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    Growing up doesn't have to be boring — it just means you can keep playing arcade games with the added bonus of drinking. Here's four places in Louisville where you can do just that. 


    Kaiju - Monstrous Fun

    This Germantown bar (formerly Lisa’s Oak Street Lounge) possesses the ambiance of a dive and the decor of its Japanese namesake “Kaiju.” On either side of the bar mirror stand Japanese collectibles from "Gundam," "Godzilla," "Power Rangers" and other giant robot/monster franchises. Keeping with that theme, the sole arcade cabinet houses the city smashing game “Rampage.” On the menu you’ll find hot sake, cold beer, fresh popcorn and bagged snacks like “Combos” (alcohol and nostalgia FTW).

    Nerds have claimed this bar, but these days nerds are as hip as the rest of us, so you won’t notice. And thanks to us nerds, you can go over to Kaiju on Monday nights for organized gaming at “Bourbon, Beer, and Board Games.” Squire Greene will teach you whichever game you want to play from this collection, sorted into weekly themes like “Dice, Dice, Baby” and “Dungeon Delvers.” He’s great at explaining game mechanics in layman's terms rapidly and successfully, and the diverse crowd is never at a loss on how or what to play.

    Two Sundays a month, you can also game with Dungeons and Dragons, Call of Cthulhu and more at Slur Your Role. Run by the nonprofit Nerd Louisville, Slur Your Role encourages you to get buzzed and be brave, always remembering the dice are not always kind. Finally, test your skills in competition with Super Smash Bros or Mario Kart on the projector screen (schedule and versions vary).


    Hilltop Tavern – Good Food, Fun Crowd

    This eclectic spot is a mainstay in Clifton that’s almost always busy. From burgers and beer to a respectable collection of board games, they’ve got what you need. The PBR smoked chicken is amazing, and the black bean burger an awesome mix of flavor and spice, plus the texture is perfect. From eating dinner, to playing games, watching sports and even getting loose late into the night, Hilltop is always comfortable. They serve food until 3 a.m. and booze until 4 a.m.

    Games may be too much of an investment for some bars, but Hilltop has you covered. Foosball is the most traditional choice, and the giant Jenga set is the most novel. There are also two retro arcade cabinets both fitted with a large selection of games including "X-Men," "Raiden Jet Fighters," "Street Fighter" and "Galaga." Each cabinet boasts a selection of 1000 games, and Hilltop has also previously held competitive events like a Donkey Kong tournament including free play of the original on both cabinets, and DK Country Wii on the projector screen. One-off events at Hilltop stay unique and are paired with monthly tap takeovers from breweries as local and national craft breweries. Recently, Hilltop hosted a phenomenal ice-cream social event where patrons ordering the paired New Belgium “caramel brownie” beer got to keep the glass. Other beer events pair with games like the recent Falls City brewing/Old 502 Winery Trivia Night.


    Zanzabar - Retro Hip

    Speaking of nerds being hip, you can see hip crowds around pinball machines and video games any night of the week at Zanzabar. Part diner, part dive, part venue, part arcade, Zanzabar incorporates all the cool things locals love. If you go for dinner, I recommend the fried fish Galaxy Tacos — just enough kick, served on a nicely textured tortilla. When the pinball flippers, joysticks and beer provoke your munchies, order up some junk food to share like the Super Cobra Nachos.

    From "Galaga" to "Ms. Pacman" and "Tapper," the individual arcade cabinets are a retro delight. The games are rotated regularly and kept in good working order. The pinball selection is even more impressive from classics like Bally’s 1978 "Star Trek" and Williams’ 1986 "Pinbot" to the more electronic Data East’s 1994 "The Who’s Pinball Wizard," with built in stereo speakers. Recently I saw a "Games of Thrones" machine with real video display — unfortunately, someone must have stiffed the Lanisters, because it was out of order.

    Concerts at Zanzabar vary widely in style, from hip-hop acts and DJs to indie, folk and punk rock bands. I’ve been to Morrisey dance parties and seen metal bands whip their hair against the drop ceiling. You’ll want to either come at opening time (5 p.m.) or avoid dropping in for games altogether on concert nights because half the arcade cabinets are adjacent to the stage and get covered, leaving mostly pinball machines near the entrance.

    Zbar has announced, however, that they’re moving the concert business into the building behind them — a work in progress. Fridays are pinball league nights, and although league players get in whether or not there’s a show, non-leaguers will have a tough time finding an open machine to play. The bar takes plastic, but bring cash for the quarter machine.


    RecBar - Eat & play like a kid, drink like an adult

    If you don’t feel hip enough, or just crave a bigger selection of games, RecBar will probably be your new go-to video game bar. Inside the large J-Town building you’ll find a huge collection of over 40 arcade games spanning the '80s and '90s from the once shocking gore of "Mortal Kombat" to the polo shirt fun of "Golden Tee." The trigger happy gamer will enjoy "House of the Dead" and "Big Buck Hunter." Other notables include "NBA Jam," the original "Shinobi" (not the panic-inducing Xbox game), Sega’s "Spiderman" and "Tekken Tag Tournament."

    The food also embodies RecBar’s concept of “social entertainment” with saucy twisted tacos, massive burgers and sandwiches and fried dessert that looks very festive indeed. At the bar you can choose from 16 taps and a large selection of craft beers in cans and bottles. Grab a good brew or stiff cocktail to loosen the knots of responsibility and tap into your inner child at RecBar.

    Brandon Stettenbenz's picture

    About Brandon Stettenbenz

    Writer, podcaster, web designer. Content guy with Nerd Louisville. Likes his beer and coffee both dark. Lives in Clifton with his wife who’s also a super nerd.

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