[DISCLOSURE: As of the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with nor have been sponsored or hired by Crabtowne or any other companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me regarding these companies is my objective advice. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]
[EXTRA DISCLOSURE: I wrote almost all of this entry while listening to the Street Fighter II and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles original arcade soundtracks, because what else would I listen to while writing an article like this?]
As promised, we’re going to go off the beaten path with our second #FrugalCongressTourism entry for Baltimore this month in anticipation of the Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress next weekend. This entry is for all the dancers who like seafood, video games, vintage video arcades, or some combination of all three.
We kept it in downtown Baltimore pretty close to the BSBC hotel for the first part of this informal series, but for part two, we’re going to go about 20 minutes south of the downtown Baltimore area to the working-class suburb of Glen Burnie, MD to visit Crabtowne, a small independently owned seafood joint located just off a busy stretch of Crain Highway.
“A seafood restaurant?” you ask me, “That’s tourism? How is this place different from any other seafood restaurant in America?”
How about the most comprehensive fully operational old-school video game arcade anywhere in the immediate vicinity, for starters?
For my younger readers who don’t remember the 1980s/1990s heyday of video arcades, I’ll drop a brief history lesson. Video arcades were rooms full of large vertical stand-alone coin-operated video game cabinets (pictures in the link) featuring one video game per cabinet that you could play for anywhere from one to four quarters per round. Yes, only one game per cabinet, generally (a rare few were two-in-one). Yes, the cabinets were really that big. Yes, quarters only. No, I don’t know how we survived back then either.
Video arcades began to gather steam in the late 1970s and flourished throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, long before smartphones and today’s generation of high-definition home video game consoles. Back then, coin-operated arcade cabinets provided a superior audio and visual experience to the home consoles of the time, although scaled-down home console ports of arcade classics such as Street Fighter II, Donkey Kong, Mortal Kombat, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Space Invaders did enjoy success. Another advantage of video arcades at the time was public availability and a pay-per-individual-game-played pricing model for anyone who didn’t own home video game consoles for whatever reason.
In addition to dedicated video arcades, sometimes bars, restaurants, laundromats, bowling alleys, and other similar establishments would feature video arcade cabinets in order to keep the kids busy or pull in some extra revenue, and amusement parks such as Wild World (now Six Flags America) maintained video arcades.
Video arcades and coin-operated video arcade machines began a slow decline in popularity around the early 2000s as home video game console technology began to catch up with video arcades and are today mostly a niche nostalgia experience for those of us who remember their heyday or younger folks who want to see what it was all about back then, although of course a few non-nostalgia-oriented establishments still own and maintain arcade machines.
Various spots around the US such as the Barcade chain in the northeastern US, and, to a lesser extent, the Dave & Busters chain in the US serve this nostalgic niche, and then there’s Crabtowne in Baltimore.
CITY: Glen Burnie, MD (near Baltimore)
1500 Crain Hwy S
Glen Burnie, Maryland 21061
COST: Varies – food items are around $8-15, arcade machines are 25 cents per play generally
HOURS: 11am-11pm Monday-Saturday, 11am-10pm Sunday, kitchen closes an hour before the restaurant
MINIMUM TIME NEEDED TO SEE: Varies depending on how you get there and how engrossed in the games you get
TRAVEL TIMES (ONE WAY)
FROM BALTIMORE SALSA BACHATA CONGRESS: About 17-20 minutes by car, UBER, or Lyft, about an hour and a half by light rail/bus combo
FROM BWI AIRPORT: About 10-12 minutes by car/UBER/Lyft, about an hour and a half by light rail/bus combo
TRANSIT DIRECTIONS FROM HILTON BALTIMORE: Walk a block east on Pratt Street to Pratt Street Light Rail Stat, take Light Rail – Bwi Airport | Cromwell Station to Patapsco & Light Rail Stat, walk to Patapsco Light Rail Station Bay 3 – 14091, take the 70 bus toward Annapolis to Crain Hwy & Oak Manor Dr, Crabtowne is the blue building with the Crabtowne sign out front visible from the bus stop
TRANSIT DIRECTIONS FROM BWI: Walk to light rail stop, take Light Rail – Hunt Valley to Linthicum Lt Rail, change platforms to Light Rail Cromwell Station, take Light Rail – Cromwell Station to Cromwell Station & Glen Burnie, walk to Cromwell Light Rail Station Bay 2 – 14138, take the 69 bus toward Jumpers Hole to Crain Hwy & Main Ave SB and walk about 15 minutes south on Crain Hwy to Crabtowne
Baltimore and all its surrounding suburbs including Glen Burnie are supported by Citymapper as part of their combined DC/Baltimore package. Unfortunately, neither Via, UberPOOL, or Shared Lyft are available in the Baltimore area at press time — it’s either UberX or regular Lyft (which can of course be split between multiple festival attendees) if you’re going the rideshare route.
