Tall Dad and I kept it closer to home on a recent weekend and visited Greensboro (North Carolina’s) Boxcar Bar and Arcade on a weekend night. In the downtown area, Boxcar is located on West Lewis Street next to the railroad tracks that make their way through town. While there is limited on street parking, weekend nights are busy downtown so Tall Dad and I parked in the pay lot directly on the other side of the tracks. (West Lewis Street dead ends into the tracks and lot.) Parking during evening hours is $5 and a bit less earlier in the day.
Boxcar is located directly across the street from Greensboro Distillery. Though the distillery was closed when we arrived later in the evening on a Saturday the location does offer tours and tastings on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for limited hours, so if imbibing is your thing, this may be a good pairing for a day out in downtown Greensboro if it happens to be the weekend.
Boxcar is located in what appears to have once been a warehouse. The building has been brought into the modern era with inviting, interesting, and impressive architecture. I have a personal affinity for the type of bold wooden beams used to create curb appeal. The former loading dock area is dotted with outdoor furniture that provides the only seating in the bar/arcade. Non-smokers should brace themselves for the smoke-filled air in that area. Though they weren’t used on this particular evening, outdoor heaters have also been installed on the deck area. Boxcar is also open to visitors of the four-legged kind so don’t be surprised to be greeted by a fuzzy labradoodle along the way.
In terms of food Boxcar serves popcorn and although I didn’t eye it myself, others in our group reported that there was also a hot dog warmer. The bar’s website reports that food may be purchased through food trucks on location but on this particular January night there was only one food truck offering which didn’t seem to have a tremendous appeal to customers who simply didn’t seem to be focused on eating.
The main attraction is just inside the doorways where the bar and arcade fill the cement floored warehouse. Boxcar has a long bar of standard options and daily specials. The crowd grew quickly over the evening and so the size of the bar was needed to accommodate the demand.
What makes Boxcar different is the emphasis on “old school” games like skee ball and air hockey. On particular nights of the week Boxcar offers tournament play focused on a specific competition. I enjoyed the seemingly endless wall of pinball machines but also noted more recent offerings such as “Dance Dance Revolution”. Most games required $1-$2 in tokens for play.
Plenty of places offer a machine or two that will take the visitor back a few years but Boxcar’s collection is significant. Most notable was that absolutely everything on the floor was in working condition. In other settings something – the token machine, an upstanding arcade game – always has an “out of order” sign on it. Not so at Boxcar where everything, even the restrooms, were well maintained.
The evening crowd was dressed casually and was diverse with an average customer age of thirty-something. Children are allowed earlier in the day but once the evening arrives customers must present identification and children are not permitted. The atmosphere is loud with machine noise so don’t hit Boxcar with the idea that there will be in-depth, meaningful conversation. Boxcar’s ambiance is geared toward the good time – and to take you back in time.