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Comparing Chicago’s new bar arcades

Finally getting in the game, Chicago gets two new bar arcades.

 (Photograph: Clif Ellis)
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Photograph: Clif Ellis

Headquarters arcade bar

 (Photograph: Clif Ellis)
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Photograph: Clif Ellis

Headquarters arcade bar

 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
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Photograph: Martha Williams

Headquarters arcade bar

 (Photograph: Stacie Scott)
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Photograph: Stacie Scott

Emporium Arcade

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Emporium Arcade

 (Photograph: Stacie)
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Photograph: Stacie

Emporium Arcade

With arcade bars popping up around the country since New York’s Barcade debuted back in 2004, Chicago is way late to this gaming party. Finally getting in on the action, two new places to get your Pac-Man and pinball on over a pint have opened up in fairly quick succession, and I couldn’t resist giving each one a whirl. Here’s the score.

Headquarters950 W Wolfram St (773-665-5660)

The game world
Artfully designed with antique fixtures, comic book–style graffiti and big-screen TVs that were split between Hulk Hogan WWF footage and ESPN on my visit, Headquarters looks the part of an arcade for grown-ups.

The games
Highlights include tabletop versions of Pac-Man and Space Invaders, Marble Madness, Excite Bike and essentials like Mario Bros., Donkey Kong and Street Fighter II.

The bar
Dubbed a beercade, Headquarters offers 16 exotic drafts, a respectable and eclectic selection of bottles and cans, plus a specialty-cocktail list and midweek drink specials.

The dollars and cents
Beers on tap average $7, cocktails hover right around $9 and, as a bonus, all games are free (for now anyway).

The jerky
Headquarters boasts homemade jerky— evidently the ideal gaming snack—in exotic flavors like buffalo and Korean BBQ, made by chef Chris Cason of Etno Village Grill.

The verdict
Designed to treat your inner nerd, Headquarters has an attentive staff, great beer and a hip decor. And for anyone as pitiful at the arcade as me, free games are a serious bonus.

Emporium1366 N Milwaukee Ave (773-697-7922)

The game world
Minimalist in design, Emporium lets the arcade games, the stocked bar and the colorful hipster crowd be the center of attention, feeling more like a bar chock-full of video games than an arcade with booze.

The games
Boasting just shy of 50 games, Emporium wins on variety and rarities like Tron, Centipede, Q*Bert, Duck Hunt, Missile Command and Tetris.

The bar
With 25 beers on tap (no cans or bottles) and a full bar that’s heavy on the whiskey, Emporium is as good for a stiff drink and a craft brew as it is for a round of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.

The dollars and cents
Beers on tap average out at $5.50 and mixed drinks typically go for $7; games take tokens that equal a quarter per play.

The jerky
While not exactly homemade, Emporium’s locally sourced, all natural Gun Slinger jerky comes in unconventional flavors like coffee, honey ginger garlic and whiskey-infused.

The verdict
Emporium may not have sunk as much time and energy into its interior, but its diverse selection of games, top-notch booze and hip, good-looking crowd make it a worthy alternative.

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