Monday, March 04, 2013


Stonefire Pizza Co.

The pitch I got for Stonefire Pizza Co. was "Chuck E. Cheese's for adults", which is roughly correct.  At least, there are designated areas where you are encouraged to eat pizza and play video games, and it's possible for an adult to enter alone without being accused of pedophilia.  It's a place where you can bring your kids, but there are more than nominal concessions for Mom and Dad.


The main dining area has roughly the look and feel of a proper family restaurant, as opposed to a kids' restaurant.  There's a bar, and widescreen TVs are positioned on the walls overhead.  When I walked in in the late afternoon, they were split between two channels -- some were showing sports, and some cartoons.

Food is served buffet style for $9.95.  The pizza is... there.  It exists.  You put it in your mouth because you might as well.  The standards are represented -- cheese, sausage, pepperoni -- but they've got a couple exotic tastes too.  When I was there, I got to try both BBQ and Buffalo chicken pizza.  So, you know, they've got the balls to offer more than one unusual choice at a time.

There's a salad bar.  Ice cream.  A table with one or two non-pizza main dishes.  Nothing especially stunning, but if you want to get filled up, you can do it.


You never know what kind of arcade you're going to get in a place like this.  Sometimes you'll just get a bunch of those dumb carnival games, where you dump money in them and get tickets to exchange for shitty plastic crap.  Certainly that genre was well represented here -- the perennial Skeeball was present -- but there were also some genuinely awesome games.  Pac-Man Battle Royale, Mario Kart Arcade GP 2, some sort of DDR clone, House of the Dead 4, one of those deer-hunting games, Tekken 5, a touchscreen Fruit Ninja game -- just about every arcade genre you'd like was well-represented.

The interesting thing about the place is the game cards.  Instead of coin slots, all of the machines are equipped with swipes.  You put money on a magnetic card, and it tracks not only how much money you still have, but how many tickets you've won in the games.

I wasn't told at the door, but apparently you can get a special "blue card" at the door with the purchase of a buffet for $9.95 which gives you unlimited access to specially-marked games for three entire hours.  They don't even limit you to just the dumb games; most of the machines that I saw had the special blue swiper.  Genius idea, really; if I'd known, I probably would have plumped for it right away instead of just giving them the "I'm just looking" $5.

In the end, it's kind of cool to know that there's still arcades out there -- in fact, very close to me!  But on the other hand, the experience has made me realize that the arcade as I know it is dead.  The games I remember are gone, and how can I blame them?  Where would you find a Rampage cabinet in this day and age?  The end of the arcade is probably as much to do with companies moving their focus away from coin-op production as it is to do with the business model of filling a building with coin-op machines.

And the price?  For $20, I can eat unlimited pizza and play unlimited games.  Or, I can stay home, throw in a pizza, and play unlimited games for $5 or under.  The pizza is comparable quality, and the games are better.

I love my childhood memories of Chuck E. Cheese, and it was a nice nostalgia trip to spend the afternoon eating crummy pizza and paying per-session for video games.  But maybe it would be best to move on.


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