before; just remember, beer geeks, to get a glass to see your beer in all its foamy glory.
I did not get to see how the place looks during normal operation, but the space was pretty fair, with lots of exposed concrete but big windows to give it an airy look. This definitely goes on my lists of places to duck into if I’m in the neighborhood. Now, if they only had a six-player game so I could try to recreate the triple match I got on a round of “Six Million Dollar Man” oh, so long ago.