Few things evoke pure, euphoric nostalgia like the feeling of pulling back a pinball plunger or watching a classic arcade machine light up. That’s the idea behind Pin-Bar, the new grown-up playground on the corner of 17th Avenue and 4th Street S.W. The bar boasts 18 modern pinball machines — most of them carrying pop-culture themes ranging from golden oldie bands like Aerosmith and AC/DC to newer-school themes like Game of Thrones — as well as five classic arcade video games.
While the games are clearly what’s drawing customers through Pin-Bar’s door, operating partner Arlen Smith (who many Calgarians know from The Palomino Smokehouse) also wanted to incorporate a food element near and dear to his heart: classic American sandwiches. Inspired by trips to iconic sandwich spots like Philippe’s in Los Angeles and Primanti Bros. in Pittsburgh, Smith packed the menu with unapologetic takes on French dip, Cubano and breakfast sandwiches as well as a section of cheeky “Fat Sandwiches” including “The Wizard,” a ciabatta bun stuffed with coleslaw, crinkle-cut fries and what Smith claims is the best house-made pastrami in the city.
Each pinball machine is fitted with a cup holder large enough to safely accommodate a full pint glass, as Pin-Bar has plenty of brews on tap, but it also offers a number of cocktails and a range of non-alcoholic drinks. The latter is important since Pin-bar makes a point of being family friendly. Kids are welcome until 4 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and are especially encouraged on Sundays until 8 p.m. when the bar offers unlimited play for $10 per individual or $20 per family, helping to seed a love of pinball in a generation immune to the pull of ’80s nostalgia.
501 17 Ave. S.W., 403-930-8175, pinbaryyc.com
Three more places with retro arcade games
Open since 1969, Boogie’s Burgers has always traded on vintage charm, but both the original Renfrew location and the new Marda Loop Boogie’s have upped the fun factor with a decent slate of arcade favourites. Each location boasts different games with choices like Galaga, Street Fighter and Donkey Kong.
908A Edmonton Tr. N.E., 403-230-7070 and 2129 33 Ave. S.W., 403-454-2902; boogiesburgers.com
A sports bar for people who think they don’t like sports bars, Home & Away has plenty to keep customers entertained, including a selection of sports-themed games like Skee-Ball, Pop-A-Shot, table hockey and an NBA Jam arcade game.
1331 17 Ave S.W.; 403-455-9789; homeandawayyyc.com
For over a decade Tubby Dog has been Calgary’s castle of kitsch, with its selection of wacky hot dog toppings and Happy Days-meets-John Waters decor. The hot dog joint’s collection of ’80s video games (Space Invaders, BurgerTime, Double Dragon) is complemented with a selection of newer pinball machines.
1022 17 Ave. S.W., 403-244-0694, tubbydog.com