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    On opening night of RecBar, a new restaurant / arcade / bar in J-Town, I took some fellow gamers to see what the new social gaming concept was all about. Being avid gamers, we knew that our expectations were high, but fortunately the large arcade, restaurant, and bar space did not disappoint. Back in the dimmer recesses of the arcade area, we went head-to-head in classic fighting games like Tekken and Mortal Kombat while patrons next to us pulled the triggers on light guns to prevent an oncoming rush of zombies. Banter and laughter rang loud over retro-modern pop songs lightly remixed by a live DJ as we all reveled in nostalgia and friendly competition.

    RecBar isn’t your average neighborhood bar, not a sports bar, nor is it purely one of the recently trending arcade bars popularized by others like 16Bit (Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, OH). What RecBar (10301 Taylorsville Road) owners Corey Sims and Tony Thomas have built is an amalgamation of all three. They plan to cater to all crowds, including UofL and UK fans, although Corey said that the televisions (there are 12 in the dining room at RecBar) will only have sound for “big games”. RecBar is also family-friendly, open to all ages until 10 p.m. and to the 21+ crowd until midnight Sunday-Wednesday, and 3 a.m. Thursday-Saturday.

    “It’s our own backyard [here in J-Town], so we know the other families here,” says Sims. “The area is untapped for something like this. 3rd Turn Brewery just opened [nearby] and their success has been encouraging.”

    RecBar has been in the works for four years, while Sims and Thomas built their game collection, secured funding, and searched for the right location. Both restaurateurs have over ten decades in the industry, and they spent several years working together at Fourth Street Live. After pooling their resources to bring a Golden Tee machine into their employers’ place, “as a way to earn extra income” according to Sims, they began collecting arcade games. At the same time, arcade bar concepts were gaining momentum in cities like New York and Chicago. Seeing that momentum, Sims’ and Thomas’ partnership in collecting games soon became a business agreement to open their own social gaming concept in Louisville.


    The J-Town space they finally found, which was most recently Bacon Bar, appealed to Sims and Thomas because it already had “restaurant bones” that they could reuse. The walls have a wood-paneled look, stained a grey-blue to match some of the metal accents, which contrasts nicely with the reclaimed wood behind the bar. RecBar sports a respectable selection of bourbon and spirits, sixteen beer taps including selections from Against the Grain and New Albanian, and a wide selection of canned beer including Goodwood, West Sixth, and other regionals. Their food menu, focused on sharable items and sandwiches, can be found on the RecBar Facebook page.

    The collection of games is suited to the idea of socializing with something for every kind of crowd. On opening night, the main attractions seemed to be 2 player fighting video games and tandem 3D shooters as people waited in the wings for their turn, but I noticed patrons enjoying skeeball and table games like bubble hockey as well. In the rear section of the arcade fairway, behind the table games, two modern futon style sofas sit angled side by side with their own TV’s. Each had their own dedicated Retron console, one in bright red and one in deep blue, suitable for NES, SNES, and Genesis video games. While discussing the “console lounge,” Sims said his favorite console game is probably still Mario 3. They also plan to utilize this area for tournaments like Smash Brothers and Mario Kart.


    RecBar only has a few pinball machines, recognizing that Zanzabar (2100 S. Preston St.) has the largest pinball selection in Louisville. Sims and Thomas aren’t trying to compete on that side, rather they want to focus on tandem, social gaming. They recently acquired a 4-player Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cabinet, and according to Sims they’re looking to add more 4 to 6 player arcade games like The Simpsons and X-men.


    As an avid gamer, I had to ask Sims about his favorite game on the floor at RecBar (I didn’t get the chance to ask Thomas). Looking around at their collection, he pauses:

    “That’s a hard question. We just traded for a pinball at arcade expo, it’s called Teed Off. It’s sort of a Caddy Shack knock off. They didn’t get the rights, so they had to sort of fake it. There’s even a gopher on top.”

    I took a shot at Teed Off, playing with some of the stored credits RecBar loaded to start off the night. The game lived up to Sims hype, with caricatures resembling Chevy Chase and Bill Murray in their now-legendary costumes flashing on the board, but ultimately I preferred the quick action arcade games. Our group spent much of the night blowing away zombies and monsters in House of the Dead, and I won a few tense games of Tekken Tag Tournament by the skin of my teeth. We all agreed that the games, food, and atmosphere combined made for a great social experience. 

    Images: Broken Token

    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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