There's never been a shortage of ways for bar owners to fill space when business doesn't measure up or to refresh a room that's long been underused. For a while, it was the addition of pool tables and video lottery machines. Now, swapping out seating for arcade games like Golden Tee Golf and Big Buck Hunter is a noticeable trend at rehabbed Portland dives. There's also the emergence of new spots like WedgeHead and High Score, which have enlisted an armada of pinball machines as a way to lure drinkers.
However, the market for these barcades is saturated to the point customers probably won't come back unless the games are good. Unfortunately for the Original Dinerant, the upright cabinets tend to be too glitchy, slow-moving or just plain outdated, which means even the average player will seek out reliably working coin-operated entertainment elsewhere. There is a small assortment of pinball machines, like The Walking Dead and Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast, that offer some casual fun for small groups who just want something to do with their hands in between sips of one of the Original's trademark boozy milkshakes ($10). But you'll mostly find bad sequels to shooters, including House of the Dead, Jurassic Park and Area 51, in place of their popular originals, which made us wonder whether the cabinets were consciously hand-selected by someone who didn't know better or simply part of a package deal when a like-minded operation failed to sniff any success when offered their availability.
The upstairs lounge where the arcade is located saw dwindling utility as the Original trimmed its evening hours and eased up on catering to the roving, downtown party-bro crowd. But it doesn't look like opening a half-cooked imitation of Ground Kontrol, which sits a mere three blocks away, is the most efficient use of the space. It's a shame, because its menu of Guy Fieri-approved oddities like chicken-and-waffle and donut burger sliders ($9 and $10, respectively) offers some of the best stoner food you can find in the neighborhood. The occasional Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives tourist may be too stoked about entering Flavortown to care that the gun on the bar's first-person shooter is buggy and won't kill any zombies or raptors. Beyond that, the Original should consider hitting the reset button.