At the new Burgercade in Riverhead, everyone’s encouraged to play with their food.
Located at 87 E. Main Street, this slice of Americana serves up low-cost juicy burgers, Maplewood smoked hot dogs, crispy chicken tenders and sandwiches, cold shakes, and more.
And that “more,” also includes a spot that’s ringed with classic arcade games, set to the backdrop of 1980s music hits.
And of course, the unmistakable sounds of retro youth — a super plumber jumping up for a coin, a little yellow creature eating its way through ghosts, and a fiery punch and battle cry of “Hadouken!”
“Street Fighter II!” said one excited dad this opening weekend, before showing his young son the proper moves to play the classic fighting game. “Up, up! Down, down!”
“That’s exactly why I did this,” smiled Marc LaMaina, Burgercade’s owner, operator, occasional food slinger and shake maker.
He’s also added YouTube-trained arcade machine fixer to his resume.
“I want to be part of a flourishing downtown Riverhead. That’s the goal. And I truly believe that it’s happening right now, so I’m pumped up.”
The Greenport native-turned-Riverhead-based father of three is no stranger to the industry. He established himself with a bakery in his hometown in the late 2000s before transforming the space into Lucharitos in 2012. The now-popular Tex-Mex franchise currently has locations in Greenport, Center Moriches, Melville, and Mattituck.
For roughly nine months, he ran LuchaCubana in the now-Burgercade property, where Riverhead Grill previously sat for more than 80 years.
But the Cuban cuisine restaurant didn’t take off, he said.
So LaMaina pivoted, determined to be part of, and contribute, to downtown Riverhead’s comeback.
“Downtown Riverhead just needs to be softened up,” he said. “We know that people come here to go to the aquarium, so what we need to do as a town and a business district is pull them from the aquarium to enjoy the entire Main Street. So this is a safe, fun, family-friendly restaurant and experience.”
LaMaina said he looked to All American Hamburger Drive In in Massapequa as a template for this kind of eating and aimed to “keep our prices super low.”
“I knew I wanted to do classic Americana,” he said. ‘That was kind of missing on the dinner side of things here. A lot of people come in for the mystique of, ‘What’s a $4.90 hamburger taste like?’ It’s good! It’s a 100% brisket burger.”
For new customers, he recommends the double patty cheeseburger with pepperjack and bacon.
“I was also like, ‘How are the moms and dads with kids gonna wanna come to eat here for just a
hamburger if they could just stop at McDonald’s? Let’s throw something in that mom and dad might appreciate too. Like a nostalgic video game.’”
In doing research into potential games, LaMaina, 42 — who grew up playing Atari Lynx, Sega Genesis, Nintendo, and SNES — he found Pinballs.com, a national distributor of arcade machines based in Connecticut.
“This 75-year-old guy’s been doing this since he was 17. He’s got a 40,000-square-foot, two-story warehouse and he turned every game on for me, my wife, and my kids. It was amazing.”
LaMaina said he plans on keeping the games fresh every six months, and already has some classic cabinets lined up for the future, including “X-Men” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
It’s 50 cents for most of the games and a dollar for the crane game and “Nickelodeon Nitro.” For convenience, there’s a change machine for $1 or $5 bills at the ready for all patrons wanting to get their game on.
When he’s not busy with customers, taking care of managerial tasks, handling paperwork, and giving the machines a once-over, LaMaina might be seen dominating the court in NBA Jam.
“Shooting three-pointers with Dikembe Mutombo is just mind-blowing. I remember doing that so long ago!” he laughed.