4 Must-Visit Arcade Bars in Charlotte


Skee-Ball at Lucky's.

Raw Productions and Poprock Photography

THE ARCADE is having a renaissance. And it comes with beer.

Long a token of malls and after-school hangouts, the arcade has been reborn through a mix of potent nostalgia and local beers. Since Barcade (capital B) opened in Brooklyn in 2004, the business model of a bar that’s centered around vintage arcade games and pinball machines has flourished, and Charlotte is part of that trend. Here’s a helpful primer on four of these local spots.


Palmer St.
412 W. Palmer St., 980-309-0359
The best thing about this spot, tucked away on a dead-end street that straddles South End and uptown? The games, aside from pinball and a few others, are free to play. There are no tokens or quarters required, so grab that joystick and stay awhile. The bar is no frills and reasonably priced with a slew of local brews. Highlights here include free foosball, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ms. Pacman.


Abari Game Bar
1721 N. Davidson St., 980-430-4587
With a towering Ms. Pac Man sitting above the door to this NoDa spot, you know you’re in for a good time here. If you can snag a seat at the couch at the entrance with a Nintendo-64, do it. Openings here come only sparingly. Classic arcade games (Joust, Street Fighter, Rampage, to name a few) usually cost a quarter each. The bar is stocked here, including with specialty cocktails (the Princess Peach is just one example). As recently as May, the bar also had Surge, the fizzy green ‘90s soda that has since gained cult status, on hand. That’s a reason in and of itself to go.


Lucky’s Bar & Arcade
300 N. College St., 704-342-2557
Part of what makes the other bars so special is their space and their neighborhoods. Smack dab in the bustle of uptown, Lucky’s loses a bit of the nostalgic je ne sais quoi the others curate so well. That being said, the options here are expansive and a blast to play (if, that is, you manage to come on a night not filled with bar crawlers passing through or on one of Lucky’s many, many planned events). Lucky’s offers a plethora of console games (certainly the largest variety of any barcade in Charlotte), pinball machines, driving arcade games and vintage classics like Centipede and Donkey Kong. This spot also offers games like foosball, air hockey and basketball (arcade style, of course). Games accept special tokens here, which you purchase at the bar.


The Blind Pig
453 E. 36th St., 980-819-9942
Here’s where things get a bit muddy. The Blind Pig isn’t exactly a barcade. It’s a bar that has a few games. We’ll let you decide if you want to include it in the list. A NoDa nightlife mainstay, The Blind Pig offers a full bar (and great patio) with distractions like billiards, air hockey, Skee-Ball and a host of more traditional board games and yard games. All games accept quarters, which you can get from the number of coin machines across the space. We find the drinks here to usually be a bit weak, but the environment here is one of our favorites.

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