Oh my God, this week. First, Pok Pok opened, bringing all sorts of delicious street food to Chinatown by way of Portland. Then, Button Mash, the much-anticipated restaurant/bar/arcade in Echo Park, opened its doors. On its first night, 600 people lined up to eat food from Starry Kitchen, drink local beers and indulge their inner child by crushing a game of Streetfighter. I stopped by last night, which had a more manageable crowd, and bumped into Nguyen Tran, co-owner of Starry Kitchen. "This has been four years in the making," he told me. "We like to call this a restaurant with a really cool waiting room," he said.
Whatever you want to call it—arcade, restaurant, bar—Button Mash is creating a category all its own in LA. Here are six things we love about the new spot:
1. The food is fantastic. There are, of course, Starry Kitchen's famous crispy tofu balls, as well as some incredible Vietnamese spring rolls to start, and the double cheeseburger has already generated rave reviews. In addition to a hefty selection of rice, noodles, sandwiches and larger plates, there are also a few dessert options, designed to be a light finish so that you're not weighted down when playing Pac-Mania. Hello, lychee panna cotta.
2. The bar serves a wine called Malbec Invaders. It's a 2014 Fabien Jouves varietal, and it features Space Invaders aliens on the label. Oh, and the bill arrives between the pages of '90s books, like one of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps. Details, guys, details.
3. Some games have second, hidden games. Tran walked me over to Ghouls 'n Ghosts, a game featuring eerie levels of demonic creatures. Press both the single and double player buttons at the same time, though, and a second, entirely different game will appear. We don't want to ruin any surprises, so we'll let you pay the arcade a visit to find out what that second game is.
4. They keep it fresh. Button Mash has more than 100 machines from the '70s to '90s, but they keep around 50 on the floor at one time, rotating the games in so there's always something new. Frogger, Tron, Donkey Kong, Food Fight, Michael Jackson's Moonwalker are just a sampling that populate the floor, and a row of pinball machines have their own section by the bar.
5. The tokens are custom designed. Artist Joseph Harmon came up with the shiny tokens, featuring an arcade machine on one side and Button Mash's goofy-looking dog mascot on the other. Each game takes one token, the pinball machines take two, and you can buy $5 and $10 rolls from the bar.
6. The kiddos can come, too. Unlike some other bar/arcade hybrids around the city, Button Mash welcomes kids of all ages to play games until 9pm. After 9pm, it's 21+.
Button Mash is located at 1391 W Sunset Blvd in Echo Park, and is open Tue-Thu 5pm-midnight, Fri 5pm-2am, Sat 1pm-2am, Sun 1pm-Midnight.