Do you like to tip a few back? Do gatherings with co-workers pass by more smoothly with the addition of beer? Does wine make you less awkward on dates? Are your high school friends absolutely insufferable without Absolut vodka? Well, friend, you’re not alone thanks to all the quality drinking establishments our fine cities have to offer. In addition to having the most important thing that bars offer, which is booze, some newer watering holes have great games to play against old and new friends alike including projector screen Mario Kart 64, enormous versions of classic board games, and countless old-school arcade machines.Two bars have recently sprung up in Minneapolis which focus on combining drinks with gaming, and they have become incredibly popular with people who consider Mortal Kombat as viable an escape from reality as adult beverages can be. These bars are Up-Down and Punch Bowl Social, two of my favorite new spots!
Up-Down is Uptown’s new go-to bar for retro gaming with over 50 classic arcade machines as well as giant Connect 4 and Jenga. Up-Down also reminds us to go outside for air with two generous patio sections: one in front to attract passersby, and another in back for night time projector N64 tournaments. Up-Down brings us back to a special time when you didn’t need to take out a second mortgage to afford to play a few games — at one token per play, you can finally afford to topple some high scores.
As much a bar as it is an arcade, Up-Down has a rotating tap selection with over 60 craft beers, stellar service, and a simple yet satisfying quick-serve pizza counter with rotating slices. (Protip: get the mac and cheese if it’s on the menu when you go. It’s so good it will even enhance your reflexes, giving you that much-needed gaming edge.)
In nearby St. Louis Park we have another new spot on the booze and gaming scene called Punch Bowl Social. Don’t let the awkward prom night connotation fool you — this isn’t your conventional gin joint! Punch Bowl provides an outdoorsy feel complete with AstroTurf floors, cornhole alleys, and horseshoe pits. This is a perfect cure for the winter doldrums thanks to its pool tables, a great selection of arcade machines, giant ping pong tables, hand carved bowling lanes, and even more giant board games. These activities are all spread apart within a spacious room which gives off that cabin vibe we Minnesotans adore.
This rustic environment doesn’t come at the expense of luxury, of course, as Punch Bowl has marvelous food and drink. Their from-scratch kitchen serves trendy gastro diner plates to pair with their handcrafted spirits. I recommend the poutine if you want to feel like a true northerner!
Up-Down is located at 3012 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis and open until 2 AM daily.
Punch Bowl Social is located at 1691 Park Place Blvd, Minneapolis and open until 2 AM Monday through Saturday, midnight on Sunday.
By Sam Koshiol