It’s been a long time for a lot of things, hasn’t it? The pandemic put all sorts of things on hold, or changed them forever, from favorite restaurants and bars we used to love to haunt to museums, parks and more we just couldn’t be at anymore. Now, with Chicago’s vaccination rates trending up and cases trending down, we’re seeing a mass reopening and a return to things we love here in the city, from music festivals and conventions to favorite bars, arcades and more.
We’ve gone on ad nauseum about Chicago’s fantastic video game scene, with a wealth of amazing developers who make their home here to great gaming events and exhibits, but one thing we’ve not touched on too much pre-pandemic is our vast array of arcades. From beercade to straight up classic arcade, Chicago and the surrounding area are packed with great places to log some time with cabinets new and old, pour some quarters into some pinball machines and in a lot of cases, have some great food and drinks while you’re doing it.
While I’m not in River North that often, Headquarters is one of the places in River North I truly like to be. Their take on the beercade leans towards the upscale without being pretentious and while food and drink take high priority, they’re also one of the few places that places at least equal emphasis on the quality and variety of their cabinets and machines. So, after a long hiatus and with a little apprehension on how to do the whole “socializing at a beercade” thing, we headed out for their grand reopening preview to get a look at what’s new.
As it turns out, there’s a lot that’s changed without having changed the feel of the place. The most obvious changes we saw were to the main floor, which was the only one available to us on the night of the party. Headquarters moved a lot of things around and it creates a lot more breathing room in most cases, and a lot more room to spread out cabinets. There are still plenty of tables, couches and chairs to hang out and eat at, but the reshuffle seems to most benefit a person’s ability to access and play the games–something we’re all about. And, also exciting for anyone with an interest in arcade cabinets with a cult following, Headquarters has just added a Killer Queen cabinet to the mix.
Headquarters also made a lot of changes to their menu, slimming it down from what we saw pre-Covid to some delicious sounding new choices like portobello fries with a masa breading and chili-pineapple pastor dip to grilled andouille sausage sandwiches and a burger featuring bone marrow, griddled onions, house pickles and a miso thousand island. The cocktail menu got a facelift, too, with No Tan Lines, a Cihuatan Jade Rum cocktail with Melon de Provence, coconut milk, lime, triple syrup and Mallorca Melon served in a cute little ceramic flamingo being a a popular choice for partygoers, along with Pop Culture, a vodka drink featuring Absolut Elyx, Apologue Saffron Liqueur, Giffard Lychee Liqueur, lemon and frozen blackberries being another chart-topper. Lucky for this writer, they’ve also kept some fantastic drinks from the former menu, including my favorite, the Assault and Pepper, which features sweet and spicy strawberry and jalapeno infused Gran Centenario tequila, lime and simple syrup with a house chili salt.
A lot of times with arcades, it feels like you’ve got to choose between the gaming and the “circuses” but what was great and remains great about Headquarters is that you won’t need to choose. With knowledgeable bartenders, a great menu of food and drinks, monthly calendars full of fun events and well kept machines, it’s a guaranteed good night out, and we’re glad to see the doors open up again.
If you’re curious about Headquarters and their recent reopening, make sure to check out their website or sign up for their email list to get notified of new events and additions.