Photos: Echo Park's New Arcade Bar Features Starry Kitchen's Food
Update: Button Mash's opening date is October 21.
Echo Park's new arcade bar, Button Mash, will be opening it's doors soon and we got a sneak peek at the delicious food you'll be munching on between high scores on vintage pinball machines and classic arcade games.
When we caught wind that the Starry Kitchen team— husband-and-wife Nguyen and Thi Tran—were picked to serve up their stellar Asian-inspired fare at the arcade bar, we knew it was going to be a major one-up for hungry gamers. From small bites like tamarind chili chicken wings (or "waaaangs" as Nguyen says) to larger, shareable feasts like fried rice and noodle dishes, they'll be serving up around 25 different flavor packed options, both light and indulgent. They'll even have some vegan and vegetarian options, as well as a classic cheeseburger, inspired by the Big Kahuna of Pulp Fiction. Button Mash will also be serving up craft beer—12 taps and plenty of choice cans and bottles—as well as a roster of quality wines and Orange Bang, SoCal's favorite whipped juice, perfect for fueling long Street Fighter sessions.
Another menu highlight is Popiah, which Nguyen describes to LAist as "a Taiwanese/Chinese amalgamation of a lot of different specially prepped vegetables, bean pastes and tofu individually wrapped how ever people want to enjoy it." There will also be a variety of fried rices including shrimp and grilled pineapple, galangal chicken, and spam with roasted Brussels sprouts. There's also Bun Cha Hanoi, a Northern Vietnamese dish featuring marinated pork patties and grilled pork belly swimming in a house-made fish sauce and served with DIY fixings, vermicelli noodles and rice paper wraps. You can also expect a huge variety of house-made pickled vegetables. And you'll also want to save room for an insanely indulgent multi-layer brick french toast because as Ngyuen explains, "When you have light and dainty, you gotta balance it with excess."
Some of the menu items are still being refined, but you can expect tons of new, never-before-seen Starry Kitchen creations. There will also be a paired-down late night menu, which will feature some dishes exclusive for the night owls, as well as a special brunch menu still under development.
Jordan Weiss and Gabriel Fowlkes—the team behind Button Mash—first heard about Starry Kitchen when Weiss' wife began raving about the pop-up restaurant that had developed a cult following. They reached out to Nguyen early on in the process of developing Button Mash, feeling confident that they would add an elevated and quality twist to what they found to be dismal or non-existent food offerings at other bar arcades they researched. And as luck would have it, Nguyen happened to be a self-described game nerd as well, so the three enthusiasts hit it off immediately (having a shared a background working in the film industry also helped). Weiss and Fowlkes also recognized that bringing quality food and drinks to the equation of an arcade was also a necessary trifecta to make their vision come to life and bring in more than just hardcore gamers. "I want to bring bring people to games," Fowlkes, a competitive Street Fighter player tells LAist. "But I know if it's just games, then it can't last for more than a couple months."
As far as the games go, you'll have dozens of options including pristinely-maintained pinball machines—which have their own dedicated section—as well as arcade classics and favorites from the oft-neglected early 90s era, including a double wide X-Men. You'll also find several food-themed games like Burger Time and the beer-pouring Tapper. "The idea was that we have to have the A-list stuff that anyone would expect, the Street Fighters, Donkey Kongs and Pac-Mans of the world," Weiss tells us. "And then we wanted to mix that in with some cult games, oddball stuff and rare gems." The thoughtfully curated selection will also rotate through their amassed collection with seasonally-themed games making appearances as well. And we won't spoil the surprises, but some of the arcade games have hidden switches somewhere on their cabinets to switch to another version of the game or a sequel in some cases.
Beyond the food, drinks and games, Button Mash also offers a colorfully creative setting, courtesy of architects Rebecca Rudolph and Catherine Johnson of Design, Bitches. They also recruited artist Joseph Harmon to design some amazingly intricate wallpaper and their custom Button Mash tokens. Weiss has also brought has toy geek expertise to add plenty of flourishes throughout.
Button Mash will also be open to kids of all ages until 9 p.m., so younger gamers can join in the fun as well. Stay tuned for the opening date, coming soon.