High Score! Joystick Gamebar provides classic arcade games, cocktails

Joystick Game Bar on Edgewood Avenue is open to all ages.

Remember how you used to boast about your high score in Centipede? Now you and your friends can relive those 80s glory days at Joystick Gamebar.

This August celebrates the five-year anniversary of the old school arcade located on Edgewood Avenue in the Old Fourth Ward. “Joystick is a nerdy guys’ bar with great cocktails,” said owner Brandon Ley. “It’s just one of those places where it is easy to feel welcome.”

Ley said he and co-owner Johnny Martinez first bonded over their search for the goofy first date spot. Now they have collected 21 machines in total. Ms. Pac Man greets you as you enter the main arcade bar, followed by a parlor with board games and pinball machines. The “spaceship” room in back often hosts events like comic night and karaoke.

Joystick co-owners Brandon Ley and Johnny Martinez at DragonCon.

Just like back in the day, all game cabinets and pinball machines at the Joystick Gamebar are only one quarter to play The bar features games like Galaga, Metal Slug and Donkey Kong. If you stop by during the day, you may be able to spot Jeff King, Atlanta’s famed high score player.

“He’s flirting with the world record at this point in Ms. Pac Man and he’s absolutely the high scorer in Galaga,” said Martinez. “He’s also incredibly polite and will step aside for kids to enjoy it as well.”

That’s the great thing about Joystick: all ages can enjoy the atmosphere of the arcade. The first Saturday of every month is Saturday Morning Cartoons, from noon to 3 p.m. Joystick donates a portion of the profits to Our House, a shelter that supports homeless families, and encourages kids to participate in drives to collect necessary items like diapers.

While Joystick is all about the games, the adventure continues on with their large cocktail selection that offers a variety of spirits that are approachable and delicious.

Adults can enjoy a cocktail at Joystick.

“We want to carry something you haven’t tried before,” Ley said. “It’s like a new game that comes out for a consul; you don’t know if you’ll like it, but a friend will recommend something and insist you have to try it.”

Joystick’s boozy slushies are distinct and refreshing. The smooth Vietnamese Coffee Bourbon and gin Blackberry Bramble ($7) are made in house by Chef Rajan Mistry.

Rather than running their own kitchen, Joystick offers the space to new chefs who don’t have the resources to open their own brick and mortar restaurant. “We want them to use it as a stepping stone for other aspirations,” Ley said.

Illegal Food, a burger and barbecue joint, got their start at Joystick and now have their own restaurant in Virginia-Highland.

Classic arcade games at Joystick.

Chef Mistry is currently the menu muse at Joystick, creating classic arcade bar food with an Indian twist. Masala French Fries and Bacon Curry Cheeseburgers and just two of the unique American and Indian fusions Chef Mistry has dreamed up.

Ley and Martinez look forward to another five years in Edgewood thanks to the strength of small businesses in the area. Martinez said early every business in their cluster is owner operated, which creates a close-knit community. “It was almost like moving into a dorm, everyone was so supportive. Edgewood feels like a true urban city. It’s got history and now it’s becoming the most diverse street for going out,” Martinez said.

Joystick is located at 427 Edgewood Ave. SE. For more information, visit joystickgamebar.com.

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