When we first heard about Izzy’s Arcade Bar opening up in Niles, a few of my buddy’s and I decided we were going to check it out… well that was back in March, it’s now November, but we finally made it over there. Thankfully the doors are still open.
I only say that because I’ve been following them since they opened and a lot of the reviews, and things I’ve heard and read about them, said that it was usually pretty empty in the bar. I’m not sure if those reviewers just went on off-nights, or what the deal was. I know my brother in-law and his wife checked it out on a Wednesday night and they said it was pretty slow that night… but it was a Wednesday night, so it makes sense.
We visited last Wednesday and, I’ll agree, it was a bit on the slow side, but that’s kind of what I was expecting being the middle of th week.
When we walked into the bar there were two people sitting at the bar talking with the bartender, and then another couple sitting at one of the low top tables in that extend towards the back of the bar. So in total, including us, there were 7 patrons in the bar (not including the bartender).
On one hand you want more people there to kind of build the ambiance of the bar, but on the other hand, you don’t want it so crowded that you can’t play any of the games, so we were cool with it… as long as the food, drinks and games were up to par.
Izzy’s is located in sort of a weird area at Milwaukee and Harlem, in a small strip mall, so I hope that doesn’t hurt it’s chances of succeeding. But it’s super close to my house, as well as the 2 friends that came with me… so I’m sure we’ll be back.
Pizza, Fried Ravioli, Loaded Fries
The food menu for Izzy’s is actually pretty extensive. At least more extensive than I would have imagined. I kind of thought it was just going to be a few smaller plates and pizza just to keep people around while they played video games, but they actually had a decent size menu with apps, sandwiches, pizzas, and more.
Before we jump into the food, I just want to touch upon the bar and the drink menu.
Apparently, when the bar first opened, they only served beer and wine. There was no liquor. But that has changed now. They offer a full cocktail bar with a fairly decent selection of liquors… No Templeton Rye, which was inquired about, but they have Bulleit Rye and Woodford Reserve, so we were ok with that.
They don’t have an official cocktail menu yet, but the bartended seemed pretty knowledgable and said he could pretty much make any cocktail you could think of. Their official cocktail menu should be out in the next couple weeks he said.
No worries though, we were just drinking beer, Tito’s and Soda, and Woodford and Coke… pretty simple.
I will say, and I’m not familiar with the pricing of Woodford, but I thought $12 for cocktail was a bit much… but maybe it’s normal. My Tito’s and Soda was $7, which is definitely on par with what that should be. And if that Woodford price is reasonable, then ignore this statement… I don’t drink expensive liquor.
So yeah, drinks were good, so now it was time to order some food and play some video games.
For appetizers we decided to go with the Fried Ravioli and the Loaded Fries w/ bacon, cheese and sour cream. And for pizza we went with an 18″ pepperoni w/ Ricky Bobby crust, which is just a rolled crust and slightly thicker than a thin crust pizza. I’m not sure why it’s called Ricky Bobby… I don’t think it’s shake n bake… and if it’s related to the rolled crust, I don’t get it, but either way, that’s what we went with.
So after putting in our food order, we made our way over to Turtles in Time and jumped in some 3 player action. Because honestly, next to The Simpsons, Turtles in Time is one of the greatest 4 player arcade games every made. And it was a staple in every game room at every restaurant we went to when I was a kid.
So we played through Turtles in Time almost till the end, and were getting a little concerned as to why none of our food had come out yet. We thought for sure the ravioli and the loaded fries would have made it to the table yet, but it hadn’t… and at that point we just assumed they were going to bring it all out at the same time. Odd, but whatever.
So a few minutes more went by and we saw a cart roll by being pushed by a kid wearing a “Kiddie Kingdom” shirt. It was our food. And since all of the video games (outside of the pinball machines) were on free-play, we just ditched our game and went back to our table to eat.
Before we started eating we inquired about the Kiddie Kingdom connection. We were informed that Kiddie Kingdom, which is next door, and Izzy’s, share an owner, as well as their kitchen. So if you’re a fan of Kiddie Kingdom’s food, then you’ll like the food at Izzy’s.
