For years, Dave & Buster's locations have been fashioned as stand-alone destinations - giant warehouses of food, drink and high-end video games. A franchise in Cleveland, for example, testifies to the drawing power of 69,000 square feet of all-ages fun.
With its fourth Ohio location, the national chain is rolling out a different concept - a smaller store (17,000 square feet) that can integrate into an established hub of shopping and entertainment. Opened Oct. 12 at Polaris, the prototype seems like an ideal fit in the mall's Easton-esque outdoor addition, which debuted last year.
If you've visited Dave & Buster's before, you know what to expect. The flashy, pulsing, multimedia wow factor hasn't changed a bit - it's just scaled back and compacted.
Inside, you'll find a sports bar with plenty of TVs and classy hardwood trimmings. Around the corner are a family dining area and private event rooms decorated with D&B's cheery, trademark decor.
Your eyes and ears won't really notice, though.
These will immediately fixate on the Million Dollar Midway, a game zone populated with combat games, sports simulators and carnival contests. To maximize time with these bright, shiny things, take advantage of Power Hour - an hour of unlimited play for $10, available from 4:30-7 p.m. weekdays.
Hungry gamers arriving later should consider an Eat & Play combo. The base level costs $16 and includes a $10 game card and one of eight dinners. For a few bucks more, you can upgrade your entree options to things like Cajun Shrimp Alfredo or the Black Jack BBQ Sirloin Steak.
Most of the menu's a cut above most chain fare, though it's wise to leave room for a surprisingly good dessert menu. The Bananas Foster Pie ($6.50) is dense and delectable, while the Belgian Chocolate Fondue ($8) is enough for two.
There's about four pages of beer, wine, mixed drinks, margaritas, martinis and daiquiris to wash down your dinner and ease your evening entry to the gaming world.
As restaurant arcades go, the Million Dollar Midway at Dave & Buster's stands strong. Here are three games to try.
Razing Storm: The closest you want to ever get to an actual South American coup, circa 2030
Aliens Extermination: Realistic graphics and futuristic guns make this the best thing in the sci-fi franchise since that baby monster popped out of Ripley's stomach
Whac-A-Mole: If there existed a better way to vent frustration through entertainment, this classic would've faded long ago