If you’ve ever wondered what a deliriously happy hipster looks like, head over to Roxy’s Central & A4cade. A collaboration between the teams behind Roxy’s Grilled Cheese and Area Four, it is part counter-service and takeout restaurant (in the front) and part raucous game room (in the back).
Don’t expect to just waltz in to the 21-plus arcade; as early as 6 p.m. on a Monday, the line of beanie-clad post-grads can snake down Mass. Ave. We’ve never waited more than 20 minutes — but that’s long enough to realize it’s been at least a decade since we last contemplated standing in the cold to get in somewhere.
The Roxy’s side is a fine spot for a workday lunch — get the turkey Caesar, with tender baby kale and shaved Parmesan ($8.15), and treat yourself to a dulce de leche frappe ($4.69) — but it’s no match for what lies beyond the metal meat-locker door.
Flash your wristband and toss a total stranger’s coat to the side so you can settle into one of 20ish seats scattered among vintage video games like Ms. Pac-Man and Nintendo. “People just throw their stuff wherever, doesn’t mean the seat is taken,” the waify hostess yells over the cacophony of ’80s pop music, pinball machines, and dozens of 20-somethings laughing as they share tater tots and strong cocktails in vessels shaped like R2-D2.
Start with a large order of crisp, golden fries for the table ($4.15) and a flight of dipping sauces — barbecue, vegan ranch, a mustardy house blend called Justin’s Sauce, and chipotle and truffle mayos — while you work out what you’ll be drinking.
If you’d like to pretend you’re on a tropical vacation with your sweetie, you can’t go wrong with the Kill Screen 2 player ($18, $9 for a single serving), from a slushie machine emblazoned with the words “DRINK ME!” What’s swirling around is a frozen painkiller, the tiki favorite made with a mix of rums and coconut.
There is a whole section of the menu devoted to fried potatoes. If fries aren’t your thing, try tater tots ($3.15). We had ours topped with cheese ($4.29), despite our server’s warning that the smoked gouda sauce quickly coagulates. “We should have listened,” we said, dragging the crisp cylinders through the gloppy paste, and returning to our small order of rosemary truffle fries ($3.95).
The festive vibe might have you contemplating another drink. Maybe this time it’s Worst. Drink. Ever ($10), the arcade’s answer to the most love-to-hate-it cocktail of mixologists everywhere: the vodka soda. This version is delicious, with St. Germain, cranberry, and citrus shrub ($10).
The food here is mostly much better versions of what you might find in a boardwalk arcade. The West Coast dog ($12) comes split down the middle and filled with more gouda sauce (it stays hot and works well here), with caramelized onions and pickles. The BLT ($7.49) is a gut bomb, with a fistful of shredded North Country bacon on a Portuguese roll with lettuce, tomato, and chipotle mayo. The LTO burger ($6.49) is a tasty, thin griddled patty in the style of Tasty Burger or Shake Shack, and the Double Fried ($7.29) takes fried chicken to new levels of crunch. It takes two dips in the fryer before it’s served on a bun with lettuce, Grillo’s pickles, hot honey, and ranch dressing. Of course, you’ll also find the grilled cheese sandwiches that Roxy’s became known for.
But A4cade is as much about the atmosphere as the food. You didn’t queue up in the cold for a fancy hot dog. You’re here to stuff gold tokens into 25-year-old gaming machines with terrible graphics and discover you still stink at skeeball. You’re here to drink a brandy cocktail called Your Mom’s Basement and to notice that no one is looking at his or her phone. The delicious vanilla soft serve with cheery yellow sprinkles ($3) and fried chicken sandwiches? They’re just a player’s bonus.
Roxy’s Central & A4cade
All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.
Prices Sandwiches $4.49-$8.99, burgers and hot dogs $4.19-$12, sides $3.15-$8.15, desserts $3-$4.69.
Hours Daily 5 p.m.-midnight
Liquor Full bar
What to order Fries with a flight of sauces, LTO burger, the Double Fried, West Coast dog, Kill Screen cocktail
Catherine Smart can be reached at email@example.com.