Retro pinball enters Dallas with Slam Tilt, a pinball bar coming to Oak Cliff from the folks behind Free Play, an arcade chain with locations in Richardson, Arlington, and Denton.
Located at 332 W. Jefferson Blvd., Slam Tilt will have 40 pinball machines with a few arcade games — a reverse of the lineup at Free Play, where pinball machines are a minority, says owner Corey Hyden.
"It's a real pinball bar," Hyden says. "At Free Play, you pay at the door and for your food and drink, but the games are free. This will be the old-style standard arcade where you pay once you're inside."
This is not a bar with the random pinball machine. It's a collection of pinball machines inside a bar. "There aren't many places like this, maybe 10 in the world," Hyden says. "It's not a hugely explored concept yet, and we think we're in a position with the resources of Free Play, to do it better."
Pinball is one facet in a growing trend of adult-playground bars. The pioneer in Dallas was Barcadia, the Henderson Avenue bar from Brooke Humphries, where pinball is part of an entire spectrum of game options. There are now Barcadias in Fort Worth, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge.
Bishop Cider Co. expanded its Dallas brewery in 2017 with an arcade called CiderCade. Meanwhile, a true pinball bar called Craftcade is anticipated to open in Fort Worth before the end of February.
A PinballMap website tracks pinball machines in Dallas-Fort Worth. Pinball machines are not cheap to acquire or maintain.
"Pinballs are $10,000 per table, so if you want to have 40 like we will, you're looking at $400,000," he says. "We happened to find ourselves in a position to get these amazing pinball tables, and probably the best, since we are biggest arcade and pinball buyer in the world."
Hyden, who went to law school in Tulane, says that this will be a "real New Orleans-style" bar.
"There's something about the bars there that capture you," he says. "It can be a world-famous bar but it still feels like a neighborhood bar, it's just a totally different vibe."
And while their Free Play locations are "beer heavy," Slam Tilt will emphasize spirits.
"We're going to do more of an exploration of whiskeys, bourbons, and scotches for a more sophisticated clientele," he says.
Finding the right location was a challenge. They needed a space that was big enough to accommodate a lot of machines but without getting into a building so large that it invited a separate set of regulations. They'll be going into a redeveloped storefront near Texas Theatre, alongside Top Ten Records, another retro-leaning business, and hope to open by the end of 2018.