Can Barcade match its pre-opening hype?

In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve been pretty excited for Barcade for a long while now. Maybe too excited.

But the long wait is over. It’s May 2016 and there is an actual, real-life Barcade right here in our own New Haven, Connecticut. So, does it match the hype? Is it everything we dreamed of and more?

Uh, yeah, it’s pretty amazing.

3VGmN

There’s never a wrong time for a Demolition Man reference.

Is it perfect? No, but that’s okay, neither are you, dear reader. Remember that time you tried to make Chicken Florentine and nobody talks about it to this day? Exactly.

Initial Impressions

After all the hype (mostly generated by this site), I admit I was a little concerned that somehow, Barcade would end up a disappointment. I don’t know how. But some weird anxiety was gnawing at me. I’d been talking about it for like a year.

What if it sucked? What if the games were terrible and nobody actually showed up? And why am I freaking out about a business I don’t own?

I walked in to the familiar sounds of beeps and coins rattling in metal cages filled the air as Massive Attack pulsated on the sound system. The place was packed with a mostly young, good-looking crowd. My first thought?

Barcade New Haven

You have to provide your own hipsters, though.

Fuck yeah.

Sure, it was almost impossible to find a game to play, never mind get an actual drink from the bar, but here it was, in all its glory: Barcade. Right here in New Haven.

And it was even better than I imagined. (And I imagined it way more than you’d think.)

The dark red walls. The layout, which provides both central, social areas as well as nooks and crannies full of gems like R-Type. The 6-player X-Men game. The craft beer selection.

It’s glorious.

And don't even try to steal their copyright.

And don’t even try to steal their copyright.

The Game Line-Up

A Barcade is only as good as its game lineup. And while I have to say that it’s not quite as good as its original Brooklyn location, game-wise, it’s also perfectly understandable. After all, nobody is really making new Paperboy arcade boxes, are they. (Cause if you are, we should be friends.)

Still, there are plenty of classics. Ms. Pac-Man, Tapper, Galaga, R-Type, Smash TV, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Daytona USA. They’ve got plenty of great games from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.

Personally, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time playing Burger Time and you know what? Burger Time was obviously designed by sadists with no respect for humanity. My dreams are haunted by vicious flying pickles.

Burger Time

The stuff of nightmares.

Crazy Taxi and R-Type are two of my other favorites. I also have a group of friends who are insistently one-upping each other at Galaga and it is adorable. I’ve never seen people fight over Galaga before. It’s a nerd’s wet dream.

All this gaming can make you a bit famished, which leads to the next question:

How’s the food?

This one’s a bit more complicated. The answer is: It depends who you ask.

Several of my friends swear the food is “amazing.” I’ve heard that exact language from at least two people.

On the other hand, my own experience coming in at lunch for their $15 pint-and-a-sandwich-and-fries Special was… quite good. I got the grilled chicken sandwich and I have to say, it was a very solid sandwich. It’s not the sandwich that’s going to make you start believing in sandwiches again after you’ve been hurt too many times. But still very good.

The fries were a bit salty but so am I, so who am I to judge. Not like, Prime 16 good (or RIP Delaney’s good), but again, not bad at all.

Delaney's New Haven

Rest in peace, sweet prince.

My friend, who got the veggie burger, was less impressed, and said it was a bit burned/too crispy. And this guy is like a bona fide veggie burger expert, so I trust him, despite the fact that he’s a Browns fan.

They recently did a redesign of the menu and it seems sandwiches now come with fries or a side salad, and I think the prices dropped a bit, which was an initial concern of mine, so kudos to them for realizing this isn’t fancy-ass Williamsburg.

I don’t think it’s going to blow anybody away, but I still have enjoyed what I’ve had and people have been mostly saying positive things. And the Lunch Special is a pretty good deal, given the price and the beer selection.

How about the beers?

Uh, pretty awesome, actually. The selection is pretty varied and interesting. I’d say it’s on par with Prime 16 in terms of getting some pretty rare stuff. Maybe even a little weirder, which is fun.

The beers tend to be slightly more expensive — perhaps on par with Cask Republic — but well within the normal “fancy craft beers” range.

Of course, getting a drink can be a tricky proposition on Fridays and Saturdays when the bar is mobbed. But I think I’ll give ’em a pass. They’ve been open for what, three weeks? Which means no bartender is an “expert” on their Point of Sale systems. Never mind that they require you to leave a license with a tab, which means pretty much every person has to suddenly dig out their ID.

This is probably as un-busy as it gets at night.

This is probably as un-busy as it gets at night.

Still, I assume, eventually, people will, uh, do other things on Saturdays and/or the bartenders will get faster with the system. Cause they do have some pretty good bartenders — it’s just a lot all at once when the place is utterly insane on a Saturday night.

And I do mean insane.

A Shout-Out to the Awesome Music

I just want to take a moment to point out that the music is amazing. I’ve heard Massive Attack, old school Metallica, old 90’s trip-hop I totally forgot existed. Seriously, I think they play the best music in New Haven. At least for my taste. Which, I admit, is crap.

Final Grade: A-

What I Liked: Great games, great music, great beer selection. Overall cool vibe. Conveniently and dangerously located one block from my apartment.

What I Didn’t Like: Food can be hit-or-miss and beers can be a bit expensive and difficult to acquire during peak hours.