Kiddie Kingdom is like a smaller version of Chuck E Cheese. It’s a kids place with games and prizes and pizza and stuff like that, so Izzy’s is clearly their adult answer to that.
As for the food we ordered, everything was pretty good. I would say the only thing I was overall disappointed with was the loaded fries, and not just because I’m not a fan of sour cream.
The loaded fries were just frozen fries with nacho cheese, bacon bits and sour cream on top of them… nothing special at all. The fries themselves were also a bit bland, so out of everything we ordered, I think we all agreed that the fries were our least favorite. We ended up leaving most of them on our plate at the end.
The fried ravioli was pretty good. My only complaint here, and it’s only because of my personal preference in cheeses, is that I wish they would have been filled with mozzarella cheese instead of ricotta. But again, that’s just personal preference and it didn’t stop me from eating 3 of them.
As for the pizza, this is where Izzy’s shines. The pizza was actually really good. I’m not sure why I wasn’t expecting much from the pizza, but I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty it was. The Ricky Bobby crust was thicker than a thin crust, but not too thick like a pan or a deep dish, it was a perfect balance of the dough.
The 18″ was probably a touch too big for the 3 of us to eat, in addition to the 2 appetizers we got. But I ended up taking a few slices home with me and it was just as good reheated as it was the night before.
So I was definitely impressed by the pizza at Izzy’s. I’m not sure why I had low expectations for it, maybe that’s what made it taste so good, but I would definitely order the pizza again… maybe even just for delivery. We did see a handful of pick-ups come in to grab a pizza to bring home, so maybe the pizza at Izzy’s/Kiddie Kingdom is some secret I haven’t been privy to… but I’m glad I know about it now.
Ok, so now that we’ve talked about the food a bit, I want to talk about the arcade games. When you first walk in it’s a bit of a shock how many arcade cabinets there actually are in the place.
There are 3 pinball machines right up near the front window, which you have to pay to play, and then the entire west wall is lined with game cabinets the length of the bar. The east wall has the actual bar on it, and once the bar ends, the rest of the wall is lined with game cabinets as well. There are also a couple games on the back wall. I would say there are maybe 50-70 games in the bar.
Don’t quote me on that though, I didn’t count.
The variety of games was interesting though. As you can see from the picture at the top of this article, there are a lot of fighting games. Pretty much every Mortal Kombat arcade game, Killer Instinct, I think there was a Marvel vs. Capcom 2 machine that a lot of people were playing… So if you’re into fighting games, you shouldn’t be disappointed.
The other more popular genre of games in the bar was probably just your old school classics. Games like Q-Bert, Galaga, Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac Man, Pac Man, Space Invaders… stuff like that. There were quite of few of those old classics lining the walls.
Then there were just your random games like Turtles in Time, The Simpsons, a couple shooting games, and of course Tapper.
Although I was a little disappointed in their Tapper machine.
Most of the games in the bar were in great condition and worked well, based on the ones we played, but the screen on Tapper made it almost unplayable. There are dead areas of the screen so you can’t see the empty beer bottles coming back at you that you need to collect, so I was instantly losing for no reason at times. And unfortunately that’s part of the game, so I had to just give up and move on to a different game…
So while there is a pretty wide selection of game titles, the variety of game-types is a bit lacking. Lots of old classic games, lots of fighting games, and then just some random ones that didn’t really interest me, or were unplayable. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t lots to do.
There are plenty of games to enjoy here while you eat your food and hang out. And do eat, cause the food is pretty good. Just don’t put your drink on the machines, even Tapper, which has places on it for drinks (since it’s a Budweiser game), yet no added cup holders below… and mixed drinks don’t really fit in the cup holders on the machines… so I ended up having to put my drink on the table behind me, spot checking it every once in a while to make sure it didn’t get taken…
Overall though, I think we’ll be back here in the future. It’s a great space, lots of games, friendly staff, great food, and best of all, all of the games are on free play as long as you order $10 worth of food/drinks… except pinball, that you just pay for on it’s own.
I was pretty disappointed with Emporium in Fulton Market a few weeks back, so it was nice to see an arcade bar that actually had a great selection of games to play while hanging out.