used to be a hardware store
Screenshot: Stephanie Breijo (from a timeout.com article)

My fiancée recently quit her job as a nanny, and we’ve been doing a little bit of celebrating the last few nights.

Nothing crazy- neither of us are the types to go out and get slammered or bar hop until we forget where we started. But we occasionally like to be social and see what the world has to offer. Living in Los Angeles affords us multiple opportunities to do things like go the zoo or see live music. There are a million great restaurants run by celebrity chefs, and the art scene out here is great too with LACMA and MOCA and The Broad and several other great museums and galleries. And while we don’t have Broadway, there are plenty of plays and musicals to see out here as well. We try and take advantage of as much as we can, while also being totally satisfied spending evenings in.

It’s a weird cycle. Whenever we stay in, we’re vaguely anxious about not taking advantage of this sprawling city, and whenever we go out, there’s a part of us that thinks we should save money and head back home.

Then, Walt’s opened.

Eagle Rock, the part of LA where we live, feels very small-town. There are diners all over the place and the local mall has a seafood market on the bottom floor. There are a lot of businesses that are clearly family run and get by because of community support and love. Some places are shuttered and turned into things like T Mobile stores but for the most part, the restaurants and shops around here feel unique and different. Of course there are chain restaurants and such, but they feel like the exception rather than the norm.

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Walt’s is a pinball bar. They serve beer, wine, cider, Mexican coke, hot dogs, pretzels, and warm bags of nuts. It’s filled with vintage pinball machines and has a patio that allows dogs. It’s everything I want in a bar- and I think that comes down to how it feels to play a pinball machine.

There is an overwhelming physicality to the buttons and knobs. They shake and ding and bleep and most of them have a cup hold on the side so you can put your beer down somewhere. It feels social to go in and play, even more so than an arcade. We’ve only gone a couple times but it really feels like it could be our new going-out place, or at the very least the place we take our friends who make the trek across town to visit us to. It feels special and oldschool while also hip and exciting.

“Retro” is in right now, and of course a pinball arcade/ bar capitalizes on that in a big way. It doesn’t feel pretentious, though- just like a guy had a rad idea and wanted to share it with the world. I love playing games at home on a console or handheld, but the rattle and hum and click of paddles smacking a metal ball around into bumpers is viscerally satisfying in an unexpected way. And I don’t think it would be the same without the atmosphere- just like playing Pac-Man on a TV isn’t the same as playing it on the old sit-down tabletop version, playing pinball in a garage wouldn’t be as fun as playing in a crowded bar.

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Though it would definitely save on quarters.