Friday, October 9, 2015

Headquarters Beercade or She's a Pinball Bruncher

The Slow and Savory Review

Brandy has always been a big fan of games of all sorts.  "A quick session of mahjong or solitaire each day can really do wonders in improving brain power!" as Brandy likes to say.  In fact Brandy is so good at games of strategy that she even once won a bridge tournament by such a large margin that the other players are still paying out their antis to her to this day.

A few weeks ago, Brandy was invited to preview the new brunch menu at
Headquarters Beercade in River North, a restaurant that features scores of retro video game machines and vintage pinball in addition to craft beer, cocktails, and gastro-pub style food.  "Combining games of skill and strategy with brunch sounds like a excellent idea to me," Brandy remarked, "I'd imagine it will be a good wake up for the mind and the body!"

Everything at Headquarters Beercade was designed to evoke a feeling of nostalgia for an certain generation of people.  "Don't grow up, it's a trap," declared a neon sign over the main arcade, and indeed the whimsical atmosphere did make Brandy begin to feel young again.  A wall of antique televisions sat beside the bar, flashing in and out of 20 year old movies and wrestling matches.  The three bars around the space featured lots of detail work and thought, like an old bathtub that had been turned into a cooler, the beer handles made of telephone receivers, and the wall of cassette tapes that served as DJ booth.  The games (which were all free to play) were mainly gathered at both ends of the open space, encouraging patrons to walk about and explore every nook and cranny.

Staring off with a couple of cocktails (like she does every morning) Brandy ordered first the Swipe Right and then the Basic AF.  The Swipe Right was a sweet and spiced mix of chai tea infused vodka, pear, Drambuie, prosecco, and lemon that made for a zingy start and a smooth finish.  The Basic AF came adorably presented in a chilled steel cup with a sprig of rosemary, which complimented the cranberry, ginger, and lemon flavors, making for a cocktail that reminded Brandy of a Christmas dinner, but would have been good any time of the year.

The first dish to the table was The Sammie, a pretty standard breakfast sandwich made with scrambled eggs, Swiss cheese, tomato, arugula, and bacon on toasted brioche.  Though the sandwich was simple enough, it was well thought out with the toast being soft and yielding so as to not overwhelm the rest of the ingredients and the eggs and bacon balanced out nicely by the fresh veggies.

Next up was the Tex's Toast, a chocolate French toast served with maple syrup, raspberries, and whipped cream.  As one of Brandy's favorite flavor combinations is chocolate and raspberry, she was particularly excited to try this dish.  While the toast wasn't as chocolaty as she had hoped it would be, it did have a nice dense texture, wasn't overly sweet, and was picked up by the brightness of the berries.

Switching back to the savory side of things, a dish called The Cure was presented to the table.  This plate of deliciousness, which consisted of French fries topped with eggs, bacon, creamed spinach, giardiniera, scallions, and fried brussels sprout leaves, was a sure fire winner in Brandy's book.  Hovering somewhere between a poutine and disco fries, this dish had everything, from the crunchy veggies to the perfectly cooked fries to the crispy brussels sprout leaves.  "It's like someone made a Greatest Hits album for brunch!" Brandy exclaimed with joy.

Following that came the HQ Benedict, made with pork belly, more giardiniera, charred scallions, and a spicy hollandaise.  The benedict was fatty and rich, the perfect thing for clearing up a hangover, with just the right amount of spice to wake up the palate.  The bread element, which was actually two rounds of brioche instead of the traditional English muffin, actually worked rather well just having a light toast on it, and though the charred scallions, which had been left whole, were a tad unwieldy to convey to one's mouth, their smoky flavor fit right in to the rest of the dish.

After such a rich dish, a salad course was actually quite welcome.  The salad Brandy was presented with was called The Sweeter Side and consisted of mixed greens topped with candied pecans, roasted beets, sliced Fuji apples and goat cheese.  The dressing on the salad was bright and lemony, toning down the natural sweetness of the beets and nuts, and like any good salad, this one combined lots of complimentary textures.

The final dish of the day was the Quiche, made with spinach, asparagus, and fontina cheese and served with a small side salad.  This particular quiche was more veggie than egg, meaning it also had lots of cheesy flavor and a more dense texture.  The crust though was surprisingly light and buttery, even crisp like a cracker along the edges.  "If I hadn't eaten so much already, I could probably polish off an entire pan of this," Brandy mused, "But as it is, I think I'll go try my hand at a few games."

After a few hours of pinball wizardry, Brandy finally resigned herself to heading home.  The warm, magical atmosphere at Headquarters was incredibly infectious and left Brandy with a smile on her face, not just from the games, but also from the care that had been taken in designing everything from the interior to the food.  There was a real emphasis on doing as much as possible in house, right down the furniture, which Brandy loved, and even the servers seemed to take a real pride in their place of work and all its details.  "Its rare that I'm so affected by the decor of a place, but in this instance, I'd say the playfulness of my surroundings made everything taste even better than it would have otherwise.  From now on, I'm going to suggest every brunch spot I visit put in at least one pinball machine."

The writers of this blog were invited to dine free of charge by the restaurant in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review

Headquarters Beercade Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


  1. Okay, now I'm officially jealous/bummed I missed the brunch. That French fry dish sounds so fantastic!

    1. It was one of the best brunch dishes we've tried all year! You will love this place!