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Classic Arcade Games, Food and Drink at Joystick Gamebar

By S. Mathur

A bar built around the sociability of gaming. How did they think of such a place? Like so many great ideas, Joystick Gamebar, is actually what owners Brandon Ley and Johnny Martinez were in search of themselves: "Honestly? Brandon needed a good first date spot and Atlanta didn't yet have what he was looking for. And based on the number of Tinder dates we get now, we may have succeeded in making a great first date spot."

For many, including the owners, it may be a chance to relive their childhood and the old clunky games of the '70s and '80s. Ley and Martinez felt that "it would be a great place to experiment with an old-school arcade. Johnny is more of a gamer than Brandon, having grown up going to the Gold Mine arcade at the mall; however, Brandon is always up for embarrassing himself spectacularly on Street Fighter or pinball." Guests can find everything from 70's and early 80's classics like Space Invaders, Ms. Pacman, and Galaga to 90's staples like NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat II to pinball and foosball. There are a number of board games, including Jenga.

They describe the food situation as a long-term, indoor food truck. In practice this means that guests find it hard to put down their chicken sandwiches and burgers to actually play. The kitchen hosts different vendors for a year or longer, and has helped to launch a few careers. Illegal Food was named Best Burger in Georgia during their time at the Gamebar kitchen, and other vendors have served Polish food, tacos, and more. The current vendor is Doggy Dogg, serving, naturally, gourmet hot dogs.

The drinks are given equal importance: "We are particularly proud of our bar selection. We love being a super casual, neighborhood bar. All of our bartenders are super knowledgeable and make killer cocktails. We like turning people on to some new things." Some of these are Cathead vodka from a small distillery out of Mississippi, Boodles gin, and Flor de Caña rum. Drink staples include Cowboys and Indians, which is whiskey with housemade chai soda and "two boozy slushies - the tart and spicy Ginger Snap and a sweet, creamy Bourbon Coffee."

Regular events include Rock Band Karaoke, Quiplash, Cosplayground Nerdleqsue, Drunk Chess, Magic: The Gathering tournament, Project Cosplay, PS4 Rocket League Tournaments, and Atlanta Intown RPG Day. Underlying all the fun and games there are serious commitments to the environment and local community. The building is LEED certified and the Gamebar supports local charities.

The philosophy behind the bar is simple: "When we opened we knew we wanted the kind of place that we would go to. We wanted quality food and drinks, affordable prices, a laid-back atmosphere, shameless absurdity, and a staff you can talk to. Every day we work to make sure all of that happens, or at the very least that Joystick doesn't suck completely."

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