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Craftcade Pinball Bar. Photo by Susie Geissler.

My coworker’s face took on a glower of severity rarely seen during afternoon day-drinking before he emphatically stated, “You must hit Kenny three times to kill him.” Sure, the Kenny in question was just a fictional character from South Park and what I needed to bash him with in triplicate was a small steel ball, but to my furrow-browed buddy, this was serious business. 

After absorbing the advice, I ham-fistedly smashed buttons until the plastic edifice of cartoon Kenny pitched forward in death throes. Having now completed my first game of pinball ever, I was ready to toss back a few celebratory drinks at the rail of Craftcade Pinball Bar. 

The new Near Southside hangout’s name gives solid clues to expect arcade games such as South Park Pinball to line the walls and drinks to be served, but considering the bar’s location in the heart of Fort Worth’s microbrewing scene, the assumption could be made that the “craft” portion of the name would be represented by 99 bottles of obscure beer on the wall. Craftcade does offer a variety of pours to please local hopheads, but the true focus of the name is represented by a solid list of classic cocktails, including the Negroni, Last Word, Greenpoint, Pisco Sour, and Bee’s Knees. 

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This particular day, the humid fug that has engulfed the city since the start of September was overtaking my will to test out anything that might prove too sweet and heavy. I set the drink list down and begged the barkeep for the ultimate boozy but refreshing Texas cooler –– a Ranch Water. Somehow sensing the overall lack of hydration that I faced after my athletic feats of arcade fire, he shot back, “You want that made with tequila or mezcal?” I chose the smokiness of the latter, which proved to be the perfect pairing with fresh lime, Topo Chico, and a mountain of ice. I would live to pinball another day. 

Having the choice between those two spirits was pleasantly surprising. Smaller neighborhood bars such as Craftcade usually won’t stock a wide variety of spirits, especially not ones that appeal to a smaller audience. Instead, space is usually allocated to as many of the big brands of gin, vodka, whiskey, bourbon, and, to some extent, rum and tequila that will fit on the limited shelf space.

Take a gander at the wall behind the bar, and you’ll see the mezcal is not an outlier. The shelves are stocked with the wares of both heavy hitters and small-batch craft distillers. Craftcade’s cocktail menu also seems to tilt to the edgy side, including drinks like the Trinidad Sour, which holds a whole ounce of Angostura bitters offset by a house-made orgeat syrup, lemon, and rye whiskey. Even the presentation of the cocktails has kitschy flair, and the ubiquitous Moscow Mule was served in a campground-style tin cup in place of the expected copper mug. 

Truthfully, I wasn’t tripping over myself to visit another ’80s nostalgia-themed gaming joint –– that’s not what my childhood looked like anyway. Instead of saving the world from Space Invaders, I was camped out on the grungy carpet of the mall bookstore reading about murder and mayhem of the terrestrial sort. But now, thanks to Craftcade’s rather masterful mix of good booze and pinball, I found myself snagging more tokens for the machine. Trust me, slamming ball bearings with springs and flippers while killing off a few brain cells via cocktails is a solid stress reliever for modern life.

Craftcade Pinball Bar

615 S Jennings Av, FW. 817-238-3886.

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