Pac-Man and a pint: Arcade bars level up in South Florida

Call them bar-cades. Or beer-cades.

Three South Florida bars house entire retro arcades, pairing old-school video games with full menus of liquor and craft beer. Arcade bars combine all the nostalgia of classic video games, from Atari 2600 to pinball machines, with the social lubricant of alcohol. Old-fashioned arcades, which died out in the 1990s along with fax machines and Tamagotchis, have been revived with this new breed of arcade bars, which first sprouted in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.

Now, these time-capsule bars have landed in Broward and Palm Beach counties. For the most part, the video games are free to play — none is coin-operated — at Glitch Bar in Fort Lauderdale, Tenth Level Tavern in Oakland Park and Silverball Pinball Museum in Delray Beach.

Here's what you need to know before you power up.

Tenth Level Tavern

1242 NE 38th St., Oakland Park; 954-559-1414 or like 'Tenth Level Tavern' on Facebook; free admission

It's changed names three times since debuting in October 2015 (remember Another Castle? Power Up Pub?), but Joey Camissa's 1,250-square foot geek den hasn't changed its formula of craft beer and video games.

Part arcade, craft-beer bar and video-game-themed art gallery, Tenth Level Tavern caters to old-school gamers who attempt to rescue Super Mario's princess with one hand while tilting back a cold one with the other.

"I wanted to make a place that was like my living room," says Cammisa, 31, who quit his job as a co-owner of Char-Hut, the South Florida burger franchise his father created in 1976, to open Tenth Level. "You can show up in a Batman mask and pajamas. You can be yourself. Just be good at the games, or someone will probably rip on you."

Cammisa's video-game collection includes 4,000 arcade and console titles, playable on monitors at the bar and on tube TV sets connected to an Atari 2600, a Nintendo Entertainment System, a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, a Nintendo 64, a WiiU and an Xbox One. Along the back wall are 10 arcade-machine cabinets, painted black and containing flat-screen TVs hooked to filled with games, including Donkey Kong, Asteroids, Frogger and Crossed Swords, a combat role-playing game. All games are free to play.

Tenth Level's craft-beer menu has also doubled since 2015, from 50 to 100 varieties, including from local breweries MIA, Coppertail and Funky Buddha, whose warehouse is just across the street. Wine and mead are also on the menu.

In 2016, Cammisa began monthly gaming tournaments, including an every-Thursday "Fight Night," where patrons compete in fighting games for free beer pints. Other nights include karaoke on Tuesdays, open-mike comedy on Sunday and, coming in February, a trivia night.

Silverball Pinball Museum

19 NE Third Ave., Delray Beach; 561-266-3294 or SilverballMuseum.com/Delray-Beach; $7.50-$25

Pinball instantly fascinated Rob Ilvento's daughter, Morgan, when she pulled the plunger on a game a few years ago during one of her father's food conventions.

Morgan, who's on the autistic spectrum, enjoyed the game so much that Ilvento bought a bank of classic pinball machines and opened Silverball Pinball Museum in Asbury Park, N.J. in 2009, and then another in Delray Beach last May. (The name is inspired by a lyric from the Who's "Pinball Wizard.")

About 200 retro pinball machines fill the 9,600-square-foot bar-cade. Co-owners Ilvento and Steve Zuckerman call it a museum because note cards identify each machine's history. Pinball games range from the Who's "Tommy" Pinball Wizard from 1994 to a wooden-rail Army-Navy football game from the 1950s.

There are plenty of vintage skee-ball games, and arcade machines include Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Galaga and Asteroids. Patrons pay upfront to play the games, or they can purchase $30 monthly memberships.

"Everything old becomes new again," says Dayna DiDomenico, one of Silverball's managers, of the pinball machines. "You can come in, have your favorite beer, and then you're stepping back in time."

The museum's craft-beer selection is nearly as impressive as the pinball. Beyond its full-liquor bar, wine list and Jersey Shore-inspired menu (chicken fingers, pizza), more than 40 brews beckon from behind the bar.

Glitch Bar

111 SW Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-616-5762 or GlitchBar.com; free admission

After four months of watching gamers pack their new video-game nightclub in Himmarshee Village, co-owners Dwight Slamp and Chris Guevara say they're shutting down Glitch in late January.

Lease-agreement problems with next-door neighbor and landlord CYN Nightclub, Slamp and Guevara say, require them to close their 2,000-square-foot warehouse, which opened in September. They plan to re-open the full-liquor bar in Flagler Village this spring, and a pop-up downtown in the interim.

But for now, Glitch will continue offering Tetris and tequila downtown. There are 18 arcade machines, including Mortal Kombat II, Donkey Kong, Street Fighter Alpha and NFL Blitz 2000, and 100 varieties of craft beer rest in coolers behind the bar. There are also video game-themed cocktails, including a Yoshi Mojito (Bacardi, coconut rum, lime juice) and a Mega Man Margarita (prickly pear, lemon juice, mezcal and agave nectar).

"Arcade games are competitive, and you can play them in a short time frame, which is great when you're drinking," says Slamp, of Fort Lauderdale, who says he bought most of the retro arcade games off Craigslist and Letgo.

The cocktails, furniture, video games and décor will follow Glitch to its new location, Guevara says.

pvalys@southflorida.com or 954-356-4364

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