I know. It seems like I’m late to the Barcade party, but I assure you, I’m not! We live within walking distance of 16-Bit (both a blessing and a curse), and were there literally the day the opened it to the public. No, not opening day — the day before that. Fortunately, I was not technically a blogger then — I was a little too enthusiastic about the PBR, pinball, and Street Fighter, and I’m afraid my blog post would have been blurry, if not totally fictional.
Lucky for you, I’ve been back about a jillion times. A few of the husband’s co-workers had gotten a little sick of his raving about the place and insisted we all meet up for a few drinks and friendly challenges. Like a responsible blogger, I stayed away from the glistening cans of PBR, and focused on the frothy, fruity drinks that were on special. Behold the Cyndi Lauper.
It was delicious. I typically prefer beer over liquor, but I could get behind this, which tasted like a grape popsicle, just as the waitress promised. Our group had split up so I took my drink and sidled up next to their respective games, sipping away. Folks, this thing goes down easy. Here are some adorable pictures of the bar.
Every time I go in I take a lap. I mash buttons on Mortal Kombat, eat helicopters in Rampage, maybe I’ll try some Frogger if I’m really looking to get out of my comfort zone. I’ll wander around, fidget with my drink, try to keep myself from looking over my shoulder to that game in the corner. Then I look over at that game in the corner. Is it open? Is there a line? Are people using any team except for the Chicago Bulls?
It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been away, I will always go back to NBA Jam.
See these folks? They’re in my space. I cannot get enough of NBA Jam. Believe me. I resurrected my brother’s Super Nintendo just so I could hear that announcer yell Boom-shaka-laka! one more time. (Okay, Super Mario and Mario Kart made it worth my while, too.)
So now you know my other deep, dark secret. Not only do I calculate points for every food item (though not that Cyndi Lauper, cheeky retro cocktails are free), but I love me some video games. We’ve got the aforementioned Super Nintendo, the XBox 360, the Wii, the Wii U, and a PS3. Here’s where I hang my head in shame and confess that we do not have the One or the PS4 (it will be a One first). It’s my husband’s fault! I tried to buy him the One for Christmas but he dashed my gift-giving dreams. Wait till after Christmas, he says; the price will go down, he says. THERE IS STILL NO ONE IN MY HOUSE.
The point, however, is that I love video games, due in no small part to NBA Jam. From time to time, my brother would let me play with him. After much foot-stomping and Barbie-brandishing, I’d get lucky and he’d throw a controller at me. And I would start losing spectacularly. Usually, the SNES would take pity on me, and magically interfere with all his dunks (that boing-y bounce off the rim is so embarrassing for a 16-year-old boy), and it would let me pull ahead to win. Nothing was better than the sweet pity of the SNES.
Replaying all these memories in my head allowed those fools above time enough to finish their game so I could get my NBA Jam fix. Yes, I have it at home, but there is nothing more beautiful than the glow of the full-size arcade screen. See?
SEE?! Tournament Edition and everything! So I got my husband to play on the Chicago Bulls with me. (We can’t play against each other — I have rage blackouts that some people like to call poor sportsmanship. At home these charming episodes are affectionately referred to as rage resets because somehow the game gets torn out of the console.) And you know what? We lost. For all my love of NBA Jam, I can’t play a lick. I’m terrible. I forget which button is which: I shoot from the wrong side of the court because I’m trying to pass, and am constantly jumping to block when I’m supposed to be stealing. I am probably the worst. And where was this machine’s pity? We lost by 18 points! That’s a slaughter in NBA Jam! I must have been spoiled by a very sympathetic console growing up.
We took our defeat to a table nearby to drown our sorrows in hot dogs and tater tots from Dirty Frank’s. A pretty good consolation prize, after all. We shared Slappy Pappy’s Super Sloppy and Sarva’s Tot-cho Dog. Truly, they are very good. This may sound strange, but Dirty Frank’s has the most wonderful jalapenos. They are a bright, beautiful green, and so fresh they crunch when you bite into them. Of course, they are hot as Hades, and will have you grasping madly for the sweet oasis that is your Cyndi Lauper, but good Lord are they good. I favored the Tot-cho dog, myself. Have a look.
After licking the nacho cheese from our fingers and sucking up the dregs of poor Miss Lauper, we did another lap before taking ourselves home. NBA Jam knows I’ll be back. It knows. The Bulls will be waiting for me. And who can say? Perhaps if I replace Cyndi Lauper with Kevin Bacon or Alyssa Milano, maybe I’ll lose by less than 18 next time.
16-Bit Bar + Arcade is located at 254 South Fourth Street. Mon-Fri 4pm-Close. Sat-Sun 12pm-Close.
Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace is located at 248 South Fourth Street. Sun-Thurs 11am-2am. Fri-Sat 11am-1:45am.