Ever since I was a young girl, I played the silver ball. But really, my grandparents had two pinball machines in their basement where I’d spend countless hours being terrible during my elementary years when they’d babysit. Then in high school, my friends and I would road trip an hour to Ann Arbor, Michigan to Pinball Pete’s, where I’ve broken their South Park machine at least six times.
Now, in the prime of my life, I’m not only able to play pinball, but now I can drink alcohol while doing so! In the year that I’ve lived in Brooklyn, I’ve tipsy stumbled into a surprising number of bars with pinball, and left with more recommendations of bars to check out. I wanna be the very best, hence, I’ve decided to switch from aspiring Pokemon Master to Pinball Master.
To begin my journey, I’ve been hitting up my favorite spots to play in “middle Brooklyn,” namely Crown Heights, Park Slope, and Bed-Stuy. (Up next: I’m compiling a list of the best in “North Brooklyn” neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick.) I’m not an expert when it comes to playing, but I am quite good at appreciating the older machines from the 80s on and fan-girling over the more recent models. Check out my list of eight favorites. (Note: keep in mind that bars regularly rotate their pinball machines, in case you don’t see one from this list.)
502 Franklin Ave
Pinball Machines: AC/DC, Metallica
It took me three visits to Glorietta Baldy to finally remember the name of the bar sober. When Doris packs in after they close the backyard at 11pm, friends and I like to dash here for one more round, where there’s usually a corner to tuck away into and play Euchre without anyone looking at us weird. It’s “kissing cousins” with Mission Dolores and the Owl Farm, which helps explain why I like the atmosphere so much: it’s got candles, it’s got some class, they love bikes, and it’s got an Instagram account almost entirely consisting of what kegs they’re putting on draft.
Their pinball machines are tucked away at the back of the bar, and while I’ve seen Glorietta Baldy get pretty full on a Friday night, I’ve never had to wait long to play. Both machines pay homage to the rock n roll gods, and while they may not have story lines to follow like some of the other machines at other bars on this list, accomplishing certain goals on the instruction cards results in higher scores!
477 5th Avenue
Pinball Machines: Harlem Globetrotters On Tour, Medieval Madness, Getaway High Speed
Can you even dig it? Skylark’s got retro down to a science, and their Harlem Globetrotters pinball machine definitely is a sight to see and play. This is the most retro of all pinball machines I’ve come across in Brooklyn thus far, and though it may not offer the flash and difficulty we’re used to today, it makes for a bitchin’ comparison to how far pinball has come since the 70s. Bonus: it’s only $1 for two plays with five balls each!
If you want something with a little more flash and storyline, Medieval Madness and Getaway High Speed are located mere steps away past the board game shelf. Medieval Madness (which I found out features Tina Fey as the voice of multiple princesses within the game!) is essentially a 90s version of GoT without the incest, where you complete challenges like saving a damsel in distress and defeating trolls to enter “Wizard Mode.”
Getaway High Speed has less of a challenge, simply yelling at you to “shift into high gear!” This game is actually a sequel to the pinball game High Speed, and your main objective is to simply “go fast” because of what I can only presume was reckless driving in your hot rod to begin with, the police are now after you.
Other Skylark highlights include outdoor seating in the front, TONS of space and seating for groups, delicious pressed sandwiches from HBH, Trivial Pursuit on Mondays, and Service Industry night on Tuesdays!
The Owl Farm
297 9th Street
Pinball Machines: Tales of the Arabian Nights, Spider Man, Attack From Mars
The Owl Farm reminds me greatly of my grandparent’s house in the 70s in the sense that the theme of their living room was simply “Owls.” I’m talking shag wall art, owl mugs in every corner, decorative pillows, the works. So walking into the coziness of the Owl Farm and finding the same type of vintage wall art and illustrations throughout the bar I find extremely comforting.
Tales of the Arabian Nights is by far one of my favorite machines. Between the artwork, the spinning magical lamp and the blue genie, it makes for a fantastical game plot. The objective is to journey through seven of the tales found in One Thousand and One Nights, but I wouldn’t personally know many of the tales seeing that I broke the machine last time I played it….Sadly, I got a ball stuck, but the bartender was really nice about the whole thing, shutting it off until someone could come and fix it!
Moving on to a machine that I hadn’t broken yet, there are Spider Man and Attack from Mars. Spider Man is based off the trilogy featuring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, and heavily features Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin laugh, which is constant in a very aggressive way while you play. In Attack from Mars, while having no affiliation with Revenge from Mars, you must save planet Earth from an alien invasion! This features four dancing martians, the catch-phrase “Take that, muffin head!” and thankfully, no Willem Dafoe.
Other highlights include a wide selection of ciders, rotating drafts and also pinball leagues registered with both Pinball NYC and South Slope Pinball! I also have a sneaking suspicion the bar put a couple bucks into the games for customers to use, because there were prepaid credits last time I was there!
722 Nostrand Ave.
Pinball Machines: Volcano
Even though rum and I have been off and on for over a year now (thanks to Captain Morgan and his ability to make me fall down stairs), Super Power is making me fall in love (instead of down stairs) all over again. With ties to the Bearded Lady, this tiki bar has grown quite popular since opening up a few months ago, and no wonder with its carefully concocted cocktail menu! I highly recommend ordering the Three Berree Sangaree AND the Pain Killer, because #alcohol.
