There’s lots of places that many in Huntsville have been dreaming about having coming into town for years now. Places like Trader Joe’s or IKEA would supposedly be the kind of commercial spots that would put Huntsville on the map as a go-to destination for out of towners.
This past week, one of the most requested in Dave and Buster’s finally opened up shop in a soft opening, and we were lucky enough to attend their VIP Preview Night on Thursday, August 15th. Built upon the dirtpiled remains of Madison Square Mall, the giant barcade is set to be one of the entertainment anchors of the incoming Mid City Huntsville retail space along University Drive.
If you’ve not visited a Dave and Buster’s in another town like Nashville, the concept is pretty simple. It’s a Chuck E. Cheese for grownups. The space is much bigger with some more arcadey games, and there’s a giant sports bar attached as well.
The space itself seemed fairly extensive and cavernous, with tons of games and features to explore and find. The bar and restaurant side featured a ton of giant TV’s, similar to a Buffalo Wild Wings. It would be fun to watch an SEC football game there, although the sports bar side of things could use some more local flair. Various local teams like the Alabama Crimson Tide are highlighted on the walls. Curiously enough, even though UAH is just down the road, they aren’t mentioned at all. What gives?
The food that Dave and Buster’s had for everyone that night was slightly better than the standard bar food at most chain establishments. The shrimp was a standout, but the rest passed the test for the kind of somewhat above average bites you might get at other bars. The slider burgers were a highlight as well, and the desert spread that was available to everyone was super nice too. If they continue to have the mini-cheesecakes on the menu, do try those out!
If you’re going to a Dave and Buster’s, you’re probably not really going for the bar or the food. The games are the real attraction, and there’s plenty. Everything from interactive games where you stand on a snowboard to shooters where you fire on dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are inside. There’s even a VR station where you can try a number of different interactive games for an extra fee. We wanted to give this a try, but there was unfortunately an extensive wait list, so we can’t say if it’s worth the very pricey surcharge or not.
While the games were great, one issue we did have was with the odd payment system. You’re issued a charge card that can be loaded with credits, but it’s not really apparent how real-world money translates to the credits. It’s not ever clear how many credits any particular game takes either. Some games offer tickets that can be exchanged for prizes just like at a Chuck E. Cheese or other arcade, but it’s never really very apparent how many you’re earning. I’d won 100 tickets from one game, which seemed like a lot, but the nicest thing this could be exchanged for in the prize shop was a small rubber bouncy ball.
One big question about a Dave and Buster’s in Huntsville is how it compares to our existing staple of Pints and Pixels. In short, it doesn’t. Each has their own areas they cater to. Pints and Pixels goes out of their way to showcase retro arcade games and pinball machines, while Dave and Buster’s has very modern and more interactive games. It really just comes down to what kind of vibe you’re up for, and what kind of games you’re more into. (And whether you want to spend your money locally or not.) It’s probably safe to say that you’ll spend less and get more bang for your buck at Pints and Pixels though.
Dave and Buster’s is a very welcome addition to the entertainment landscape in Huntsville. They could probably showcase some more local visuals in their bar and could work on making their credit system more clear, but they’re off to a great start. It will end up being fairly pricey, especially if you have a big family in tow. But it’s certainly worth a visit to try out, and it’s very nice to have in town to entertain visitors with. We look forward to coming back!