I live in Chicago (that is, Chicago for real -- I'm not one of those people who claims "Chicago" but is actually from, say, Arlington Heights), which is a bit of a hike from West Dundee. You have to maneuver your way through the city to get to I-90, which itself could take a long time, and then you have to put up with the annoying delays on 90 through Rosemont and past O'Hare. That's one reason when I first went to Underground Retrocade, I intended it to be my one and only visit.
But, that one and only visit eventually became a monthly visit. It's a pain to drive there from Chicago, especially when Chicago itself now has a good handful of good arcades to choose from. So that right there tells you that there's something special about Underground Retrocade.
No, it doesn't have the 400+ games that Galloping Ghost does, but it still has quite a lot, and in my opinion a much better variety. You have the expected core classics -- Donkey Kong (and Junior), Pac-Man and (Turbo) Ms. Pac-Man, Burgertime, Tempest, Asteroids, Missile Command, etc. But you also can play some of the lesser-known titles, like Super Dodgeball (the only known arcade to have this machine!), Space War, Space Duel, and Atari Football.
This place really lives up to the "retrocade" part of its name, as most of the games are oldies from the early '80s, the kind I've been playing since 1981. Their AV system is always on, showing anything from '80s movies to Starcade reruns (remember THAT show?) to vodcasts from Galloping Ghost Arcade to video game documentaries, or perhaps you'll be listening to audio, like a semi-random '80s playlist that includes Buckner & Garcia (albeit the rerecorded version of their album), or maybe the most recent episode of No Quarter Podcast.
Admission is $15 for all-day, and I think there's a smaller fee if you only want to stay half an hour. Pretty standard fee, same as Galloping Ghost. Also you'll find a surprisingly wide variety of drinks in their fridge (and you get one free if you check in via Foursquare or Yelp on your smartphone).
I think, though, what sets Underground Retrocade apart from all the other places to play games is that you see that it's a genuine mom-and-pop operation, and Mom and Pop definitely put their hearts and souls into running this place. You'll always see the owner or his wife at the counter, and quite often their kids will be there helping out; one of their young sons even demonstrated Atari Football for me once when my curiosity was piqued.
So....yeah, Underground Retrocade is a special place. Why else would I repeatedly torture myself with I-90 when I could just stay in Chicago and play some games and have a beer?
(Oh...and if you're driving through East Dundee on your way, please note that Underground's original location still has some signage in the window that the landlord didn't take down after they moved across the river to West Dundee. If you see an empty building with Underground's URL, you went to the wrong place!)
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