I have to admit. I had expectations in mind as I climbed the incline of about 25 or so steps into the new 40,000 square foot Dave & Busters at Mall St. Matthews, 5000 Shelbyville Rd. I expected a menu of burger and wings – typical bar food. Instead, I was surprised with an unexpected number of healthy options and a dining area that was well separated from the gaming area. They are rolling out a new menu nationally on February 11, but the Louisville location is opening to the public on February 4 and will be getting the new menu ahead of everyone else.
As I scanned the spread of their menu items on display, I realized that Dave & Buster’s has the most artisan plating I’ve ever seen in an entertainment venue and an extremely broad menu. While they definitely had baskets of fried and comfort foods like buffalo wing burgers, Philly cheese steak sliders, or delectable chicken and waffles with bacon. I was most impressed with the flavoring of their healthier dishes: ancho Ceasar lettuce wraps with avocado and chicken, avocado toast with Mexican street corn, a Thai chicken chopped salad, a chicken and baby kale salad, and a wonderful grilled salmon with zoodles (zucchini noodles). I’m always leary about ordering salmon, because it’s so often done poorly, but this was very well done. The zoodles were very interesting with soft noodles from the inside flesh of the zucchini and a bit of crunch from pieces from the outer skin. Vegetarian, vegan, paleo, carnivore or keto – whatever your diet, you’ll be able to find something here, including their Impossible burgers with plant based burger patties -the flavor of which my friend and I preferred over their regular burger.
“We have switched to all natural chicken, and we are getting choice steaks – the top ten percent,” said Art Carl, Vice President of Culinary and Beverage. “I think all of the switching to healthier foods is partially because, if you were to walk in here, most people would have the assumption like you did about bar food. I’d like for the restaurant to stand up for itself. The majority of Americans have some sort of special diet. So, we wanted to sprinkle it through the menu, so they don’t avoid coming because they can’t find something to eat. We don’t want them to have to eat somewhere else before they come to play.”
Playing is the name of the game. Dave & Buster’s takes entertainment seriously and has sprinkled (as Art said) that fun everywhere, including in their beverage program. They even offer a few drinks that allow guests to take something home: Their signature TNTea is their version of a top shelf Long Island Iced Tea and comes in fun stackable rounded glasses that you can keep. Their green ghost has a bright LED ice cube you can take home, and the Caribbean Luxe Patron Lit comes with a special stir stick with a small patron bottle on top.
I didn’t realize I’m such a mango fan but my favorite drinks both featured the fruit. The X-rated Passion Fruit Mojito is a new dangerous favorite in town drink for me. The fruit wipes out any taste of alcohol, and I kept wanting to taste it again for the mango. Many of the beverages we sampled were beachy and very colorful and all a great value at $7 to $10 a drink (for 16 to 22 ounces- a huge difference over many bars who offer cocktails in small rocks or Tom Collins glasses.) Don’t worry if those seem a little to “froofy” to you. The beverage menu has plenty of beer and cocktail staples like Old Fashioneds or Manhattans, and their happy hour (Monday through Friday from 3:45 to 7 p.m. or Late Happy Hour (Sunday through Thursday from 9 p.m. to closing) has cocktails ranging from $3 to $5, domestic pints for $2.50, $1 off 22 oz drafts and glasses of wine or $3 off bottles of wine. They also offer plenty of smoothies, milkshakes, slushies and other fun non-alcoholic beverages.
Those beachy drinks definitely felt like a vacation and moving into the game area only furthered that feeling. The whole experience was kind of like taking a cruise on land. I was immensely excited by all the flashing lights of over 150 arcade games to try, but I think I squealed out loud when I saw a Ghostbusters game where you sit within and shoot ghosts. However, I absolutely LOVE arcade basketball, and it was a pretty thrilling moment when Assistant General Manager Ben Duplissey introduced me to “Connect Four Basketball. It pits two people against each other as they shoot basketballs at a Connect Four board and try to get four in a row or block their opponent from doing so.
If you’re looking for a place to get your grub and game on, Dave & Buster’s is definitely a welcome addition in my opinion. It doesn’t hurt they have some pretty sweet specials if you want to save money. Taco Tuesdays offer @2 beers, $2 tacos and 2 Free Game plays with a $10 power purchase; Wednesday offers half price games; (Games are also half off after 9 pm Sunday through Thursday.) I think my favorite day, though, will be Thursdays when they offer unlimited video game play and all you can eat wings for $19.99.