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Cafes

The Pinball Cafe

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on February 6, 2012

Pinball Cafe TorontoThe Pinball Café is every retro-loving, arcade fanatic's wet dream. There she lies humbly in the heart of Parkdale, offering her shiny silver balls for a mere $0.25 a game. What's that, lovlies? You want me to play you? But how do I decide between the fiery Comet with its seductive corkscrew ramp, and the classic Bow and Arrow boasting two powerful kick-out holes? Oh, and you've caught my eye too, Supersonic; I see you flashing over there. Yes this, friends, is Toronto's pinball oasis, and it comes with Sugar Babies, chrome jawbreakers, and espresso.

Pinball Cafe TorontoThe idea that pinball machines and coffee create an equation for greatness is so simple it's silly; but simplicity aside, it wasn't until Jason and Rachel Hazzard came along that the concept was brought to fruition. Wanting to bring pinball out of the basements of the city (quite literally), Jason decided the odd spattering of machines here and there wasn't enough for Toronto. We needed a pinball hub, and he would be the one to create it.

Pinball Cafe TorontoNow, the wizard dream is alive — blinking lights and all — and ready to take in new pinball purveyors from season veterans to first timers. And it is for that latter category of players that the Hazzards have decided to leave alcohol out of their game plan.

Pinball Cafe Toronto"I know some people are genuinely upset," Jason says as we chat the morning after the café's inaugural night. "I'm not against alcohol; I'm not a prohibitionist," he adds. "But this is a family-friendly space. It's not something I'm going to be pursuing, and I just hope I don't regret it."

Pinball Cafe TorontoThe day has kicked off slowly with a couple of teens drowning quarters in the eight machines at the back. The odd passerby has dropped in for an espresso ($2.50) or cappuccino ($3.50), though Jason says they are still working on getting word out that they are indeed a full-fledged café, free WiFi and all.

Pinball Cafe Toronto"We have great coffee," he says of the drinks made with Italian-roasted Segafredo beans. "I want this to also be a place where people can stop in for a coffee on their way to work or pick up something to eat, as well as play pinball." No beer, alas, but the café does have an assortment of baked goods from Yummy Stuff, retro candies (housed in a hollowed-out pinball machine frame), and milkshakes ($5.00), floats ($4.00) and other pinball-prime-era favourites.

The machines themselves are all in working order, though Jason admits that some of them have a bit of "personality."

Pinball Cafe Toronto"Some of them are from the '60s and '70s, and they've been through the wringer," he says. "They're delicate; there's a reason public spaces are hard on machines." To make the play gentler on the machines, Jason has placed them on a mat with a little give, making the occasional nudge less taxing on the legs. And while it's totally and terribly cliché, The Who's "Pinball Wizard" is listed at A1 on The Pinball Café's awesome, fully-restored 1973 Wurlitzer Americana jukebox.

Pinball Cafe TorontoThere are also a few 45s of classic '80s hits, which [huge hint] would perfectly accompany a small collection of retro arcade games. Keep your fingers crossed, and check the basement in the coming months.

The Pinball Café is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (or later).

20120204-mlum7.jpg20120204-mlum2.jpgPhotos by Morris Lum

Discussion

64 Comments

William / February 6, 2012 at 12:20 am
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Wow the good old pinball machines. it has been a while since I have played them looks like I can visit the good old days again right here in my area of a big city.
Me Sir / February 6, 2012 at 01:07 am
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What is it's hipster capacity?
Rod Tod Maude replying to a comment from Me Sir / February 6, 2012 at 07:00 am
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Learn correct grammar before you start insulting people.
random point / February 6, 2012 at 09:53 am
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Can't come in for morning coffee if it isn't open 'til 11!
YES / February 6, 2012 at 09:58 am
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EXCELLENT
The Pinball Cafe / February 6, 2012 at 10:14 am
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Hours are still settling in. An earlier start is certainly being looked at. Also, keep on the lookout for some new games. Huge hint here, anyone wanna ride the Highway To Hell??? ;)
Janey / February 6, 2012 at 10:28 am
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They should really get a liquor license. You can't really drink 4 coffees.
Eva / February 6, 2012 at 10:40 am
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How do places like this make money? Are you ripping me off with exorbitantly priced coffee?

