“Come on down! We’ve got Frogger, Smash TV, Ms. Pacman, Outrun and Paperboy! All for just 25 cents!”
At some point in the ’80s, these words might have been shouted by someone touting the state of the art capabilities of the nearest entertainment venue.
Now, it’s the mating call of the video game enthusiast, and it’s going to be heard loud and clear on Frankford Avenue with the opening of Barcade — a bar and arcade business that has grown in popularity since the first outpost opened in 2004 in Williamsburg, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The repeated tones of Mario, stomping his way toward Donkey Kong for the millionth time, or the scooting, high-pitched chirp of invaders descending on Earth en masse, step by miniscule step; these are tones that perk the ears of anyone who grew up basking in the glow of a video arcade screen.
And soon, these sounds will flutter from a restored electrical supply building at 1114 Frankford Ave.
Barcade was scheduled for a soft opening with family and friends this weekend, and will be fully open to the public by the middle of next week.
With an additional location recently opened in Jersey City, the five owners, all longtime friends, set their sights on the Philadelphia location more than a year ago.
On Wednesday, Sept. 28, Pete Langway, 41, one of the co-owners, led a tour of the soon to open location to discuss why the owner felt Fishtown was the right place to expand their business.
“Well, we actually passed on this place the first time we saw it. We thought it would be too much of a challenge,” said Langway as he walked through the large open interior of the bar where exposed brick is fitted with neon signs.
“My friend first described this as a ‘glorified shack,’” recalled Langway. “It was a disaster. It really took us a bit of effort to get it to look like this.”
But, he said, when the owners toured the community after passing up on Old City, Graduate Hospital and West Philly, they felt at home in Fishtown.
“We looked at other places. But, Fishtown is a lot like Brooklyn. Once we found Fishtown, it was like we were in the same kind of place.”
In looking at the flood of new places coming to Fishtown as well as Union Transfer, a new music venue on Spring Garden Street, Langway said he’s seeing a groundswell he’s glad to be part of.
“It’s exciting. It’s good for business,” he said. “It’s great to a part of that swell.”
There’s been buzz for months about the opening of the new location and Langway said last week that all that remains is some final city paperwork.
Barcade will formally be open to the public on Wednesday, Oct. 12, said Langway.
Inside the establishment, Langway wandered through the large open front area, where there is seating and large front windows that will be open on nice days, to the back area where 34 arcade games stand like soldiers in a row, ready to fight a battle against the forces of boredom.
Along with those mentioned above, the line up of titles includes classics like Tron (based on the original Disney movie), puzzle game Tetris, Beer Tapper, and R-Type, widely known as one of the most difficult shooter games anywhere.
But, Langway’s favorite game? Carnival, a shooter game from 1980.
“It’s really basic and old, but I’m getting very good,” he boasted.
Inside, the establishment expects to be able to host about 160 patrons, and there’s also an outdoor patio.
Along with the classic fun of the arcade games, Langway said Barcade also intends to be a fantastic beer bar with over 24 beers on tap — many locally brewed.
“Our philosophy is to be a good bar that has really good beer,” he said.
Also, Barcade will offer a kitchen with a selection of food, with a focus on sandwiches.
“If you have a beer in one hand, you’ll have to be able to play video games with the other,” he said.
Overall, Barcade’s been successful and Langway said that’s simply because he believes he and his friends have tapped into a unique formula: “On the Venn diagram of beer geeks and arcade geeks, there’s definitely a huge overlap,” said Langway.••
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215–354–3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org