A New Echo Park Barcade Serves Asian Comfort Food Alongside Street Fighter
Crispy tofu balls
Arcade bars (aka barcades) are all the retro rage right now, with every city in America claiming at least one place where you can get drunk and take down your Tinder date in a game of Street Fighter. There's L.A.'s originator, the musty, cash-only Blipsy Bar in Koreatown. Then, the barcade Eighty Two opened in the Arts District last year with a slew of old-school pinball and arcade games — but while the themed $12 cocktails are cool and all, if you want to eat you're stuck with whatever food truck rolls onto the patio that night.
At Button Mash, the new barcade that opened Wednesday in Echo Park, the menu includes spins on Southeast Asian dishes like Spam fried rice, dan dan noodles and double-fried ginger chicken wings. And if the bowl of translucent green tofu balls drizzled with a spicy orange sauce looks familiar, that's because the entire menu is the work of the husband-wife team behind Starry Kitchen.
Chef Tri Tran and her husband, Nguyen, have operated one of the city's most high-profile pop-up restaurants, moving from secret dinners in their apartment in the San Fernando Valley to a downtown brick-and-mortar to a roving pop-up to a semi-permanent pop-up in Chinatown, all the while slinging rethought Asian comfort food such as Singaporean chili crab, braised coconut pork and pandan churros.
Most recently, Starry Kitchen sought a more permanent home through a $500,000 Kickstarter campaign, which earned only a fraction of its goal and left the Trans trying to figure out their next move. In July, they returned — sort of — with signature dishes available exclusively through UberEats.
With Button Mash now open, Starry Kitchen lives on. In the expansive Sunset Boulevard space, you can try some of their best dishes (wings, balls, garlic noodles, lychee panna cotta) and some new ones (popiah, brick toast, a double cheeseburger!) without chasing down an occasional pop-up or ordering delivery.
Though officially a barcade, Button Mash also operates like a traditional restaurant, with table service offered at the futuristic diner built into one side and all ages allowed until 9 p.m. You can order at the bar, the register or any of the communal tables spread throughout, but it's easier to get a table, then hit the games with a drink in hand.
As for the lineup, all the machines are ones you're unlikely to find at any other L.A. establishment; they include Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, Super Contra and the addictive, food-themed video game BurgerTime. In a nook behind the bar is a pinball lineup that includes fake Miami Vice game Hollywood Heat plus Tron, Tales From the Crypt, White Water and more. Button Mash even has custom gold tokens with the bar's cartoony dog logo on them, several of which are already floating around our loose-change pile, begging to be used.
1391 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; (213) 250-9903; buttonmashla.com.
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