Nestled between a large laundromat and a small Korean eatery on Western Avenue near the border of Koreatown and Hollywood is an inconspicuous dive called Blipsy Barcade. It may be hidden away, but it's definitely worth the drive from the Palisades.
Lacking a clear indication of its name—other than the painted pattern of the famous Pac-Man-dotted configuration that many of us recognize as part of our childhood—this hidden bar is truly a gem.
After pushing past heavy, plush curtains you are greeted with blaring Cumbia, a Latin American music style that originated in Colombia during the zeitgeist of the ‘80s and early '90s. Outside, late night workers can be seen biking home after a long shift while scantily clad streetwalkers strut down the hard cement as if it was a catwalk.
Owned and run by Ricardo Guzman, who grew up in the neighborhood, Blipsy is decorated with tons of nostalgic arcade games, toys, posters and other novelty items that entertained millions of children during the fashionably outlandish era. Your eyes never stop wandering as this bar really knows how to bring you back.
Formerly a Korean host and hostess bar, Blipsy started out as a weekly loft party. However, it now acts as a full-working bar with a lively atmosphere and a feeling of friendship that seems to have never left the loft.
Despite stools perched against the bar, a long booth, tables and a pair of theater chairs, most patrons prefer to stand, enjoying their libations with a side of Ms. Pac-Man or Galaga.
Blipsy carries about a dozen old school video arcade games such as Donkey Kong, Robotron, Defender, Paper Boy, Playboy Pinball and Gun Fight, a cowboy-shooting version of Pong, each a standard quarter per play. They deal strictly in vintage games. Sorry to disappoint, but no Dance Dance Revolution here.
While Blipsy does lack the highly revered Street Fighter II arcade game, the barcade makes up for the loss with eclectic music from around the world.
“No other place offers music with such a wide variety as this,” said Julio Hernandez, a regular patron.
Playing Cumbia on the regular, Blipsy also features DJs who spin anything other than the monotonous Top 40 of today. Saturdays prove to be its best nights, with selections such as Bollywood disco and reggae gracing the turntables.
Mondays are specifically dedicated to Caribbean music, with DJ Gunman and DJ Mas O Menos decking the ones and twos with Cumbia oldies and reggae favorites.
“Music is something that really gets me excited and Blipsy definitely did it for me,” said Vanessa Moller, a first-timer at the barcade.
The bar is fully stocked and includes unconventional, yet perfectly intentional selections such as Mickey’s grenades and tall cans of Sapporo. Yes, they sell tall cans of PBRs (Pabst Blue Ribbon), but don’t let the hip placement of a classic beer scare you away.
Alongside bottles of your favorite types of hooch are well-placed lineups of Hot Wheels cars, New Kids on the Block, Alf and Howard the Duck collectors’ cards and a strategically placed He-Man scene.
The bartenders here know how to pour stiff ones. Drinks are far from watered down and contain ample booze for your buck.
Start your week off on Mojito Mondays when the sweet Cuban drink costs only $5. Owner and bartender Ricardo makes a tasty Mojito by combining sugar, lime, light rum, soda water and fresh mint. It's a refreshing drink that is sure to give an uplifting buzz.
With its pleasing combination of ‘80s nostalgia, captivating music, friendly staff and charming vibe, Blipsy is devoid of any sort of Hollywood snobbery.
Although it may take awhile to get to Blipsy from the Palisades, the time will be well spent because you'll get to enjoy a memorable night of gaming and good drinks.