The sounds of joysticks clashing, coins clanging and beers rattling can be heard throughout the bar. Video game characters are painted on the walls and bathroom doors, and art by Arizona artists hangs on the wall near the bar counters.
This isn’t your father’s bar.
Gaming-themed spots like Cobra Arcade Bar are sweeping the nation and, according to the TV show and magazine The List, the downtown Phoenix bar is one of the country’s best. Click here for other great arcade bars in the Valley.
“The idea was just to give somebody a new experience of going out,” says Ariel Bracamonte, Cobra Arcade Bar co-founder.
Bracamonte has been obsessed with arcades and its machines since he was a kid. He frequented Circle K and 7/11 locations to watch people play.
“I’ve always had an interest in arcades,” Bracamonte says. “When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the art on the sides and watching the games be played because we didn’t have money to play.”
The obsession follows him even now. Bracamonte supplies the arcade cabinets for Cobra Arcade Bar from his collection of over 300. At least, that’s how many he had the last time he counted.
“I stopped counting a long time ago,” Bracamonte says laughing. “I have a 2,500-square-feet warehouse filled with them. I have close to five storage units and my living room filled with them.”
Bracamonte acquired most of his collection from Craigslist, OfferUp and dedicated internet forums. He has driven as far as Dallas and Sacramento to pick the units, which he restores himself.
“I’m obsessed with arcades,” Bracamonte says. “I’m obsessed with fixing them. I’m obsessed with making them. That’s all I do. I really care about what they look like and how they function.”
After visiting other “barcades” like Insert Coin and Ground Kontrol, Bracamonte wanted to deliver one to downtown Phoenix.
“I wanted to bring the idea to Phoenix,” Bracamonte says. “But I also wanted to do it my own way.”
His idea was to partner with local and national artists like Lalo Cota, El Mac, Pablo Luna and Noelle Martinez to add artwork to the sides of his cabinets.
“I really wanted to incorporate art as much as I can with the arcades,” Bracamonte says. “I didn’t just go buy them in an auction and throw them inside the bar.”
The bar, which is open to patrons 21 and older, features about 40 vintage arcade cabinets, four pinball machines and even custom-made machines for newer games. The cabinets are rotated with different games from Bracamonte’s collection.
“We utilize new technology,” Bracamonte says. “I have a Street Fighter 5 arcade, which is for a Playstation 4. Nobody has an arcade machine like that, but we made it in-house.”
Other selections include Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac-Man and Mortal Kombat II. Custom-made arcade cabinets like “Street Fighter 5” can be found on the floor and the bar’s televisions host newer games like Super Smash Bros. Cobra Arcade Bar hosts tournaments, too.
There are 14 beers on tap, including Dos Equis, Stella Artois and Kilt Lifter, and video game-themed signature cocktails like Princess Peach (pear vodka mixed with stone fruit, lemon and orange bitters) or Crazy Kong (Jameson Caskmates whiskey, banana liqueur, lemon and ginger beer).
A selection of nonalcoholic drinks is also available. The bar doesn’t serve food, but food trucks like Ladera, Dos Manos Hotdogs and Ragin’ Cajun are nearby.
“If you don’t like to drink you can come play some games,” Bracamonte says. “And it’s a great social environment for strangers, too. You can get competitive in a game together.”
Location: 801 N. Second Street, Suite 100, Phoenix
Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Daily
– Israel Gonzalez, The Entertainer! / Edit for Phoenix.org