Is it worth the hype? That’s the question I kept asking myself as more than one person talked up Cambridge’s A4cade. What is A4cade (probably pronounced “arcade”)? It’s a speakeasy-style, club-bar, arcade joint that has fancy cocktails and gooey grilled cheese sandwiches. That sentence alone is enough to entice me, but what is A4cade really like?
A stone’s throw from Massachusetts Institute of Technology lies a little grilled cheese joint called Roxy’s. Roxy’s started out as a food truck (it still has food truck operations and does catering!) and has gotten a fair bit of media attention for its decadent comfort food. Why am I telling you about Roxy’s? Because you need to go through Roxy’s to get to A4cade.
It’s after 8pm and a friend and I are debating whether to get another drink or to just head home. We pull up Google Maps and survey the open establishments in the area. I see Roxy’s on the map and my face lights up. “What’s so special about Roxy’s?” He asks. I eagerly recount all that I have heard from others about this special place — it’s hidden behind a small grilled cheese restaurant; it has awesome cocktails and there are like sooo many arcade games. We have to go! And so, we went.
It was earlier in the night (by night-life standards lol) but there is still a short line snaking outside of Roxy’s. When we get up to the door man, we show our IDs and pay the $5-cover charge (ugh). We quickly walk through the small Roxy’s restaurant space, go through the double doors and — ta da — we’ve arrived!
The atmosphere is immediately changed. While Roxy’s is near empty, A4cade is almost packed to the gills. There is Tetris, shooting and racing games, Pac Man, a crane machine and two bars. First things first — drinks. We walk to the closest bar, but the line is long (and, remember, we just came from the line waiting outside), so we changed course and headed toward the bar in the back. There is a small crowd but, blessedly, no line at this bar. I order a cocktail called “As They Say in St. Olaf…” (which is probably a reference to something but I’m too lazy to look it up). The contents include gin, sherry, and a bunch of weird ingredients that I have never heard of (like Bergamot, for example). It’s strong, sophisticated flavor, and expensive (by American standards, but prettttty normal for over-priced Boston); the taste is not my favorite (and neither is the drink my friend chose).
We were able to score a spot at the bar, which was nice, as there was not very much seating, and the floor was packed with young, enthusiastic people. The ambience of A4cade was cartoony. Tiki heads, wrestling belts, Adventure Time, Doctor Who, Poké balls — the atmosphere reminded me of the arcades that I had visited in Tokyo (different world!).
The games, of course, cost money, and by money, I mean tokens. After converting dollars into coins, we played the basketball shooting game (I won 😀 ), some annoying zombie-shooting game and then another equally-annoying dinosaur shooting game. The tokens did not last long and, to be honest, that was just fine with me! If you love games and long for the arcades of your youth, then you will surely delight in the A4cade! However, if you are looking for something that will blow your mind… then, A4cade is probably not it. On the negative side, it’s loud, crowded, and expensive. On the positive side, it’s unique and filled with many interesting drink and (pay-to-play) entertainment options.
All in all, I’m very glad that I wandered into A4cade. Understanding what all the hype was about was very satisfying to me (and a teensy bit underwhelming, to be honest). So, if you’re looking for something different, it’s definitely worth a try!
Don’t spend all your tokens in one place 😉
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