Alex / February 6, 2012 at 10:50 am
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I am not sure I get it...a business model with a bar like atmosphere would make sense...some tv's, pinball etc...etc...but nobody wants to sit in a cafe with loud pinball machines...and nobody is going to more than have maybe a coffee and a couple games...which means very little in the way of revenue.

You need the guys coming in and buying pitchers of beer to make this kind of business work.
Holly replying to a comment from Eva / February 6, 2012 at 10:56 am
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Actually the coffee is on-par with the average cost of coffee in the city.
Holly replying to a comment from Alex / February 6, 2012 at 11:00 am
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I agree with you Alex, the revenue currently being brought in per hour is not at par with the expense of running the place, from what I could tell on my first visit there. I understand their desire for a family friendly space but I don't know if it's sustainable. I hope so.
The Other Neil / February 6, 2012 at 11:16 am
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I hope this does well. I love the idea and wish it was in my neighbourhood.
JLankford / February 6, 2012 at 11:25 am
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It's a shame there are no actual arcades left south of the 401. People were cheering when they closed down Funland to replace it with the 15th Ardenes within a 2km radius.
Dave / February 6, 2012 at 12:52 pm
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Best of luck it would be neat for you to get some old video games as well.
f / February 6, 2012 at 01:11 pm
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Complete the hipster-vibe and serve some PBR
Maria / February 6, 2012 at 01:18 pm
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We walked by last Friday at 9.30 and it was already closed.
jameson / February 6, 2012 at 01:55 pm
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I think its pretty interesting business venture for the area. It's not trying to be a bar or a pub, it's trying to be family friendly. I have to applaud the idea of someone taking a really quirky idea and seeing it through like this. I'll have to check it out. It'll be nice if they have ice cream in the summer...
dellsun replying to a comment from Eva / February 6, 2012 at 02:17 pm
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@Eva

How much is a large cappucino at Timmy's? I think it's the same price, and it's significantly worse quality.

What coffee shops are you talking about that have lower prices?
Joey / February 6, 2012 at 02:31 pm
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It's a great spot - good vibe, good coffee, good snacks, and something to do while you're there!
I'm sure the opening hours will adjust. Have to remember this is the first week! Well done for getting up & running early!
tdilla / February 6, 2012 at 02:36 pm
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Get Monster Bash, and I'm there.
TraderZed replying to a comment from f / February 6, 2012 at 03:01 pm
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Since when did playing pinball become "hipster"? It's just pinball for god sakes.
Em / February 6, 2012 at 03:09 pm
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Sad about the no alcohol. Why not serve only after 6? I would definitely be there, friends in tow if we could get a beer.
Buck Rogers / February 6, 2012 at 03:42 pm
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I stopped by the cafe a few times this week and had a great time. I'm not really sure why people are concerned about a hipster vibe, but there really isn't one. I found it to be quite a mixed crowd of people of all different ages, including families pushing strollers.

The no alcohol license isn't a big deal either. It really would only attract a strange crowd from the area. Ever been to Mezzrows on a Friday? Enjoy a coffee, or a San Pellegrino and hit the bar after. The prices aren't over priced either. It's the same price you pay anywhere for a coffee, which is great by the way.

The variety of pins is great as well. Who cares if it doesn't have a Monster Bash, or Twilight Zone, or Medieval Madness. While those pins are great, why not have fun with some older titles you might not have tried before. Try and get your name up on the chalk scoreboard. It's not easy with some of these drainy older games. Also if we show the place some support I'm sure we'll start to see our favourite titles being circulated with time. Be patient! Plus they have an extremely rare cocktale table pinball. Where else will you get to try that?

The sound from the machines isn't overpowering at all. With the jukebox going, and the bells dinging it gives it a nice ambiance. Plus the jukebox is on free play. Nothing wrong with that.

