Ready Player One, a new arcade bar and restaurant, opened its doors in Greektown on Friday. The 3,600 square-foot basement space off of Fort Street in Downtown is a classic gamer’s paradise, touting 40 different arcade games and pinball machines, encompassing the entire dining area.
“We thought about doing less [games] and more seating, but we really did want you to be surrounded by the arcade,” says co-owner Wael Gharbie. Gharbie began planning the space in 2014 in partnership with longtime friend and fellow gamer Mohamed Badaoui.
From the menu organized by “levels” to the old school game cartridges embedded inside the plexiglass bar, almost every aspect of the space is video game related.
Food and drink offerings follow suit, featuring updated versions of afterschool favorites like a grilled cheese and tomato soup, soft pretzels, and mac ’n’ cheese.
“We wanted to bring stuff from our past; real homestyle food,” says Gharbie, “Stuff you ate growing up or in school.”
Executive Chef Jordan Ceresnie, previously of The Root Restaurant & Bar and Cliff Bell’s, takes an epicurean approach to childhood classics. From Faygo Rock & Rye barbecue chicken wings confited in duck fat to the shallot tomato jam topping the meatloaf sliders (reminiscent of traditional ketchup), small details elevate the playful selections.
“I want to try to transport you back to your childhood,” says Ceresnie. “But, also give you new experiences and different flavor combinations.” Many of the dishes, like the Little Mac’s Mac ’n’ Cheese, feature seasonal and local ingredients like butternut squash and sage oil.
Most dishes will run less than $10. The same can be said about the cocktail menu, offering drinks solely in the single-digit price range with equal attention to detail. The Ocarina of Brine, for instance, uses house-made pickle and jalapeno brine in the twist on a dirty martini.
But even with nostalgia built into the business, Gharbie and Badaoui keep evolving, regularly changing menu options and even the selection of games.
“We don’t want to stay stagnant after our grand opening,” says Gharbie, “We want you to come back every couple of months and have a new experience.”