Before the hands of every kid were glued to their iPod touches and Nintendo DSes and before two Italian plumbers fought to save princesses, there was a time when gaming was a somewhat more social activity. Husband-and-wife team Rachel and Jason Hazzard (yes, that is their real last name) are trying to bring arcades back. The plan: The Pinball Café, a family destination on West Queen West where kids and kids-at-heart can play old favourites like Supersonic (1979) and new favourites like an AC/DC-themed game (2012). Currently, they offer drip coffee ($2), espresso-based drinks (cappuccinos and lattes, $3), home-style sweets (baked by Rachel and her friends), root beer floats ($4.50) and chocolate, strawberry and vanilla milkshakes ($5.00). Rachel, who trained as a chef at George Brown, also plans to start making gourmet versions of classic sandwiches such as roasted chicken with pesto and curried egg salad.
The long, narrow room is neatly divided between café and arcade. The front of the room is painted a vibrant yellow, and sports neon green chairs, whereas the back of the room is, appropriately, a little darker. Indeed, it’s easy enough to go through a fistful of quarters before noticing that the sun’s no longer streaming in through the front window. There are currently nine pinball machines, the oldest of which is the 38-year-old Skylab. Most of the older machines have what the Hazzards have dubbed “personality,” but it’s hard to complain when the majority of them only cost a quarter to play. The AC/DC game costs a little more to play ($1), but high score earners have the opportunity to win AC/DC swag (although Jason’s 71, 327, 940 score might intimidate some).
When the Hazzards opened, they were dead-set against the idea of serving alcohol, but it turns out pinball nostalgists are a boozy bunch. The current plan is to try for a liquor license, and to only serve beer and wine after a yet-to-be decided hour (probably 6:00 p.m.), in order to maintain a family-friendly vibe during the day. Other changes on the horizon include a basement reno that will channel the gritty Yonge Street arcade vibe of the ’80s. Downstairs would be home to 8-bit games such as Asteroids, which is currently residing upstairs; we hope to see Space Invaders, Tron and Street Fighter and other vintage favourites soon.
The Pinball Café, 1662 Queen St. W., 416-402-7932, thepinballcafe.com