The pinball cafe hasn't even had a grand opening so I'd try not to be too critical on things. Once they get settled I'm sure we'll see some permanent opening and closing times, and fully functioning games. Also, it doesn't hurt to just go in and talk to the owners if you have any feedback. Let's enjoy what we have and support one of the only decent places to play pinball!
rock manx / February 6, 2012 at 05:00 pm
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I hate coffee but I love pinball. So I will definitely be popping in to play but I don't know how much of the coffee shop vibe I can participate in.
Would have preferred the alcohol license but it's their place so it's their rules.
Tim / February 6, 2012 at 05:18 pm
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Stopped by with my girlfriend for a coffee and some games yesterday afternoon. We had loads of fun and loved the atmosphere / music / decor. Should definitely be licensed though, as someone above noted, you can't really have a few coffees.
Aaron / February 6, 2012 at 08:52 pm
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Pinball yes! Needs liquor license.
basement boy / February 6, 2012 at 09:53 pm
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to all those people crying hipster, it's usually because you are one. if you're going to be live you life rejecting anything that people co-opt as trendy then you better start drinking your own pee and hanging out in the gutter 'cause that's the only thing that WON'T catch on anytime soon. seriously, have a coffee, play ball and like what you like for it's own sake.
Rob / February 6, 2012 at 10:05 pm
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Get a Street Fighter 2 machine, and I'm there. No mercy rounds. HADOUKEN!
Dragon / February 6, 2012 at 10:34 pm
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I love it. But 8 pinball machines and an espresso machine.?? Unless the rent is almost free, I honestly doubt it will last.

dragon
geoffrey / February 7, 2012 at 11:18 am
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I REALLY want to like this place. That said watching the crosswalk out front blocked day after day while trucks were unloaded and the contents carted inside left me nauseous. A few people are struck using that crosswalk every year. There have been a few fatalities over the past 8 years as well. Illegally parked vehicles have figured prominently in this as they impair sightlines of both pedestrians and approaching motorists. That the proprietor would continue parking illegally shows a disdain for members of the community and pedestrians specifically.
nomorecoffee / February 7, 2012 at 01:04 pm
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looks too...plain. It's the lighting. Doesn't look very inviting. Make it dark, cosy and warm and people will come.
I know its brand new, but from the photos it looks like it lacks a bit of character.

I'll probably go, because I love pinball, but Toronto - what's with the coffee obsession? you cannot get enough of the stuff. No more coffee. just stop. we have enough friggin coffee shops.

please just open a decent pub for god sake. it's not hard -

1. beer. - please stop serving me flat beer - *CLEAN THE PIPES*.

2. lighting - make it nice inside. somewhere where you want to hang out for a while.

3. No gimmicks (ha like pinball)

4. table service kills the vibe in a pub. you immediately feel that you're in a restaurant instead of a pub. just go to the bar to get a drink. and no, I'm not tipping for you to stand there and simply pull me a pint. Plus the whole table service thing really sucks when a huge bill comes at the end of the night..maths is probably the last thing I want to be doing at the end of a drunky night.

5. chips to buy behind the bar.
/\ /\ Douche Canoe /\ /\ replying to a comment from nomorecoffee / February 7, 2012 at 02:24 pm
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I think you're the sort of customer he's trying to avoid by not having a liqour license. Please don't come to this place you'll ruin the positive vibe and the friendly fun.

You wouldn't like it here anyway for reasons you previously cited, by number.
theMASH.ca / February 7, 2012 at 05:26 pm
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Love this idea but where is Captain Fantastic!?!
brian / February 7, 2012 at 07:10 pm
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dear no more coffee,

1. you're supposed to tip $1 per pint pulled. period.
2. you should try yoga
apogee / February 7, 2012 at 07:12 pm
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Yeah WTF right?

I too feel the same way. A pinball cafe should not serve coffee, should serve beer, only at the bar, and look nice, not bright, dark and cosy (sp) and most of all should not have pinball (what a stupid gimmick!).

frickin moron. what does it matter where you drown yourself in alcohol
nomorecoffee / February 7, 2012 at 08:21 pm
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why should I give $1 for someone pulling me a pint? it's minimal effort.

yeah I've done yoga. I don't tip for that either.
Dr. Shrinker replying to a comment from Rob / February 8, 2012 at 12:30 pm
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ROB, this is a PINBALL place, NOT a video game place. Get your ass to Playdium if you want to do that, or one of the Chinese malls in Richmond Hill.
Dr. Shrinker replying to a comment from nomorecoffee / February 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm
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Why the frack don't you open up a place of your own, then, if you can't stand this place? Because you're a lazy twit who has to act as a hater in order to make yourself feel good.

