When asking where you can find something to eat in Huntsville, Alabama, you aren’t short of amazing foodie spots, but someone has had the genius idea to combine great southern food with vintage arcade games, call it Pints and Pixels and then hide it in a secret level above a shop. And it is absolutely epic!
Travelling the world means that you come across some amazing foodie places relatively frequently, and you get the amazing privilege of eating at some truly unique spots.
I have eaten everywhere from undiscovered food stalls that are foodie heaven and amazing off the beaten track sites to restaurants that are quickly becoming go to destinations in and of themselves. I have eaten some world class food in some truly unique locations and fine dined on a budget simply because of the destination I was in. That is a lot of food, in a lot of amazing locations, and it can sometimes feel like it is increasingly difficult to be impressed.
But every now and then you come across something really special. A place where you instantly feel at home and in absolute awe all at the same time. A place that genuinely makes you not want to leave and completely reevaluate your plans of moving on anytime soon.
Every now and then you come across a place of sheer unique, legendary epicness.
And I found that place in my spiritual mecca, the one place that spoke to both the inner child and the constantly hungry fat man that are deep inside my psyche. That place is Pints and Pixels, hands down one of the best places to eat and the best things to do in Huntsville, Alabama.
Hidden above what was once an unassuming hardware shop, Pints and Pixels cleverly creates the feeling of being inside a real life arcade game yourself as you ascend the steps to find a hidden door that will transport you to a secret level.
A secret level filled with everything that made the childhoods of anyone my age special. A room of arcade games and pinball machines, of electronic sampled voices shouting ‘Get over here!’ and ‘Cowabunga!’ Mixed in with the period specific music of Pat Benatar and Bon Jovi, and you can almost smell the hairspray of rock legends amongst the welcoming scents of burgers and chilli cheese steaks.
Because it can be difficult to forget, in the sheer joy that envelops you as you are warmly embraced by a nostalgic fever is that essentially Pints and Pixels is still a bar and restaurant, and it is a damn good one too!
The food isn’t fancy, there are no airs and graces here, but it is damn good! Chilli dogs, hamburgers and southern fried chicken with a spicy helping from Anaheim Chilli filled the basic but solid, tasty menu. Warm, homely pub food, ice cold drinks and craft beer on tap, what more can you ask for?
But for once, it was not the food that was holding my attention.
After grabbing a quick drink and getting a brief reintroduction to the world of Ryu, Chun – Li, Guile and Blanka, I made a beeline for the machine that took more of my pocket money as a child than any other. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I was instantly transported back to the seaside arcades of Blackpool and Southport from my childhood day trips as I settled in and pressed start on my favourite character, Raphael. (Fun fact, I have studied Karate since childhood and Raphael was the reason I chose the Sai as my first weapon to train with when everyone else wanted the Nunchacku!)
And it took hell and high water to tear me away from it!
These objects and memorabilia may just be simple games to many people, but for me these ‘simple games’ are beyond cherished treasures. They represent my childhood, a link to an age that is long gone and can never be recovered, an innocent age of Thundercats toys, Ninja Turtles arcade games and getting lost inside the pages of a book or a comic without a care in the world, an age that a small – okay, still quite large – part of me still retreats to even now that I am approaching 40.
Because that age was bloody awesome!
In an age of instant digital downloads, living room consoles and mobile gaming, it is hard to imagine that a long time ago, in an arcade not that far away, the only gaming that kids like me could do was at the helm of a joystick stuck in a box the size of an average kitchen cabinet.
Even the invention of the famed Nintendo Entertainment System and later the Sega Megadrive did little to dent the sheer unadulterated joy of meeting with friends and shouting ‘Hadouken’ as your character destroyed theirs with the frenzied bashing of those robust buttons.
And now my adult passion of travel has led me straight back to some of my childhood passions and my inner geek, thanks to Pints and Pixels, and this for me was one of the many Huntsville highlights in a trip that was absolutely filled with them.
For anyone travelling to Huntsville in Alabama, this place is an absolute must. Even if you aren’t thinking of heading to Huntsville, I urge you to change your mind and come here anyway just to experience the awesomeness of Street Fighter and Super Mario as they were supposed to be played, and then stay to discover how amazing Huntsville is as well!
So until you do, all I can say to the fine establishment that is Pints and Pixels is this; shut up and take my money!
Note: Since this article was written Pints and Pixels has moved to a new location in Campus 805 in the Student Union building.
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This article was written in partnership with the Huntsville and Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.