Montreal Opens Its First-Ever "Arcade Bar" On Saint-Laurent Street
Say hello to North Star
Despite being the nightlife hub of the Plateau, and arguably all of Montreal, Saint-Laurent Boulevard hardly screams "creative innovation."
Almost every nightlife establishment on The Main falls into the basic “bar/club" or "resto-bar” category, with most (if not all) lacking an interesting hook, other than booze and music.
North Star Machines à Piastres (or just North Star for short) is breaking that basic mould, integrating everything amazing about drinking at a bar, but with a somewhat classic twist: Pinball!
The first proper “bar arcade” to ever open in Montreal, North Star combines music, food, beer, cocktails, and retro-gaming fun all in one unique space, making it a welcome addition to The Main’s current lineup of nightlife venues.
Founded by Adam Kiesler (a pro pinball player), Marie-Lyne Tarabulsy, and Justin Evans, “people’s relations to cultural objects” is the founding concept of North Star, with the pinball machines of yore serving as the bar’s cultural core.
“North Star” itself is even a throwback to pinball history, as it borrows from Montreal’s only pinball company (North Star Coin Machine Company) in operation in the late 1940s-50s.
But the retro-realness of North Star doesn’t stop at the name.
All eight pinball machines set up in the venue (formerly Korova Bar RIP) will be vintage, hailing from the 40s to the 80s and refurbished with love by Montreal Pinball. More are on the way and will be subbed in as time goes on, ensuring you can play a different game every time you visit.
Only classic pinball machines will be housed in the bar (with various specific events scheduled), and the founders are heralding North Star as “the best place in the world to play these old machines.”
Price won’t be much an issue either. A game of five pinballs will cost you 1 piaster (the bar’s made up currency, pictured below) per play. A dollar gets you one piaster, with $10 getting you 12, and $20 for 25.
Complimenting the old-school vibe of the pinball setup is the bar’s trashy yet classy atmosphere, found in everything from the decor to North Star's drink menu, with categories appropriately titled “cheap” and “expensive sh*t.”
Broke folks will be able to drink and game on bottles of 50 and Rolling Rock, while those packing a bit more in their wallet can get the better stuff. Original cocktails created by sommelier Julie Richard will also grace the menu, all inspired by pinball culture and history.
Beef jerky, tea-pickled eggs, and other jazzed up pub grub round out North Star’s food offerings, crafted by Jeremiah Bullied of Sparrow and Scratch Kitchen fame. The food won’t be crazy expensive, but will be expertly prepared with high-quality ingredients, in line with the trash-with-class mandate of the bar.
Music will also be handled a bit differently at North Star. Instead of having a DJ, one regular series turntable will be constantly switched-up with tunes, and the bar’s curated jukebox, featuring a regularly-changing selection of tracks chosen by local musicians, will complete the audio-ambiance.
Adding an extra creative edge to the bar are several permanent art installations as well, all of which are entirely original and unseen elsewhere.
Look to the wall and you’ll see a supercut (created by Mark Loeser) of every single time pinball has been seen in film. Glance at the ceiling to notice the world’s slowest-moving disco ball, engineered specifically for the bar by artist Adam Bellevance.
Even the pinball machines are something of an art installation, as the mounted lightboxes in the bar were programmed by experimental Montreal visual artist James Schidlowsky.
Truly a collaborative effort, North Star is the kind of bar that offers something for everyone, and that’s just what the founders want. No matter your budget or interest (e.g. pinball VS heavy drinking) North Star wants to provide you with a good time, and I have no doubt it will.
So when can you get in on this pinball-tactic addition to Saint-Laurent Boulevard? Well, right now actually, as North Star already held its soft launch over New Year weekend, and is now open every day of the week, save Mondays.
There will be an official launch party for North Star on Saturday January 23, and will be entirely open to the public.
To get more details on the launch party, or anything else about the bar, head over to North Star’s official website and Facebook page.
*All photos courtesy of North Star