Let's see you open on the place you've described above-I'll bet that it would go out of business in a month, tops. Mostly because it's the same kind of bar as all of the other bars in Parkdale.
loper replying to a comment from nomorecoffee / February 8, 2012 at 03:23 pm
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You are a tool. If you came into my bar multiple times I would ask you to leave. You tip me $1 per pint because that's how I get paid to serve your drunk waste of human flesh. Grow up child.
The Pinball Cafe / February 8, 2012 at 06:31 pm
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Dr. Shrinker and loper, come by The Pinball Cafe and let us buy you a coffee and load some credits up on the games for ya. :)
nomorecoffee / February 8, 2012 at 11:39 pm
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Toronto is definitely not a friendly place. I was just offering up some ideas. I'm not a 'hater'...I think calling someone a 'drunk waste of human flesh' qualifies you though.
Maybe everyone here is too pumped up on espresso.

Good luck pinball cafe. I like pinball a lot! just giving an honest first impression. and ranting about pubs and coffee. probably not relevant. but I seemed to have hit a nerve.

can I have a free game of pinball too?
The Pinball Cafe / February 9, 2012 at 01:01 am
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On February 18th we would like to invite EVERYONE for coffee, milkshakes, great snacks, retro candy and all the free pinball they can play. Not only that, but we are actually giving away a pinball machine as a draw prize! Come and check out the space, meet us in person, tell us your ideas and have a good time playing games that span from 1967 to 2012. You are all now and will always be welcome at The Pinball Cafe.
Dr. Shrinker replying to a comment from The Pinball Cafe / February 9, 2012 at 02:30 am
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Thanks for the offer, I'll try to get up there sometime soon.
Pinball Addict! / February 9, 2012 at 05:36 pm
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You don't need to give away free games to lure people in OR have a donation box handy as people do want you to succeed.

You have to stay in business and make money, so think about what you're doing. Have lots of high margin munchies for people to soak up the caffeine, sweets, chocolates, sandwiches too?

I can't wait to come! See you soon. Thanks so much.
muffin / February 10, 2012 at 01:40 pm
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PLEASE DON'T TURN THIS PLACE INTO A BAR!
I already have to bite my tongue as I pass throw a crowd of drunks (Grace Place) after getting off the streetcar every night...
JBomb replying to a comment from Janey / February 13, 2012 at 09:33 am
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I in fact can and did drink 5 espressos there on opening day - they were some of the best I have ever found in this city and this of course, if the ONLY place in the city you can find pinball at this capacity. Whether a liquor license is gotten or not, it is still a grand idea and an excellent venue. Not only that, but it's someone else's... It is not your venture (not your dollar, not your time, not you sweat, not your tears and not your idea - did I mention it wasn't your dollar?) and in turn, if you don't like the venue, the snacks they sell, or their choice in beverages, don't go. More room at the tables for those who respect pinball and respect the fact that someone took the time, effort, and money to provide people with a fun and safe place to be entertained in a very rare and specific manner.
Saul replying to a comment from Rod Tod Maude / February 13, 2012 at 09:44 am
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:-)
Saul replying to a comment from TraderZed / February 13, 2012 at 09:49 am
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like
Janey replying to a comment from JBomb / February 13, 2012 at 09:54 am
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I can only assume that its the insane amount of caffeine in your veins that makes you such a jerk.

For the record, I've been to the Pinball Cafe, and I loved it (and I...respect pinball?? I'm impressed that you managed to make pinball elitist.) I would still prefer to enjoy a pint of tasty local beer.
Zack / February 14, 2012 at 01:32 am
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I have been in touch with the owner and he has told me that he is getting a liquor license.
Overpaid server replying to a comment from loper / February 16, 2012 at 04:46 pm
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Lets say you can pull a pint every 2 minutes, so you really think $30/hr is what you deserve for tending bar? I'm pretty confident that you can serve up drinks faster than that so your paltry wage is conservatively estimated at $30/hr. Cry me a river servers.
brian replying to a comment from Overpaid server / February 16, 2012 at 05:45 pm
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I guess friday night at the Madison you may pull a pint every minute and thus your $60 per hour scenario may exist (minus tip out to barbacks/hot server chicks?)...but not at whelan's gate on a Tuesday or a potential pinball bar on Monday nights.
ForTipsSake / February 16, 2012 at 07:33 pm
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You're a sack of sh*t if you don't tip at the bar. No excuses.
Overpaid server replying to a comment from ForTipsSake / February 17, 2012 at 09:43 am
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I have no issues with tipping the servers or the bartender, I just have issues with the $1 drink expectation, on a busy night night at any bar, for the fact the servers are making good coin. Run a tab and pay out your 20% for good service, does it equate to $1/drink, maybe, maybe not.