Volcano might be just as old as the Harlem Globetrotters pinball in age, but my, is it much more explosive in excitement. While it only allows you to play with up to four players, it may be simple in objectives, but who doesn’t love making a volcano erupt? Metaphorically speaking, and with lights instead of real lava, of course, but still fun and suits the bar’s island theme perfectly.
Bonus: They’ve got $1 oysters deals at happy hour, too (Monday-Friday, 5-8pm).
577 5th Avenue
Pinball Machines: Twilight Zone, Ghostbusters, Guns N’ Roses
Buttermilk believes in the finer things in life, such as booze, booze, and more booze. I love a witty, tatted bar maiden, and the round table in the middle of the bar makes for a great meeting space/communal drinking table. Throw in a pool table, air hockey, AND pinball in a comfy dive setting? I’m in heaven!
When someone asks you if you’re a (pinball) god, you say yes. Ghostbusters makes for a perfect pinball game for a variety of reasons, but mainly because you get to be a GHOSTBUSTER (with Ernie Hudson’s voicing guiding you as you play). There’s even the Green Slimer and Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
The Ghostbusters machine is usually the first machine people go for, but I don’t mind playing the other two while I wait! The Twilight Zone machine pays very close attention to details from the TV show, or so I’m told, which is probably why more of the plot and challenges would make more sense to me if I had previously watch the show (I know, don’t worry, it’s on my Netflix queue). The Guns N’ Roses machine is fun in the sense that it features music by the band and has a revolver instead of a plunger, with graphics including scantily clad women, snakes, guns, and even roses.
225 Rogers Ave
Pinball Machines: The Walking Dead, WrestleMania
When talking about this at Catfish last week, one of our regulars was appalled that I’d have never been to Branch Ofc. before, let alone hadn’t heard of it. So after he insisted, I treked down Rogers to find that this bar is absolutely great. They’ve got sandwiches, alcoholic Sloe Cones, Booze Education, a GIANT backyard seating area and Wrestlemania pinball.
Little known fact about me, my guilty pleasure is the WWE. I’m an awful fan, but I live for a great John Cena meme, and will go out of my way to watch Monday Night RAW on Hulu when I need a break from binge watching SVU. This Wrestlemania pinball is great, featuring a bunch of current wrestlers (as well as the Divas) in the game, and has an actual wrestling ring where you use the bumpers as the ropes.
Note: This was also the only game I managed to match the last two digits of my score for a free round, which was epic, because I got to pick a wrestler (hint: “you can’t see me”) and wrestle Dean Ambrose, aka hell yeah brother.
Alongside my love of wrestling, I also have a passion for zombies. Though I’m a couple seasons behind, the Walking Dead pinball was great in the fact that I felt it combined the graphic novel style of the series with the AMC live version really well. With many landmarks recognizable from the show, including what I assume is a toy version of the water-bloated zombie they pulled out of the well, your mission is to kill zombies, and then kill more zombies. Then, if you lose the ball, I assume you become a zombie.
The Fifth Estate
506 5th Avenue
Pinball Machines: Game of Thrones, Tron, Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure, Creature from the Black Lagoon
Walking into the Fifth Estate is like walking into the Red Room from Twin Peaks and then boom: Zebras. Doubling as a live performance venue, this place manages to house not only one of the smallest stages I’ve seen in Brooklyn (I’m sure there are some much, much smaller), but still has room to house four pinball machines AND foosball.
The GoT pinball machine was impressive in many ways, because not only do you get to pick what house you belong to (Stark for me), but you get to battle other houses, form alliances, with loose plot-lines sprinkled in as you’re guided by the voice of The Hound! The main objective of the game is to rule the seven kingdoms, and though I barely know how to rule even ONE kingdom, I scored my highest score at 68,858,170.
Tron is fun in the sense that it’s visually BEAUTIFUL, but I wasn’t quite a fan of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Every time I’d put a quarter in, there was a woman’s moan coming from the machine, followed by a “thank you” after I put in enough quarters. I also couldn’t get the hologram to work, but that could have easily been because I didn’t get enough points/my feminist tendencies were boiling over the heavily sexual objectifying undertones toward women within the game so…I didn’t play this one much.
Indiana Jones would have been great to play if my roommate hadn’t gotten a ball stuck like I did while playing Arabian Nights. It’s also only 50 cents a game, too!
The Fifth Estate has two for one Genesse during happy hour and they host songwriting workshops every Wednesday night (except for the first of the month).
243 5th Avenue
Pinball Machines: The Sopranos, Fish Tales
This is where I went to my first Brokelyn meeting! They’ve got popcorn, a ton of space, comfy booths, #highdivebuddybeers, and growlers to go!
Both machines are highly enjoyable, but this is the one bar besides Buttermilk that I usually have to wait my turn to get on a machine. The Sopranos machine is based off the HBO hit show and entails “completing episodes” to rise from Associate to the Boss, featuring fun toys like the talking fish and a safe that cracks open. I haven’t played this one much myself because of fear of spoilers (another show cued on my HBO Now, I promise). Fish Tales, on the other fin, is a little less violent, where your main mission is to catch as many fish as possible and then “stretch the truth” about how big they actually are. This one is just silly, and fun in the sense that it’s more skill that making your way through more complicated goals.
So, did I miss any good ones? Have any recommendations for bars for me to venture to next?My GoT score is respectable, right? Wanna give a girl some tips? Comment below with bars I should check out next on my Pinball journey!