Beat the winter blues at Boardwalk, the wharf’s shiny new arcade bar

Filled with hanging beach cruisers, surfboards, pelican prints and vintage arcade sounds, the new pastel-colored Boardwalk bar makes its stretch of the southwest waterfront look a little more like the Santa Monica Pier nowadays.

Boardwalk Bar & Arcade launches pinball machines and pinball machines at 4 p.m. on Friday, February 18. Daily hours begin at 11 a.m. the following day. A 120-foot bar that loops the length of the facade is the wharf’s largest indoor-outdoor drinking station (715 Wharf Street SW).

At approximately 10,000 square feet, the new local Wharf at Boardwalk is nearly twice the size of the original landlocked Penn Quarter. And not to mention the brand, with floating boats and a real promenade in front. Better Hospitality Group, also behind the staples of Shaw Takoda Restaurant & Beer Garden and Cortez, will continue its expansion this spring with a Takoda twice the size for Navy Yard.

For BHG’s flashy debut at Wharf, a huge marquee spelling out “Boardwalk” in glowing bulbs vies for attention with barrels of icy cocktails swirling hypnotically over the bar.

“We’re going to do everything frozen,” CEO Ryan Seelbach told Eater. Eight glowing machines produce pina coladas and BHG’s beloved frieze on two floors. Boardwalk also serves draft beers and carnival-style cocktails from 24 tap lines. With a capacity of 640, quick-serve drinks are a key feature at each of its three bars.

A pelican posted on a pier at sunset keeps an eye on the shuffleboard players below.
Daniel Swartz for Boardwalk

To stand out as one of the biggest arcades in town, Boardwalk’s selection plays old school games from the 80s and 90s. Instead of tokens, rechargeable cards can be used to arcade jump for approximately $1 per game. The bar is also cashless and children are only permitted with a guardian 21 and older.

Seelbach says he sources his supplies from one of the best arcade collectors on the East Coast. Nostalgic finds like a sequin-adorned (and somehow spooky) fortune-telling dummy join modern inventions like Dance Dance Revolution and Connect 4 Hoops for four. Machine themes cover cult comics and pop culture (dead PoolGuns N’ Roses, Fast and Furiousand The Simpsonsto only cite a few).

A wall was knocked down between an old boat shop and a yoga studio to create a blank canvas for Boardwalk.
Daniel Swartz for Boardwalk

A surf shack-themed bar lightens the mood with pops of coral pink, aerial beach shots, and full-screen Dance Dance Revolution.
Daniel Swartz for Boardwalk

Penn Quarter’s popular pint-sized surf shack gets oversized at the Wharf. The carefree retro-style perch tucks into a curved bar, woven basket lights, tropical palm trees, surfboards, a rope swing, and rainbow throw pillows.

BHG Executive Chef Julio Estrada’s Boardwalk menu is also expanding at the Wharf, thanks to a much larger kitchen. Dishes suitable for the walk include chili dogs, corn dogs, blackened mahi tacos, thin crust pizzas, club and Cuban sandwiches, popcorn and ice cream sandwiches. Loop of cocktails with carnival flavors like an Old Fashioned “Butter Corn” with butterwashed bourbon and a collins “Cotton Candy” constructed with vodka, lemon and sugar. BHG hits like Cortez’s Margarita and Takoda’s Mule also make appearances.

A daily three-hour happy hour includes $5 beers or hot dogs and an $8 adult “happy meal” combo (a 10-ounce High Life, a shot of whiskey, and popcorn).

The rear “Arcade Bar” changes the atmosphere.
Daniel Swartz for Boardwalk

A rear “Arcade Bar” dims the lights and lowers the ceiling, where a bar framed by shiny red bar stools and silver upholstery joins Mario Kart, Big Buck Hunter and a claw machine to nab mini vests safety. Players get to know their neighbors in the nearby “Arcade Alley”, marked in Sega pixel-style letters on the wall. The dark hallway is packed with a row of throwback games like another claw machine (this time for grabbing lollipops) and Whack-A-Clown blasting colorful neon lights.

To pay homage to Santa Monica’s beachfront promenades, designers Wood + Starr soaked its walls and ceiling in pink coral, sea foam, and deep blue tones. A whimsical print of blue balloons hovers above a Skee-Ball section upon entering. Monochromatic bathrooms covered in slick red or canary-yellow tiles are designed to mimic both “’90s high school” and Santa Monica beach public restrooms, he says.

Carnival odes to Coney Island were largely removed during the design process in favor of sunny California.

“Coming out of COVID-19, we’re leaning towards beach style,” says Seelbach.

Connect 4 Hoops has its own custom-sized nook on the mezzanine level, which was built from the ground up to add 3,000 square feet upstairs.
Daniel Swartz for Boardwalk

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