Does anyone ever tip service staff at your grocery store? They are lucky if they make $12/hr, put up with the same crap from the general public yet no one thinks they deserve extra cash.
Overpaid server replying to a comment from brian / February 17, 2012 at 09:54 am
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You have a valid point, but I guess you work your way up to the good nights.

Wouldn't this debate go away if you paid your staff a half decent wage to begin with? But this is another thread. I wonder how many serves would want to renegotiate the current situation, to go to hourly wage vs hourly + tips.
Brian F / February 20, 2012 at 07:32 pm
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Sad this discussion has turned into what this place isn't. =(

Glad to see the place open and i'm trying to get some coworkers to join me on a coming Friday night for pinball. =D
(if I had to make one complaint, if only you where more downtown, then I could go every night =P).
Joe Brew / February 21, 2012 at 02:21 pm
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I popped in on Sunday night and played a few games. It was pretty fun. Some of the old machines are only a quarter, which is a bargain. They've got a cool nostalgic quality about them too. There are some more "modern" options with too... like an AC/DC machine with elaborate ramps etc but that'll set you back a loonie.
Yuri Gagarin / February 21, 2012 at 02:30 pm
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Hi, so happy to hear about The Pinball Cafe! I was a pinball junkie and this is something I look forward to chekin out with my kids.

Wouldnt normally make suggestions coz its your business but Id really like to see it succeed so...Hot dogs and/or pogos go well with pinballs. Maybe one of those compact rotisserie things. I love dogs kids love dogs. You seem to have space for more candy - never too much retro candy get it as sugar mountainish as you can we stock up for stuff to take home when we go to candy stores and I'm guessing profit margin is pretty good. If you get licensed its no big deal. There used to be a neighbourhood bar with pinballs and video games I'd take my kids to. Just charge a lil extra to keep the roughnecks away they already have their places.

Oh, and my faves - El Dorado (best ever) Close Encounters, Evel Kneivel. Volley, Bucameer. The Gottlieb machines with J Morrison artwork were my favourites.

Good Luck and we'll seeya!
Rico replying to a comment from nomorecoffee / February 25, 2012 at 09:22 am
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You obviously know nothing about beer either. Perhaps stick to your local strip mall.

PC, well done. Serve local pints, and don't sell out to any of those large breweries, as it's crap beer, and they will own you. Get micros.
BruceB / April 6, 2012 at 10:55 am
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I used to own a couple of the games in the café, the Wild Fyre and the Skylab.
Ann / August 15, 2012 at 12:06 am
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I've been looking for a cool place to hang out with friends that isn't full of loud drunks and is a little nerdy. This sounds great! Why do people need alcohol to have fun?
Mike / August 15, 2012 at 06:45 pm
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Was in the cafe today, after being out of town for the last four months.

All the games had something broken on them (drop target not functioning, broken ramp on Diner, loose flipper). Told the guy who is always in there (owner?) about the broken ramp, he wasn't particularly nice or polite about it, and seemed like he was on drugs or drunk. Weird vibe.

Really sad, as I really wanted this place to succeed, wish that there was other places to play pinball in the area, especially ones where I could grab a pint in the evening.
Warren / September 21, 2012 at 10:12 am
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Went there last weekend with the wife and my youngest child. We ALWAYS have a fun time there and the owners are always friendly and courteous. My hope is thatthis business will succeed and flourish for the long term.

They price their machines very reasonably having a few .50 retro machines in the mix if you are blowing through your loonies too quickly.

As a pinball collector/restorer I get a real bang at listening to the reactions/commentary of some of the people that drop in and it's amazing how well received pinball is even today!

Keep up the good work and maybe get in more stuff to sell for revenue (ie: t-shirts, resale old machines, knick knacks, novelty treats, etc).
Sururu / June 26, 2013 at 11:47 am
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Anyone been to this lately? I noted their facebook and website is now gone.

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