Downtown Gilbert has its fair share of snazzy-looking restaurants, breweries, and bars dotting its neon-drenched landscape. Starting tonight, the proprietors of Level 1 Arcade Bar will add something different into the mix: old-school arcade games.
The two-story game bar opens for business on Tuesday, December 24, and will offer entertainment and distractions of the button-pushing, pinball-bumping, and joystick-wielding variety, says co-owner TJ Tillman.
“It’s going to be an arcade bar with classic games and pinball that will give people who come to downtown Gilbert something else to do besides going to a restaurant,” Tillman says. “The area is so popular right now and they've built it up with all the restaurants. But other than all that, there really isn’t a whole lot else to do down there right now. So we wanted to create something more for people to do.”
And what visitors to Level 1 will be doing is playing classic arcade games from the '80s and '90s, as well as pinball games both retro and modern (think: Robotron 2084, Fish Tales, Smash TV, and The Munsters).
The game bar will be located in the 3,000-square-foot property in Gilbert’s Heritage Marketplace that formerly housed fast-casual eatery Grubstak until its closure earlier this year.
Inside Level 1, you’ll find 30 classic arcade games and 10 pinball machines that will be available for playing. They’ve even got their own custom-made tokens.
Tillman says the selection of games will be rotated on a regular basis from their collection of more than 100 arcade and pinball machines.
"We'll keep things fresh so that no one gets bored with the selection," he says.
They've already got some choice options, including a pristine version of mid-'80s skateboard game 720°, a well-maintained Dragon's Lair, and old favorites like Paperboy and Burgertime.
The geeky atmosphere at Level 1 doesn’t stop with the games. Bitchin’ skate decks are arranged above the lengthy bar and a mural featuring characters from the '80s arcade Rampage is near the bathrooms.
The drink list offers 12 signature cocktails with names inspired by video games (Boom Shakalaka, Flawless Victory) or movies (The Dude, You Cheat Dr. Jones).
They’ll also have a limited menu of small plates and fast-casual selections that reinterpret snacks beloved by gamers while growing up, like Pizza Rolls and Pop-Tarts.
“Stuff that's going to hearken back to kids that grew up in the '80s or '90s when you would go to an arcade or maybe when you'd come home after school and were playing games,” Tillman says.
Tillman co-owns Level 1 with his brother, Steve, and their friends Adam LeRoy and Scott Goldsmith. Ariel Bracamonte, co-owner of Cobra Arcade Bar and Stardust Pinbar, is also a partner in the business.
“We wanted [Ariel] to be involved because he has a ton of experience,” Tillman says. “He brought Arizona its first arcade bar with Cobra, and he's looked at as an industry leader, somebody who knows how to bring this sort of concept to fruition and do a great job executing it. So we're definitely leaning on him for his expertise.”
veryone behind the scenes at Level 1 is a lifelong gamer and Tillman says it's a passion project for them.
“All of us grew up in [the '80s and '90s] playing arcades and we haven't found a spot where we feel like there's just a great selection of games that gives you the same feeling that you had at the arcades,” he says. “And we really wanted it to be in downtown Gilbert because four out of the five of us live here and own businesses here.”
Goldsmith also collects and restores classic arcade games and will provide some of the titles at Level 1.
“He's been doing that for decades,” Tillman says. “What I love about him and what he's bringing to the table is a passion for the games. He's so meticulous about how he restores these things. So we'll have one of the biggest selections of games at any game bar in the Valley and the most up-time on our games too.”
Tillman says that an arcade bar adds something different to Gilbert’s restaurant-heavy Heritage District.
“We wanted to create things for people to do down there other than getting something to eat. Usually, when you go down there, you're waiting in line for like an hour at a place,” he says. “Now people can check-in somewhere and then walk to the arcade bar, get some tokens, play some games, have a couple of drinks, and then go have dinner. I think this is just going to be a great fit.”
Here's a look at Level 1 Arcade Bar's complete lineup of specialty cocktails.
You Cheat Dr. Jones ($11)
Vodka, mango puree, and sugar-free Red Bull.
Summer of Mike D ($11)
Whiskey, bitters, ginger syrup, and orange peel.
The Dude ($12)
Kahlua, vodka, and bourbon cream.
Boom Shakalaka ($12)
Rye whiskey, rhubarb amaro, raspberry puree, lemon juice, and soda.
Angry Balls ($10)
Cider and Fireball.
Extra Life ($12)
Vodka, apple pie liqueur, and apple rings.
Son of a Glitch ($12)
Peach vodka, spiced rum, mango puree, orange juice, and Sprite.
Flawless Victory ($13)
Silver tequila, blood orange syrup, agave nectar, lime juice, and Grandeza Orange Liqueur.
Scorpions Colada ($12)
Rum, coconut puree, pineapple juice, lime juice, and Red Bull Yellow.
The Combo Breaker ($11)
Dark rum, lemon juice, and ginger beer.
Raspberry vodka, lime juice, cherry ginger beer
Whipped cream vodka, dark chocolate liqueur, RumChata, and a graham cracker rim.
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Odder Pop ($13)
Gin, violet liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Red Bull Blue.
Cucumber vodka, melon liqueur, and chartreuse.
Jalapeno tequila, lime, strawberry puree, soda, strawberries, and a Tajin rim.
Level 1 Arcade Bar
60 West Vaughn Avenue, #107, Gilbert, 480-687-1192;
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily