Video game bars are like video game franchises: The visuals improve with each new iteration. Old Town beercade Ground Kontrol (115 NW 5th Ave., 503-796-9364, groundkontrol.com) has just completed the first of a two-phase expansion, transplanting itself around the corner to the room formerly inhabited by all-ages venue Backspace, now outfitted with a red-and-white, spinning Galaga space-fighter marquee.
The original space's roller-rink drabness has been upgraded with a shiny, retro sci-fi-sleek bar that inhabits the center of the spacious main room, creating a horseshoe of gamers around its gentle glow and a line that bisects the room. For now, the original Ground Kontrol is closed—and will be outfitted with an extra floor, twice the games, and a connecting hallway to the current Ground Kontrol expansion pack.
The arcade's original stock-in-trade—nostalgia-steeped '80s- and '90s-era arcade games—is now complemented with new on-rails shooters based on the Alien and Star Wars movie franchises. But all your favorites are still here: Killer Queen, the upgraded version of Joust that hosts up to 10 players, is still the best game and still perpetually busy. Mortal Kombat II also remains, albeit with a sticky "block" button.
The many pop-culture-inspired pinball games still beep and boop and flash, and the cocktails are still video game-inspired and cheap, like a $7 King Boo with RumChata liqueur and hazelnut espresso vodka that tastes like liquid Ferrero Rocher. The tap list has been doubled, though uselessly, with a dozen mostly grocery-store craft beers (Black Butte, Ninkasi, Full Sail, etc.). Until the full expansion, Ground Kontrol will satiate Tinder daters and dorky guys on the town the same way it always has, just with new-bar smell and a little more room to breathe.