Ink Food & Drink

Score: Seven Kansas City bars for gamers

Jenny Delich at Up-Down.
Jenny Delich at Up-Down.

If you’re one of those people who bores easily at bars, you’re in luck.

Kansas City pubs have literally stepped up their game by adding retro arcades, beer pong, jumbo Jenga, Skee Ball and Super Nintendo.

Wanna play? Ink’s Spring/Summer 2016 Bar Guide boasts info on hundreds of local bars with games, from classic darts to high-tech golf simulators. Plus, we found perfect drink pairings for foosball, pool, pinball — even arcade classics Mortal Kombat II and Turtles in Time.

Game on.


Up-Down Kansas City

Up-Down Kansas City is a mecca for gamers. The double-decker bar at 101 Southwest Blvd. boasts a full-blown arcade with more than 50 games, from old-school Pac-Man to a new pinball machine inspired by “The Walking Dead.”

Each game costs one 25-cent token; you can buy tokens at the bar, which stocks 50 brews on tap and more in bottles and cans.

If you grew up in the 1990s, you’ll love Up-Down’s throwback theme. On a recent Thursday, which is 10-cent token night, the movies “Batman Returns” and “Super Mario Bros.” played simultaneously on screens throughout the bar. Bar patrons kept pumping tokens into X-Men, a 1992 Konami classic that allows up to six gamers to battle Magneto as Cyclops, Colossus, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler or Dazzler.

Another ’90s game produced by Konami, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, also gets lots of love from Up-Down regulars. Up to four players can join the scrolling beat-’em-up game, which finds Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael in a time warp, kicking shell against Shredder’s army. The music is great, and the gameplay is easy enough for button-mashers. The only downside: You can’t play as April O’Neil.

Turtles in Time calls for a drink that drips with nostalgia. Try Henry’s Hard Orange Soda ($5 for a 16-ounce can), an alcoholic pop made with cane sugar. At 4.2 percent alcohol, it won’t get you shell-shocked, but that’s a good thing when you’re trying to fight off The Foot.



If you like arcade games but think keeping track of tokens is a buzzkill, your new go-to is Tapcade. The bar connected to the Screenland Crossroads theater at 1701 McGee St. offers unlimited play for $5: Buy a wristband at the bar and you’re good to go.

Tapcade’s games rotate frequently, a good thing for players who crave variety. The current lineup features 40 titles, most of them from the ’80s and ’90s. For sportos, there’s NBA Jam, NFL Blitz ’99 and, for hockey lovers, 2 on 2 Open Ice Challenge. Retro gamers might prefer Space Invaders, Tetris, Tron or Galaga.

If you were addicted to Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo as a kid, chances are you’ll gravitate toward Mortal Kombat II. In the ultra-violent game, two players fight to the death with kicks, punches and elaborate combos. The best part might be choosing your character: Options include an evil sorcerer (Shang Tsung), a vengeful monk (Liu Kang) and a ninja assassin (Kitana).

Playing against a friend who knows all the best combos? You’re gonna need a strong drink to stomach all of those brutal fatalities. Order a can of Top Rope IPA, a new hoppy brew from Manhattan’s Tallgrass Brewing Co. Top Rope ($5 for a 16-ounce can) was inspired by professional wrestling and weighs in at 6 percent alcohol. It’s brewed with five varieties of hops, which give it a pleasantly bitter, citrus-tinged punch.

Put it this way: Finishing Kintaro is tough, but finishing a Top Rope IPA is easy.


No Other Pub

In February, Sporting Kansas City debuted its flagship restaurant and bar, No Other Pub.

The 21,000-square-foot space at 1370 Grand Blvd. in the Power & Light District is your basic sports bar on steroids. There are two full bars — one with a street taco stand and huge screens as far as the eye can see — and games everywhere. Picture pool tables, four bowling lanes, a shuffleboard court and a dark arcade with a small but hilarious selection of games (there’s a Shrek pinball machine next to an X-Files one).

When No Other Pub gets packed, the pingpong tables are the first to fill up. Beer pong — that drinking game you mastered in college — is also a thing at No Other Pub.

But if you’re into soccer, you’ll flip over the pub’s two foosball tables, located next to a balcony overlooking the KC Live Block. Both tables have built-in coasters, which come in handy when you’re sipping a Buck Barrel cocktail. The popular $10 drink is basically a bourbon-spiked mojito: It mixes robust Cruzan Black Strap rum with fresh mint, pineapple juice and Buffalo Trace bourbon.

Sipping a Buck Barrel might help with foosball technique: A few sips will loosen the wrists. Just remember, don’t spin the handles or neglect your defense. Foosball pros think like Dom Dwyer and Tim Melia at the same time.


