By Sam Zuba
950 West Wolfram Street
Chicago, Illinois 60657
I had been inside Headquarters Beercade for less than five minutes when it hit me.
This place was unlike any other bar–or arcade–I had ever been to.
Located in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, Headquarters Beercade seamlessly fuses together spectacular craft beer and cocktails with classic arcade games.
It doesn’t take long to realize owners Mark Kwiatkowski and Brian Galati know exactly what they’re doing. As longtime bar owners in the Chicago area, this duo has left no detail overlooked. The allure of HQ is difficult to explain with a mere pen and paper — you just have to experience it.
Whether you’re a hipster, meathead jock or a businessman in a suit and tie, HQ has something for you.
“We’ve been in the bar business for a long time, both from the restaurant side and the nightclub side,” Galati explained. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place where competing demographics from literally opposite ends of the spectrum can co-exist so perfectly.”
He’s right. One lap around HQ and you quickly notice this is a place that caters to all walks of life.
Make no mistake, though, HQ is no gimmick. This isn’t just your average dive bar serving cold pizza and Busch Light with a few run-down arcade games in the back.
These owners take pride in what they do — each craft beer and cocktail on the menu is carefully chosen, each video game methodically selected.
And the video games… take a deep breath. They have everything: Pac Man, Ms. Pac Man, Frogger, NBA Jam, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Donkey Kong, The Simpsons, Galaga, Street Fighter II, Asteroids and Gorf, just to name a few. Roughly 37 vintage games line the walls of this hidden gem located adjacent to Uncle Fatty’s near the corner of Sheffield Ave. & Wolfram St.
“We take a lot of time figuring out what games we should have, where they’re going to go and we make sure they’re working properly,” Kwiatkowski said. “It’s a balance.”
Even better, at the bottom of every receipt rests a reminder welcoming customers to log onto HQ’s website and request a game or craft beer.
“We take that very seriously,” Galati. “As soon as (a new game) comes in, we email everyone who said they wanted Mortal Kombat. ‘Hey, we took your suggestion under consideration and we actually got Mortal Kombat.’ We take it very seriously and want our customers to know that if they suggest something, we’re going to listen.”
Take away the stellar beer and cocktail list and unprecedented game selection and you’ll see how dedicated the staff is to providing a truly great product.
Each bartender is well versed in the types of beer located behind the custom-built bar. It’s quite a task, too, given the beers are constantly rotating in and out based on popularity.
“Service,” Kwiatkowski quickly answered when asked what separates HQ from the competition. “You see it with our bartenders. Every customer is treated that way. They’re very knowledgeable about the beers we serve and they’ll take the time to engage with the customers. The beers rotate every 10 days, so we’ve got a whole new arsenal of beers.”
If you’re worried about missing “the big game” while diving into some of the greatest video games available, you can stop. HQ is decked out with eight flat-screen, high-definition TVs that will promptly play any game of note.
When there’s nothing major percolating in the sports world, however, these TVs act as portals to the past, airing old episodes of American Gladiators, WWE Wrestling and Double Dare.
It’s throwback, but it’s done right.
“This is a concept that, from start to finish, I’m extremely proud of,” Galati said. “We took a lot of out-of-the-box ideas and used them. It’s just a collection of a well-rounded and very creative concept. You’re always being entertained.
“At the end of it, we want to make sure–and we take pride in the fact–that every customer is taken care of.”
When I left HQ, I could think of only one thing.
When can I come back?
For more information on Headquarters Beercade, visit their website: hqbeercade.com.
Sam Zuba, CBS Chicago