Dave & Buster's

Sports Bar, Billiards Bar, College Scene
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Editorial Review

A video arcade with a cover charge? It's no joke. Dave & Buster's is like an adult version of Chuck E. Cheese: a place for playing, eating and -- er -- drinking with friends. Situated in a massive 60,000-square-foot space on (of all places) the top floor of the White Flint Mall on Rockville Pike, it houses an arcade called the Midway (named after the old carnival midways with their rides and games of skill), a restaurant, several bars and even a casino.

The arcade is definitely where the action is, with a ridiculous selection of traditional two-dimensional diversions: the brave new world of two-player virtual reality (VR) games, and even low-tech standbys such as Skee-ball and Whack-a-mole. The casino -- somewhat of a misnomer, since you can't win any real money or even prizes -- is jumping from its 5:30 p.m. opening through closing, with live dealers serving up blackjack to an apparently insatiable throng. There are also pool and shuffleboard tables scattered about the casino area.

As one of the newest of the few nightspots along the MD 355 corridor, Dave's disturbing mix of electronic entertainment and alcohol makes for large crowds and long lines, especially on the weekends. It's a place to play like a child, yet retain the adult vices of drinking and smoking (a lot of both go on as the only nonsmoking section is in the restaurant area). And parents should know they need to accompany their children at all times.

On the downside, you can burn through a lot of cash without realizing it, as the games take ATM-like Powercards that you load up with as much as $20 in credits at a time, and deplete at about $1 per video game (or $3-$4 per VR game). The machines give you an incentive to spend since you get more credits for bulk charges. Add in a couple of rounds of $3 to $4 beers from the extensive bottle and tap selections and a vicious circle can ensue and ruin your pocketbook -- there aren't any happy hours or discounts to mitigate that either.

-- Michael Tedeschi