403 Club

Calling all pinball wizards: If you haven’t been to 403 Club, you’re missing out.

The casual neighborhood bar at 614 Reynolds Ave. in Kansas City, Kan., has 10 pinball machines, all meticulously maintained. The machines are privately owned by 403 Club owner Artie Scholes and friends, and they rotate out every six months to a year.

The current selection is a mix of old and new cabinets. Demolition Man, released in 1994, has cool trigger-operated flippers and is based on the Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes movie. Metallica, inspired by the band, is loaded with insane artwork and ramps that inspire you to reload after every center drain. And Game of Thrones Premium, with its stirring theme music and lightning-fast ricochets, will make you feel like an Arya Stark-level assassin.

Games cost 50 or 75 cents each, depending on the machine. Each cabinet has a cup holder, so you can keep your drink within arm’s reach.

Don’t leave without playing Radical, a skateboard-themed pinball machine originally released in 1990. Four flippers, a rockin’ soundtrack and lots of see-through ramps make the game fun to play, even for amateurs.

The machine says “Whoa!” and “Totally Rad” more often than Keanu Reeves in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” — a welcome ego boost during intense games. It pairs particularly well with Ginger Lemon Radler from Boulevard Brewing Co. The fresh, spicy ginger in the refreshing malt beverage will keep you alert enough to keep that shiny silver ball rolling.



If you can’t afford a getaway to a beachside resort with a golf course, the next best thing is an afternoon at Topgolf.

The triple-decker playground for golfers at 10611 Nall Ave. in Overland Park overlooks a lush green driving range with 10 color-coded targets. Groups of friends can rent open-air “bays” for $40 an hour, or $20 during off times (9 a.m. to noon Friday-Sunday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday).

Each bay is equipped with comfy lounge seating, an assortment of clubs, a touchscreen TV that tracks players and points, and a patch of Astroturf overlooking the 215-yard driving range. Topgolfers can order drinks and food from their seats.

Players can pick many games, including Top Drive, which is all about hitting the ball as far as possible, and Top Pressure, which challenges players to hit every section of the yellow target. The most popular is the original, Topgolf, because it’s easiest for beginners. To play, just hit the microchipped ball toward any target. The farther and more accurate the shot, the more points you earn.

Need some tequila to smooth out your swing? Topgolf serves three margaritas, including a spicy strawberry-jalapeno margarita ($9.50) and a cooling Tres Agaves margarita ($8.50) made with Tres Agaves Blanco tequila, organic lime juice and sweet agave nectar. Order it frozen, and make it a beer-rita by adding a 7-ounce Coronita for an extra $3.


Throwback KC

Gamers raised on Super Mario are the target demographic at Throwback KC, a video game bar at 510 Westport Road.

The ’80s and ’90s-themed club offers 15 TVs loaded with dozens of Nintendo and Super Nintendo games and connected to two controllers. The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, Final Fantasy, Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario Kart — they’re all here and free to play.

Throwback KC stocks more than 50 craft beers, but nerds might find it hard to resist the cocktails ($8 each), with names such as Luigi’s Pipe and Duck Hunt.

Mike Tyson’s Punch, which mixes two kinds of rum with ginger beer and lime juice, goes down easy. And Princess Peach Tea, made with sweet tea-flavored vodka and peach liqueur, is as sweet as Mario’s bae. The cocktail is even sweeter when paired with a game of Super Mario Bros. 3. Take a few sips and suddenly you’ll remember where all the warp whistles are hidden.


Lucky Boys

Sometimes it’s nice to escape the crowds, chill out and shoot some pool. Lucky Boys is perfect for those times.

The no-frills bar at 1615 Genessee St. in the West Bottoms is a hideaway that feels like it has been lost in time. The wood-paneled walls are decorated with fishing trophies and black velvet paintings of Elvis, Willie Nelson and a roaring tiger. Maroon carpet and mustard-colored swivel chairs at the bar hark back to the 1970s.

Lucky Boys has one pool table, and it’s illuminated by a retro Schlitz lamp. If it’s open, grab a cue and get to work on that bank shot. Games cost 75 cents each.

Between shots, belly up to the nearby bar for beer (Lucky Boys has four on tap, including PBR) or a classic cocktail. Don’t bother asking for a drink menu (there isn’t one), just request a Horsefeather ($5). The sweet and spicy drink is made with ginger beer, Old Overholt rye whiskey and a dash of Angostura bitters.

It’s refreshing enough for summer but potent enough to give you the confidence you need to sink that elusive 8 ball.