Outside of Arcadia Retro Eats in Levittown, it’s just another cold January day in the year 2022. But inside, it’s warm — and it’s 1985.
Bon Jovi’s “Runaway” blares over the sound system. And John Bender smart-mouths Richard Vernon as “The Breakfast Club” plays on a television hung above a Ms. Pac-Man machine.
In the kitchen, wearing a red “the Max” t-shirt to rep the “Saved by the Bell” hangout, the arcade’s co-owner Cory Poccia grills brick-pressed burgers in honor of the Super Mario Bros. object.
The lifelong Levittown resident and child of the 1980s said he was inspired to create Arcadia Retro Eats while walking past an arcade in Manhattan. Inside, he noticed, was a crowd of adults, but no food or drinks.
Poccia teamed with celebrity chef Brian Duffy and other partners to make his time machine eatery a reality, spending two years scouting the right location before the COVID-19 pandemic delayed their plans.
Poccia ultimately decided to pull the trigger on a small-scale approach to his original vision of a full-blown dual arcade and restaurant. Since opening last October at 2890 Hempstead Turnpike, he said the joint has attracted nostalgic adults, as well as their small children.
“Weekends here are packed. During the week, we get a nice dinner crowd,” Poccia, 43, said. “Everybody is really responding well to the retro, to the video games, to the foods. The food is all based on the ’80s and ’90s.”
On the menu: McDowell’s and meltdowns
The menu, which Chef Duffy created, consists primarily of apps, grilled cheeses and burgers. Eddie Murphy and “Coming to America” fans will recognize the not quite copyright infringing “Big Mick,” two all-beef patties with lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and McDowell’s sauce on a bun without sesame seeds. The American and cheddar grilled cheese with both bacon and bacon tomato jam is of course dubbed the “Kevin Bacon.”
For heroes in a half shell, there’s the TMNT, a grilled cheese with roasted garlic butter, mozzarella and provolone cheese, pepperoni and “Saved By the Bell’s” Screech’s spaghetti sauce for dipping.
The menu is not all pop culture. There’s also some local history shout-outs. Nodding to infamous Long Island disasters, the joint serves (1985 Hurricane) “Gloria’s Mess,” steak fries covered in Cheez sauce, pulled pork, onions, bacon, jalapeños, poblano hot sauce all atop a fried mac “epicenter.”
Spice lovers will enjoy the nuclear breaded Shoreham hot chicken sandwich topped with spicy pickles, hot honey, jalapeno ranch sauce and coleslaw.
Serving up Arcadia sequels
While Poccia is excited to hype up ’80s and ’90s childhood favorites like Bagel Bites, Sloppy Joes and disco fries, he said he’s most proud of providing retro arcade games for fans of his generation, as well as newcomers.
Along one wall are coin and cash-operated classics, including Mortal Kombat, Donkey Kong and Poccia’s personal favorite childhood game, Wrestlefest.
“[WWF] WrestleFest was my favorite when I was a kid because they had the Royal Rumble in there,” he said. “My dad used to drive me to the arcade just to play WrestleFest. That’s why I insisted on having it in here”
Since his first arcade is already a hit, Poccia is already planning to work on Arcadia sequels. He said he hopes to open three to five Arcadia Retro Eats in as many years. Poccia also wants to redirect efforts on his original vision, a 7,000-square-foot fully immersive blast to the past.
“We want to do live music,” Poccia said. “We’ll bring in bands, they’ll do ’80s and ’90s music only. Full dance floor, full arcade, full dining experience,” he said. “That’s what we originally planned on doing. But we need to wait until COVID goes away.”