I am the kind of sports fan truly dedicated sports fans hate. I loosely support a handful of teams based on various states and cities I have lived in. When a team I kind of like has a bad season, I barely notice. When the same team is having a great year and makes the playoffs, I turn into a super fan. I love a good bandwagon, and the party that comes with it.
This year for Super Bowl XLIX, I wasn’t loving either the Patriots or the Seahawks. But I do love quality bar food and a lengthy micro beer list- not to mention entertaining commercials and a flashy half-time show. So Luke and I called a cab two hours before the big game started, and staked a claim to one of four booths in the bar area of our favorite sports bar in Henderson, Hi-Score Bar Arcade.
There aren’t many restaurants, let alone bars, with truly unique concepts. But Hi-Score really is unlike any place I have ever been. The building itself is bright green- a leftover decorating choice made by the Caribbean restaurant that was its predecessor. When you walk through the giant aluminum door, the initial experience is a bit confusing. Take a left, and you will find yourself in a fairly standard bar area that clearly supports the San Francisco 49ers. Take a right, and you are met with more options. In addition to booths and tables, Hi-Score also offers its guests old school arcade games as well as X-box and play station consoles and beer pong tables. Walk outside to check out the patio, and you can play golf and bowling themed games. The entire space is connected, but also has nooks and crannies, and separate spaces to hang out in, drink, eat, gamble, or game, depending on your personal tastes. Basically if you asked a college kid what their dream bar would look like, Hi-Score would be it.
But since I stopped paying attention to video games somewhere around the time Sonic the Hedgehog was cool, the gaming part isn’t really what brings me back over and over again. I love the character of the bar, but the real seller for me is the food. I remember the first time Luke and I stopped into the bar. We had been watching the construction and the Coming Soon sign all summer. Hi-Score is located off of Stephanie near the 215 freeway ramp, so we were constantly driving by. Once it was finally open, we wanted to check it out right away- mostly because the last restaurant in its place had only been opened a few months before closing, and we didn’t want to miss our shot.
Rarely do I expect a whole lot out of bar food. The strategy of most bars that also serve food, is to offer the type of comfort food drunk people crave. Wings, pizza, french fries, and burgers. The food quality isn’t always a priority because people are there to drink first, then eat- and let’s be honest, drunk people will eat almost anything. So when Luke and I first dropped by, we didn’t really have high expectations.
But holy crap, this food is good. Really good. And they make everything in-house, including all of their own buns, bread, and tortilla chips.
The menu has expanded a couple of times since they first opened, and even though we keep trying new things, we have never had a bad meal. They have everything from pork tacos, to wings, to braised short ribs. The menu satisfies the drunk who needs to soak up the alcohol with something carb and starch heavy, but could equally serve as a fun place to have a casual dinner. The entire space is even open 24-hours a day and has a small breakfast selection that may be ordered at any time.
We actually discovered Hi-Score as a kick ass place to watch football by mistake. We had been in there a handful of times for lunch, but at off hours when the place wasn’t very busy. Until one Sunday, we were out running errands and realized we were both starving late into the afternoon. When we walked in, Luke (who is not a bandwagon sports fan, but a die hard Bears fan, and lifelong football follower) was immediately pumped to realize that football was on and it was a game he really wanted to see. We also realized that a variety of sports jerseys were being raffled off, and a guy at the front of the bar was loosely announcing the big plays of the game while ringing a cow bell. The atmosphere was fun, and the other patrons were clearly having a good time. We were hooked.
So Super Bowl Sunday, in all of our paranoia, we arrived to Hi-Score two hours early, and made a mad dash to claim the only booth in the bar still available. Apparently everyone else had the same idea, because it was a nice level of busy when we got there, but never tipped over into that uncomfortably packed crowd that is typical of most bars on Super Bowl Sunday. Hi-Score is more of a regulars place; most of the people at the bar seem to be familiar with one another. I have always dreamed of one day being a “regular” at a bar, but have never known how to achieve that status. I was really excited when the waitresses started to recognize us, and the guy manning the cow bell gave us high fives on our way in.
Since we were going to be there awhile, we decided we needed to pace ourselves. We ordered loaded Nachos to split between the two of us- again, they make their own tortilla chips. It is epic. Also, they have two different types of cheese sauce that actually taste like cheese, and are infinitely better than that synthetic, weird, cheese sauce that comes in a giant barrel and is the staple of all movie theater nachos.
Luke is more of a light beer type of guy and always orders Michelob Ultras. I, on the other hand, can’t pass up a fancy beer. I still remember what it was like to drink cheap, barely consumable beer in college (Milwaukee’s Best was University of Dayton’s college student beer of choice). Today, when selecting a drink a little voice in my head gets really excited and says “You will order something good, because you are not in college anymore and you can afford to pay $5 for a beer if you want to!” So I randomly select drinks off of the beer list written in chalk based on what names sound interesting. Cherry Wheat, Alaskan White, Kona Big Wave…I order something different each time, because I freaking can. Why would I stick to drinking one beer all night, when there are so many options?
We killed two hours eating our nachos and watching the pre-game interviews. It was announced that once the game started, you would be given a raffle ticket every time you ordered food from the kitchen or a drink from the bar. Rewards for being gluttinous during the Super Bowl? Yes, please.
The Stromboli was amazing, and I loved the house made marinara sauce that came with it.
When it comes to pizza in a bar/restaurant in Henderson, my favorite is still Sauce. Pizza is what they do. But Hi-Score still does a good job, with a crispy, thin crust, and an ooey gooey cheese blend.
Several puppy commercials and some football later, it was time to order dessert. Hi-Score only has three desserts on the menu, and two of them I had had on several occasions. I decided not to order my favorite (the flourless chocolate cake) in order to try the one I hadn’t had yet-a white cake cupcake. I expecting a normal sized cupcake, with maybe some frosting. What actually arrived, was a cross between a sponge cake and a cup cake, shaped like a doughnut, with a mound of whipped cream on top. And served with chocolate ice cream for good measure.
I’m still partial to the flourless chocolate cake, but as far as cupcakes served in a bar go, this one was pretty extravagant.
Luke ordered his favorite dessert, the chocolate mudpie (otherwise known as ice cream cake).
After the last intense few moments of the game, we paid our check, and hopped into the cab that our waitress had kindly called for us. During the ride home we contemplated all of the fun times we have had at Hi-Score and how we will miss it. We will be moving to Napa Valley (!) in April, and hence, have been on a goodbye tour of all of our favorite Las Vegas spots.
I have to say, Hi-Score is probably one of my favorite sports bars of all time. It is unique, has character, the staff makes a point of remembering the regulars, and the food cannot be beat. I will truly miss it, and hope to come back to visit after we have moved away.