A very normal un-fussy cafeteria-style seafood restaurant is located at the front of this unassuming blue building. However, once you enter the back room located just to the right of the service counter, you will be whisked away to yesteryear as you are greeted by a large room full of old-school video arcade machines and pinball machines (lovingly maintained in perfect condition by a local company called Game Time specializing in vintage arcade machine maintenance), and your ears fill with the familiar cacophony of several arcade machines all playing their respective in-game sounds at once. Well, familiar to anyone who remembers video arcades, anyway.
“Wait… pinball machines?” – youngins
Remember that pinball game on Windows that some of you used to play when you were bored and the Internet was down? Think real-life mechanical non-computer version of that. First appearing as early as the 1940s and popular during the 1960s and 1970s, pinball machines were the mechanical analog precursor to the video arcade machine, and were often themed around a band, movie, or similar concept.
Make sure you bring quarters in abundance, because just like old times, these games run on QUARTERS. If you did not bring enough quarters and need more, Crabtowne has plenty of change machines in good working condition.
The selection of games in the arcade spanning the full glory days of video arcades from 1977-2000 or thereabouts includes, but is not limited to: Arkanoid, Asteroids*, Blitz 99, Centipede*, Donkey Kong, Final Fight, Galaga*, Klax, Mario Bros., Mortal Kombat 1/2/Ultimate, Ms. Pacman, Pacman, Street Fighter II (Champion Edition, the first of approximately 18,000 different remakes of SF2), Pole Position, Q-Bert, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Terminator 2, Tetris, The Simpsons, and Tron.
For the starred games, Crabtowne owns and maintains two separate cabinets located in both the arcade and the restaurant.
Another very notable machine found in Crabtowne’s arcade is Vs. Super Mario Bros., a special arcade port of Nintendo’s revolutionary 1985 NES platforming classic Super Mario Bros. and a rare example of a game originating on home consoles later ported to the arcade (the Vs. Super Mario Bros port was released to arcades in 1986, a year after the NES original). This cabinet is rare and Crabtowne is one of the few places where you can find it.
The selection of pinball machines includes, but is not limited to: Baby Pac Man, Chicago, Cyclone, Dirty Harry, Ghostbusters, KISS (both the 1979 and 2006 editions!), Playboy, Terminator 3, The Addams Family, Strikes And Spaces, Twilight Zone, Twister, and World Cup Soccer.
The full list of arcade and pinball machines can, of course, be found on Crabtowne’s website.
Of course, this IS still a restaurant as well, and the food menu offers excellent seafood, pizza, sandwiches, and other such items at very reasonable prices. Although anyone here for the weekend will obviously miss the weekly specials, the value meals offer an entree, a side, and a can of soda for the low price of $8.99 between 10am and 4pm. The bar offers very competitive prices for beer and wine as well as such signature drinks as the Ms. Pacman and the Crabtowne Cosmo and seasonal drinks such as the Apple Cider Margarita and the Peach Sangria.
Crabtowne also hosts special night events during the week.
Expect to dedicate a few hours to fully enjoying this attraction, and for time reasons driving or splitting an UBER/Lyft there is the recommended way to get there. The evening downtime between workshops and performances on any day of the festival would be the perfect time to check this place out (unless you are going for the value meals of course). Due to Crabtowne’s relative proximity to BWI, it would be good to check out for those leaving the festival on Monday afternoon or evening with some time to kill before their flight leaves. Just don’t get so caught up in playing the games that your flight leaves without you.
Crabtowne is fairly out-of-the-way from BSBC’s downtown Baltimore location, but it is still a good off-the-beaten-path fairly inexpensive attraction that is worth checking out, especially for seafood lovers and old-school video-arcade aficionados alike. In fact, I’m about due to pay them another visit…
As always, hit the comments if you have anything else to add and I hope this helped someone!