Last night was the much buzzed-about opening of Button Mash, an Echo Park bar full of retro video games and pinball machines. The big draw for us was the food, which comes courtesy of our favorite culinary duo, Starry Kitchen. By the time I showed up around 10:30pm, the kitchen was already sold out of everything but dessert. I was still happy as hell to enjoy the yin and yang of Lychee Panna Cotta, so smooth, cool and creamy, with a light salted plum sauce, and some hot apple fritters, which remain magically grease-free. The fritters, which have a light dusting of cinnamon sugar and a bourbon cream sauce for dipping, seem somehow even better than the last time I ate them.
Button Mash opens at 5pm on weekdays and 1pm on weekends. I will definitely arrive closer to opening time on my next visit. The menu is a dazzling wonderland of temptation. Of course, you have to start with the crispy tofu balls that Starry Kitchen was built on. And don’t forget the double-fried chicken wings (waaaangs). We recommend the ginger wings. New to the menu is a Thai shrimp toast and Vietnamese egg rolls that we must try. The familiar garlic noodles are on the menu, plus not one, not two, but three kinds of fried rice. They even have a burger and nachos now. Whaaaat?
After a certain hour there is a limited bar menu. I don’t know what is on it. Maybe I was looking at the limited bar menu. Or maybe the late-night menu is limited to nachos. Only nachos. It was kind of hard to keep track of what was going on. Because it was crazy in there. Crazy fun, but crazy. The place was packed, but not uncomfortable. There was plenty of seating and I even ran into some people I know. Everyone was dressed in the latest street fashion, from flannels to tea dresses, and it was kind of cool to see what the kids are wearing these days. The video games aren’t set too loud, but there is a tolerable din of voices. It’s just noisy and bustling enough to make the place feel happening.
There was a decent selection of the usual 8os video games — Donkey Kong, Pac Man, and Galaga, but there were also some games I had never even heard of. There was a pre-electronic game of skill involving a metal ball and lots of holes, the theme of which was beer. There was a Michael Jackson Moonwalk videogame, and yes, Virginia, they have the KISS pinball machine. The games are even retro priced at only 25-cents each.
40-somethings are comfortable hanging out, especially if they remember playing those games in the 80s themselves. The main reason I say this bar would be perfect for your 20s is because there were a lot of small groups and singles enjoying the place, like one big party. Plus, the menu is mostly beer without pricy cocktails that will just land you on your ass anyways. It’s also reasonably priced, with no menu items over $14, beers and wines from $5 to $10, and as I said, 25-cent games. If they get Centipede or Bubble Bobble, I can play all night on just one quarter.