Take turns, and act like adults, but remember: Don’t ever grow up!
In an era when any ten year old is glued perpetually to a device that can play Fortnite, who has need for arcades full of heavy, old video game cabinets? The very people who grew up with them, like me. I spent countless hours in Aladdin’s Castle when I was little, desperately trying to maneuver Homer Simpson through death traps in The Simpsons game, experimenting to find the sequence of buttons that would enable Sub-Zero to rip someone’s head off in Mortal Kombat 3, and enacting such draconian anti-drug policies in Narc that I would have made Rodrigo Duterte uncomfortable. That’s why I’m thrilled to see those very arcade games and many other classics at The CraftCade in Bismarck.
Nick Schwieters and Colton Shoults conceived The CraftCade as far more than a harbor for retro quarter gobblers. The joint is first and foremost a New York-style pizzeria, with just the right ingredients, ovens, and people needed to pull off the perfect iteration of Italy’s most beloved dish. (Anyone who would rank Chicago’s pizza above New York’s with its thin, crispy crust has been misled at best. As John Stewart once put it, “Deep dish pizza is not only not better than New York pizza…it’s not pizza. It’s a #@%&*^! casserole. I’m surprised you haven’t thought to complete your deep dish pizza by putting some canned onion rings on top of it.”) CraftCade’s pizzas are 18” in diameter, so a slice has just the right dimensions to be folded in half like you would do to it if you were about to hurry down Whitehall Street to the Staten Island Ferry. CraftCade has great Chicago-style franks, salads, soup, and chili, too, and they cater — but you really want to eat there so you can enjoy the wall of beer.
CraftCade has the only 20 tap self-serve beer wall in the state of North Dakota. You go in, get a card that tracks your pours by the ounce, and then get to work trying out as many liquid treasures as you like. They’ve got beers by local breweries including Drekker and Boulevard, but their top seller is Crispin’s Blackberry Pear. (The fruity drink might remind visitors of manic Sprite-fueled button mashing from days of yore.) The beer wall is clever, because the card that activates it turns itself off at a certain point. This prevents CraftCade’s patrons from overdoing it to an extent that might affect their performance at Ms. Pac-Man. Big cans are also available at CraftCade’s bar, complete with the complimentary koozies needed to keep things cold.
CraftCade’s games are the crème de la crème, hand chosen by Nick for peak fun, nostalgia, and their ability to be played in groups. You’ve got your X-Men, where you can navigate Colossus or Nightcrawler or some other genetic sport on a quest to beat up Magneto. You’ve got your Time Crisis 3, which revolutionized duck and cover shooting mechanics with its special foot pedal. You’ve got your Marvel vs. Capcom 2, where you get to pit legends like Spider-Man and Iron Man against Japanese characters you’ve never heard of. You’ve even got your Turtles in Time — if you played video games back in the 90s, you’ve no doubt got the first level’s bitcrushed “Big Apple, 3 AM” permanently burned into your hippocampus. Best of all, the video games are all free to play provided you’re joining CraftCade for food or drink — no more watching in horror as dropped quarters skitter under an immovable arcade cabinet. (You do still have to pay to play the Indiana Jones and Terminator 2 pinball machines, but that’s fair because pinball machines have about a thousand moving parts apiece and frequently require the loving care of a very specialized repairman.)
Even without its pizza and video games, CraftCade’s retro ambiance would quickly cause any Millennial with a pulse to yearn for the past. TVs play commercials from the 80s and 90s on a loop, which are still in every way as fascinating as when you first watched them in between acts of The Smurfs as you were wearing your Pound Puppies pajamas. The music is also from an era when Rick Astley wasn’t played ironically. It’s the kind of place that your younger self would have hoped you’d be cool enough to hang out in one day. Go and see it yourself at 405 N 4th St in downtown Bismarck, or learn more online at thecraftcade.com.
By David Scheller