If I’m in the mood for beers downtown, Quality is usually one of the first places that comes to mind. The prices are great and the taps always changing. Another draw for people are the arcade games: two pinball machines and, my personal favorite, a cocktail table multi-cade that’s loaded with favorites like Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Galaga, Donkey Kong, and more. I’ve lost many a quarter to my obsessive need to win, but my shame is easily washed away with a few tasty brews. With this month’s Date Night, we did just that.
Wanting to blow off some steam after a long week, we called upon our friends to see if they wanted to join. Lucky for us, they were game (see what I did there?). We got there a bit early-ish, around 8 p.m., to make sure we could nab the pinball machines first.
My first drink of choice was New Holland Cabin Fever ($5), a brown ale from Michigan. The hubby ordered Big Thorn Pie ($5), a local spiced beer from Big Thorn Brewery Georgetown, IL. I really liked the brown ale — rich, dark brown, a nice head, medium-bodied, nutty, and a little chocolatey. I didn’t care for the Big Thorn Pie, but I knew it wouldn’t be my cup of tea. My husband liked it though, and described it as a bit sour and a bit sweet apple pie. Our friends went the PBR route. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
While the boys yelled at the pinball machines, my friend and I chatted by the bar. We peeked around the corner from time to time and we definitely saw my husband’s inner nerdy teen come out as he madly hit the flipper and start buttons to “get a secret bonus.” The bar itself is quite large/long with dart boards on the west end of the room and a door to their beer garden on the east. There are a good handful of high top tables in this area. More seating can be found in the main entrance which is separated from the bar area by a massive brick wall. The large, rough opening in the brick wall and exposed I-beam is certainly eye catching when you walk in. I like the rustic modern approach. The main seating area feels open and spacious with tall ceilings and a large expanse of windows looking onto Neil Street.
Soon it was our turn to try our hand at Pinball. The machines rotate out now and then and, currently, they have Star Wars and Family Guy. One dollar gets you one game, or you can do $5 for 7. The cool feature now is an app called ‘PayRange’ that allows you to pay as you go with your smart phone. We quickly lost track of our spending but I’d say we racked up about $10 so far.
Quality regularly posts tap specials on its Facebook page and the new tap for that night was 21st Amendment El Sully, Pale Lager ($4). This was my next drink of choice and I’d say it was just okay. It was light and crisp with a subtle fruity flavor, which normally turns me off, but it worked in this instance or at least on this particular night. The others did not care for this beer at all. My husband digs sour beers and wanted to try 5 Rabbit La Piña De Mis Ojos ($6). It’s clean, crisp and tart with a strong pineapple flavor (hence the name). It’s inspired by the Mexican beverage “tepache.”
Next we moved over to the aptly named cocktail arcade and dominated this machine the rest of the night. We really need one of these for our house, it’s so fun and nostalgic. This machine takes quarters only and you can choose one ($0.25) or two player ($0.50). We changed quite a few bills out for quarters at the bar as there are so many games to choose from on this machine! A lot of classics, but also quite a few I’ve never heard of. My favorites to play include: Frogger (Those damn diving turtles!), Burger Time (Salt them!), Galaga (That man is playing Galaga. Thought we wouldn’t notice, but we did), and Pac-Man (Keep calm and nom nom nom!).
I should note, Quality is a bar only (no food), but you can bring in or have your own food delivered. Pizzeria Antica is just next door and we’ve ordered loads of pizzas for a large group before. And if you time it right, some nights the food trucks are right outside across the street until 2 a.m (otherwise they are usually over on Main Street).
It was a great night imbibing and gaming with friends. I’d say we spent around $40- to $45 on beers and arcade games. For a fun night, that's a big win in my book!
Quality is located at 110 N Neil St, Champaign and open from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
All photos by Bobbie Bonebrake.