Let’s Play Donkey Kong in Downtown Dubuque
The Red Barron ruled Dubuque's Kennedy Mall during the 70s with its loft of pinball machines and an array of arcade games. By the early 80s, video games became slightly more sophisticated and ubiquitous at grocery stores and gas stations around town.
I pumped half my paper route money into the Donkey Kong located at the entrance of Save-U-More, or what is now Natural Grocers, located in Asbury Square.
Like many kids of the era, I would probably have qualified as a "Mall Rat." But mostly, I was an arcade kid. So much so that I befriended the gal working at what was then Aladdin's Castle. She would allow me in the office and let me fill my pockets with tokens, so I was able to spend hours perfecting my Pac-Man playing skills for free.
Those were simpler times, and video games provided a fun escape, albeit not fancy by today's standards.
So, fast forward a few years, or are those decades? Learning that Dubuque has an arcade bar located in the Millwork District was like hearing Def Leppard in my ear pods.
I decided to swing by Backpocket Arcade & Taproom to see how far $10 would go on a late afternoon. Turns out pretty far. Upon learning about their Happy Hour offering $2.50 drafts from 4-6 pm, I ordered an IPA.
Then, I proceeded to their subterranean arcade to spend some quarters and step back in time.
My Donkey Kong skills were rusty but strong enough to advance to the third round with elevators.
I didn't see an original Pac-Man, but Ms. Pac-Man was doing her thing with ghost pals Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde.
The pinball machines were challenging but fun also. The games cost .50 per credit, but that seemed reasonable considering four decades of inflation.
They even have Skee-Ball, which is always a fun diversion.
Classic games like Galaga and Space Invaders have survived well into the 21st Century.
Every legit arcade has a foosball table.
And an old school hockey game.
A great selection of brews in an old warehouse makes Backpocket a great gathering spot or perfect solo respite on a chilly spring day in Dubuque.
Bar Manager Alicia shared that she loves working there because of the "fun and friendly" atmosphere. No doubt. There are two outdoor gas firepits, and they'll be rolling out the corn hole games someday soon.
This June, Backpocket celebrates five years in Dubuque and ten in Iowa City.
I may be beyond spending half my paper route money on video games, but I'll bee baaack to Backpocket someday soon.
Backpocket Brewing is located in Dubuque's Millwork District at 333 E 10th St.
For more information, visit backpocketdubuque.com