I didn’t go to Disney as a kid. No mouse ears or photos with princesses for me, at least not until I was in high school. Instead, my sister and I would get to go to Mr. Gatti’s every once in a while. It’s a chain pizza place with an arcade attached. There, your family can gorge itself on a pizza buffet and play games for one reasonable price.
We moved away from our local Mr. Gatti’s, and it left a little pizza-slice-shaped hole in my heart. A couple years later, we were en route from Mississippi to Ohio on one of our famous cross-country trips when Mom and Dad said they had a surprise for us.
We took a short trip from the Days Inn where we were staying for the night and pulled up in the parking lot of nothing less than a Mr. Gatti’s. Kaitlin won big on that trip – we were playing an arcade version of Hungry, Hungry Hippos and suddenly tickets started spewing from the machine. We gathered them up, in long ribbons, and I think she was required to share part of her winnings with me. Our tickets didn’t even added up to a clock radio when we turned them in for prizes, but that sort of didn’t matter. I remember, indelibly, that we were winners.
I’ve done my time covering trade shows in Las Vegas and I’ve navigated the maze of many-a dimly lit casino. I like the food and drink aspect of Vegas, but I’m not a gambler so none of that has ever looked too appealing to me. Replace all of those slot machines with air hockey tables and arcade games? Now I’m interested. Turns out, there’s a place for that.
This week I was invited to take a look inside a newly remodeled Dave and Buster’s. Flashbacks to Mr. Gatti’s ensued. I was told I would be able to play skeeball if I wanted. I said yes, obviously.
I’ll admit, before yesterday I’d never set foot in any Dave and Buster’s. The lure of game play alongside the availability of alcohol was intriguing, sure, but never enough to sway me. The new look is pretty striking. Big screens, modern décor, and lots and lots of flashy games.
I sampled some of the menu items. On a scale of food court to upscale restaurant fare, it ranks somewhere around a TGI Friday’s. And sometimes, that’s all you really want. There are piles of nachos, buffalo wings, hot dogs wrapped up in soft pretzel dough, and a monstrous salad known as “The Lawnmower.” I’ll admit I have a soft spot for this kind of stuff. I blame my Midwestern upbringing, salty over-processed chicken wings and anything served with ranch sauce signals “fun” in my brain. Every once in a while I have to indulge – be it a Chik-fil-A sandwich, nuggets, an order of buffalo wings, or a road trip McDonald’s Filet o Fish. I’m not too proud to admit that I occasionally dabble in these “foods.”
Walking through the midway, I was surprised at how strong my own urge was to jump in and play. There have been some significant technological developments in arcade gaming since my Mr. Gatti’s days. Star Wars, Fruit Ninja, four-way air hockey, they’re all here, wrapped around a brightly lit bar.
The bottom line is that if you find yourself at Dave and Buster's, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the renovations and the expanded menu. The food itself isn’t worth the drive up to the outer limits of I-275, but D&B has clearly taken some care to keep its food offerings current and give the place a more modern look. It’s a Las Vegas casino experience for someone who would rather play skeeball than black jack. And if that’s you, well, you’re an arcade gamer after my own heart.
Disclosure, my meal was free. I had to leave before I could actually play skeeball.