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Hi Scores barcade offers free video games, ample beer choices and great food

Bartender Jenny Wong mixes Dragon Blood at Hi Scores Bar-Arcade at 65 S. Stephanie St. in Henderson. PHOTO: BILL HUGHES
Bartender Jenny Wong mixes Dragon Blood at Hi Scores Bar-Arcade at 65 S. Stephanie St. in Henderson. PHOTO: BILL HUGHES

In a town with more than 1,600 bars, ya gotta have a gimmick. Henderson’s Hi Scores (65 S. Stephanie St., 522-7766) lures you to its liquor by appealing to your inner child: the child that used to nag mom for quarters to play Centipede. Except at Hi Scores you don’t have to ask, because every game, from Joust to Mortal Kombat to Golden Tee, is free. Save your money for more beer.

Hi Scores is an oddly laid-out space, with a strange warren of little rooms: One full of games, another with a bar, a third full of tables and booths, another with a few games and some more seating. Everything is painted or upholstered in an assortment of primary colors with murals that mix Street Fighter dragons with Tetris squares. The games include Xbox, Wii and a few pinball machines, but the focus is on vintage arcade machines: Asteroids, X-Men, the Simpsons game where Lisa whips Nelson with the jump rope. My one complaint is the games are all sort of crammed together on one side of one room, leading to a lot of people bumping into each other as they try to kick Chun Lee’s ass or clear that last row of alien invaders. It would appeal more to both crowd flow and simple aesthetic pleasure to spread them out.

But it isn’t just the abundance of old-school video action that gives Hi Scores a different beat. First, there’s the beer menu, an impressive assortment of upwards of 50 specialty brews. They’re divided into dark, light, ale, etc., and each variety carries a short description, allowing you to make an informed choice between the “butterscotch, toasted coconut, vanilla sugar” of the Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Oak Aged and the “chocolate, dark fruit, roasted malt” of the Stone Imperial Russian Stout.

With two other draws, you’d figure the bar food for an afterthought — with sixtysomething brews and four-player Pac-Man, you’ll take reheated nachos and like it. But Hi Scores actually serves some of the finest bar bites in town. Barbecue pulled pork fries could be a pile of prepacked bland, but the pulled pork is seasoned with peach and bourbon, the fries are crispy and the bacon/cheese/cilantro toppings are sharp and fresh. The bacon-wrapped corn dogs are delightful, the almost tempura-like corn batter sealing in all that spicy, porktacular goodness. The Vegas bar scene may be crowded, but Hi Scores is a welcome addition. LISSA TOWNSEND RODGERS