There's something about Button Mash and its dinging, ringing energy, about the mix of customers, old and young and hip and dorky and unpredictably diverse in the best possible way, that is massively appealing, even if you're not here for the impressive collection of old-school video games. The restaurant/arcade is a collaboration between owners Jordan Weiss, Gabe Fowlkes, and chefs Nguyen and Thi Tran, who for years have been known for their nomadic pop-up project, Starry Kitchen. The involvement of Starry Kitchen is an obvious draw, though this food isn't an exact replica of what was served at any of the pop-up's iterations. Instead, the menu is more like a greatest-hits album of Asian and American drunk food: crispy tofu balls, appropriately lacquered double-fried chicken wings, and a cheeseburger that is — like the games — pure old-school nostalgia. When your burgers and beer come wrapped in such original, joyful revelry (with tofu balls and galanga thrown in for good measure) it somehow feels fresher than half the serious restaurants in town.
Double cheeseburger at Button Mash; Credit: Garrett Snyder