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Arcade-Themed Bar Two-Bit's Brings Vintage Video Games to Essex Street

By Serena Solomon | December 6, 2012 8:21am

LOWER EAST SIDE — Donkey Kong, Frogger and Spy Hunter are reuniting on Essex Street this weekend with the opening of a new arcade-themed bar that combines booze with classic video games.

The retro arcade games — which arrived from as far away as Florida and Minnesota — will go hand-in-quarter-clutching-hand with craft beer and wine at Two-Bit's Retro Arcade, which aims to add a little fun and nostalgia to the typical night on the town.

"I wanted to open a bar, and I wanted to have something else besides staring at a TV screen or having a stale conversation with the guy sitting next to you," said Two-Bit's owner Perry Doustan, a native New Yorker with more than 20 years experience in the hospitality industry.

Douston conceived of the idea in June while working as a restaurant consultant in Minneapolis. Three weeks later, he had moved back to New York, signed a lease for the space at 153 Essex St. and set about gathering arcade games from all over the country.

"They are hard to find in good shape. I am mechanically inclined, and I have a guy on my team I call 'Harry Houdini' — he works magic on these things," said Douston, adding that every game he bought required some sort of maintenance to get it running again.

Now, more than a dozen games — including classics like Kung Fu Hero and sit-down driving game Hydro Thunder — are up and running, with most costing 25 cents a game, giving the bar its name.

"I don't make money on the quarters, let's put it that way," Douston said of keeping the price to play to a minimum.

Barcade, which boasts a similar concept to Two-Bit's and has locations in Williamsburg, Jersey City and Philadelphia, announced this week it plans to expand into Manhattan. But Douston said he's hoping his well-chosen drink selection and eclectic snack menu will set Two Bit's apart.

Calling himself a "cork dork," Douston built his career in the fine-dining industry and poured as much time into Two-Bit's drink menu as he did tracking down arcade games.

With a dozen wines, craft beer and even sake on the menu, Douston is hoping that his customers' taste in drinks is mature — even as they play vintage games reminiscent of childhood.

The food menu more accurately suits the atmosphere, with snack-bar fare like Cup Noodles, slices from Stanton Pizza across the street, and candy like Fun Dips, Ring Pops and Nerds available for purchase.

"Basically anything you would find at an ice rink," he said. "Or at a video arcade." 

Two-Bit's Retro Arcade opens on Friday, Dec. 7, at 153 Essex St., with drink specials on Friday and Saturday.