REVIEW: Recbar is the arcade bar that Louisville has been waiting for!

I don’t consider myself to be a connoisseur of anything, well, except maybe vintage video games.  If you know me well enough, you’re aware of my growing collection of obsolete consoles, cartridges and discs, making me a semi-serious collector. Also, if you and I are pals, you probably also know that I love beer in all its glory. Naturally, these two personal favorites were meant for each other in the form of a modern arcade that serves alcohol, or arcade bars.”

Over the years, whenever on vacation out of town I’ve hunted down arcade bar after arcade bar in multiple cities. To name a few, I’ve been to The 1UP in Denver, I’ve spent time inside Kung Fu Saloon in Austin, and I’ve blown a bunch of money at Emporium in Chicago. Every time I leave one of these establishments, I think to myself “Why can’t we have this in Louisville!? WE NEED THIS!!” How can our city have so much cool shit to do, but not a damned arcade bar? I mean, Zanzabar has a few arcade machines and nice pin ball machines, but in my eyes that place is more of a venue for shows, and we deserve a place that is absolutely dedicated to vintage video games, right? Look no further folks, as Recbar has apparently come to the rescue as a bar / arcade that also offers a menu full of interesting takes on bar food that sounds pretty good, according to the description anyway.

My significant other and I decided to visit Recbar (10301 Taylorsville Rd) for the first time this past Saturday, the same day as Thunder Over Louisville, assuming that whatever crowd that might be there would be wittled down due to the annual mega-event. Boy, was I ever wrong. As we were walking in, it was quickly obvious that this place was fucking packed, and the hostess confirmed it when she let us know that it’d be a 45 minute to one hour wait to be seated, if we wanted to eat anyway. Sure, why not? We put in our name and went to the bar to order a few drinks and break a $20 in order to get tokens. Their beer list is impressive, and yes, they have an extensive collection of spirits as well. I had the Against The Grain “Sho Nuff” tall boy and my lady friend had a vodka and grapefruit juice. Both were reasonably priced, and the bartenders were more than friendly (One of them complimented my most excellent Simpsons t-shirt).

Now that we were properly equipped with stiff adult beverages, it was finally time to get lost in Recbar’s vast collection of arcade machines, all of which costing a measly quarter. I had a button-mashing blast playing games like Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Tekken 2, X-MEN: Children of The Atom, and House of the Dead. Now that I’m an adult, I feel like I’ve been chasing that feeling that I experienced as a kid walking into places like Showbiz Pizza and Chuck E Cheese, trying to get a hold of myself as the anticipation of playing all of these games completely took over my entire sense of consciousness. Now that I’m just another 32 year old dummy, I can safely say that feeling was ever-present last night, as my polluted little heart was beating like a jackhammer. “Holy shit, there’s Shinobi!  And check it out, there’s Samurai Showdown! And NBA JAM?!?!  HOLY SHIT!!!”

After blowing a considerable amount of change on several arcade cabinets, we were finally notified that a table had become available. As we were sat, however, we were notified that due to their being so busy, all entrees were off the table and they were only serving appetizers. Bummer.  We really wanted to try one of their tasty-sounding burgers, but whatever, their app-menu sounded good all the same.  We ordered the buffalo chicken rolls (shredded buffalo chicken and mozzarella fried inside a crispy egg roll served with ranch) and the beer cheese mac (macaroni and cheese topped with beer cheese), both of which were pretty damned good, albeit heart-attack inducing.  Meanwhile, our server was on point and incredibly proficient, making our quick dining experience undoubtedly worthwhile.

Now that our hunger had been temporarily satisfied, we went back to the bar, ordered two bourbon shots and a couple Hudy’s, then headed back to the gaming area. It’s worth mentioning that in addition to a wealth of arcade machines, Recbar also has a ping pong table, shuffle board, and foosball table available. Adding to that, you can play a small collection of SNES and Genesis games on a pair of large flat screen TVs in the back while sitting comfortably in a sofa.  Can’t argue with that.

As awesome as everything was, I did experience a few problems, all of which are good dilemmas to have in my opinion. First off, the place was clearly overmatched by the hordes of people that continued to flood in, which will surely die down eventually as the newness of Recbar wears thin. Having said that, there wasn’t a single server or hostess that wasn’t more than friendly, as no one seemed to be overly flustered by all of the screaming kids and stumbling drunk adults (myself included) asking dumb question after dumb question. Oh, and yeah, children are allowed until 10PM, in case you’re like me and have little patience with young ones.

Second, there a few cabinets with buttons and joysticks that didn’t work. My girlfriend was looking forward to kicking my ass in Tekken 2 (as she somehow always does), but was understandably pissed off when she realized that her joystick wouldn’t move her character forward, only backward (I proceeded to defeat her anyway). I’m sure the staff has been notified of this by now, and I’m fairly positive that they plan to fix these things.  We have to remember that the vast majority of these machines are antiques, and like other older artifacts, they usually take a bit more TLC than modern technology.  If I were talking to the folks that run Recbar, I’d recommend they talk to Ed Lutz at Arcade Odyssey, a repair shop for said machines.

We left Recbar boozed up and happy with our gaming experience, which was exactly what I was hoping for. For every problem I had with the place, there was a plethora of awesome things to easily point out making it somewhere I plan to revisit. In fact, I forsee Recbar becoming a Louisville mainstay, as it provides an adult experience like no other spot in town. I didn’t even mention their arsenal of large flat screen TVs plastered across the walls surrounding the dining area that would be perfect for watching your favorite sports-related happenings.  I could easily see myself at Recbar during March Madness next year pumping quarters in between college basketball games while pouring exceeding amounts of precious alcohol into my thirsty mouth. Adding to that, if this place acquires the NFL Ticket, consider it the one and only place to watch pro football on Sundays.

In closing, I can’t recommend this arcade more as a fun-as-fuck place to play vintage video games, drink beer and be with a few people you actually like being around.