Monday, January 29th, 2018
Best Buds Gaming Lounge: Serving up Nostalgia in Fairhaven
Brandon Fralic

I was five years old when I played my first video games on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It only took a few rounds of Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt before I developed a near-obsessive video gaming hobby that lasted well into my twenties. Piles of Nintendo Power and PlayStation Magazine stacked up in my room. I wanted to be a game tester when I grew up. Video games were my life.

Several screens and consoles to choose from at Best Buds. Photo by Sarah Climaco

This is the story of many kids from my generation. Raised on classic 90’s titles like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Mario Kart 64, we graduated from NES to Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64, waiting on the next console release with bated breath. Once the PlayStation and Xbox eras arrived, game cartridges were replaced by discs as our tastes matured. How many hours have we spent playing Final Fantasy, Super Smash Bros. and Halo? Clearly, not nearly enough.

Photo by Sarah Climaco

Enter Best Buds Gaming Lounge. Since their September 2017 grand opening in Fairhaven, owners Hugh and Alex Newmark have been serving up video games — both classic and contemporary — to the masses. My partner and I stopped in for a throwback to the good ol’ days of cartridges and corded controllers. We were not disappointed.

“We sell nostalgia,” says co-owner Hugh Newmark. That’s the immediate appeal for those like myself — “grownups” who want to kick back and remember what it feels like to be a kid. Sure, we could play games at home. But there’s something special about Best Buds. The casual, laid-back space caters to kids and adults alike, with a cutoff time of 8 p.m. for those under 18. That means it’s an adults-only space from 8 p.m. to closing time (1 a.m. Monday-Saturday). And it’s one of the only late-night spots in Fairhaven providing entertainment for those under 21.

After 8 p.m., Best Buds turns in a a bar with local brews on tap.

Best Buds’ living room is far superior to my own when it comes to gaming. First of all, Best Buds boasts a game menu featuring 2,000+ titles across 27 consoles. The selection is mind-boggling. Want to cozy up with your partner for a game of Donkey Kong Country? Just ask for the date night special, and it’s on like Donkey Kong! Hugh carefully selected the correct TV for us to play on (a top-of-the-line-at-the-time Sony Trinitron XBR) — and in a few moments we were collecting bananas, riding rhinos and taking out kremlings.

Those who come to Best Buds love that they can play games while enjoying a beer, cider or wine. Photo by Sarah Climaco

Collaborative gameplay is where Best Buds truly shines. With the shift in recent years to online gaming, more users are sitting at home alone, interacting with other gamers via headset in the digital realm. While there’s nothing wrong with online gaming, the shared experience of sitting on a couch and playing with friends IRL (in real life) simply can’t be beaten.

Eats and Drinks

Photo by Sarah Climaco

Best Buds’ attractive, thoughtfully-designed space is more than just a place to play video games. It’s a full-service gaming lounge — Bellingham’s first and only console arcade. No need to clean up after the Halo LAN party here. A “Junk Food Delicacies” menu is available featuring gamer favorites like tater tots, pizza sticks and hot wings. And then there’s the beer.

Best Buds offers a rotating tap list, with beers from local breweries like Kulshan, Aslan, and Illuminati. So not only can you walk in and play just about any game your heart desires — you can do so with a locally brewed beer in hand. Try Hugh’s favorite: the Kulshan Russian Imperial Stout. And watch for an upcoming Illuminati tap takeover this spring, when Best Buds celebrates their 6-month anniversary with a special beer brewed for the event.

Best Buds offers beer, wine and ciders for those 21+, with many other snacks on the menu. Photo by Sarah Climaco

Of course, when it comes to beverages there’s something for everyone. Best Buds offers a fine selection of canned beers, ciders, wines, and plenty of soda. They also host regular events including game tournaments, anime nights, and TV show screenings (like the cult favorite, Firefly). So bring along your best buds or fly solo: everyone from nerds to newbs are welcome in this safe community space.

Photo by Sarah Climaco

Membership and Pricing

Open – 8 p.m.:

  • $5/Hour
  • $15/Day
  • $45/Month

8 p.m. – Close:

  • $5 Cover if under 21
  • Adults 21+ games are free with drink purchase

Best Buds Gaming Lounge

1121 McKenzie Ave. (in the Fairhaven District), Bellingham


Hours of Operation

Monday-Friday: 1 p.m.-1 a.m.

Saturday: 12 p.m. – 1 a.m.

Sunday: 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Also, see our Beer page for more posts about Bellingham Craft Beer.

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About the Author:

Freelance writer Brandon Fralic has called Bellingham home since 2006. He writes about the outdoors, travel, and craft beer for a variety of regional publications. Brandon co-founded Beers at the Bottom in 2013 to highlight Pacific Northwest trails and ales. His first book, Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest, was released in 2018.