Photo by Maddie McGarvey

Gaming During the Game

Sometimes you throw a couple of random, good ingredients together and find that they work surprisingly well—kettle chips on a chili dog or poutine with French fries.

You can count Clintonville’s new Old Skool in that category—a loosely ’80s-themed joint that serves up more general nostalgia than anything else. The half-arcade, half-sports bar is like if 16-Bit got a B-Dubs pregnant, no doubt a product of nerd culture taking over the mainstream. These days, even the jocks like to play Space Invaders at halftime.

Okay, so arcade games in sports bars aren’t exactly new, but Old Skool has more than a just lonely Golden Tee game in the corner. You can choose from dozens of retro games to play for free while you wait for your food to be served at one of their arcade tables, which have a built in screen and joysticks for two players. Play old favorites like Pacman (three different versions), Centipede, or lesser-known titles sure to impress the discerning jock/nerd. The arcade tables are a blast, and the waitress will be forgiving if you get so distracted that you didn’t get a chance to look at the menu by the time she gets back.

Once you do check out that menu, you’ll have to just accept missing your turn in Ms. Pacman while you decide between delightfully sloppy and disparate items, like breakfast hot dogs and fried Twinkies. It’s the best kind of junk food.

The beer selection is simple and unpretentious; they’ve got the cheap stuff on draft along with a few tasty craft options—ones that lean toward the heavy end of the ABV spectrum. Meats are smoked in-house, and they’ve got your usual grill fare of burgers and wings. The poutine appetizer with pulled pork and savory gravy on crispy French fries is especially delicious, and though some of the hot dogs might have strange toppings like a fried egg or baked beans, experimentation is the only way for innovation to continue.

Old Skool ought to be saluted for its bold efforts in keeping America on the cutting edge of bun-based cuisine, combining one good thing with another and making something you can’t get anywhere else in the same way that they bring the arcade to the sports bar.

There’s always been a thousand sports bars in Columbus, like any other city, and as the arcade bars keep pulling in crowds more and more of them are opening too.

Old Skool stands out from both crowds by being the bar and grill with the best video games and the only arcade in town that you can eat in. Though sometimes billed as having an ’80s theme, explaining the goofy name of the bar and some of the décor and arcade games, they don’t really stick too closely to it. It’s more like a non-specific retro style that you don’t even notice because you’re too busy working on your second hot dog to pay attention to the kitsch on the wall.

Hey, we’re not gonna get too technical about the decade—just know that they keep it loose.

Old Skool, located at 2941 N High St., is open at 3 p.m. during the week and 11 a.m. weekends.