Photo by Ryan Bradford

CHUCK E. CHEESE'S

Found in multiple locations around town, Chuck E. Cheese's is every kid's favorite place and, therefore, awful. But is it really that bad? In short: yes. This place is fucking terrible, but it's bad to the point where it transcends awful and almost becomes enjoyable. It's genuinely too gross for hipsters looking for an ironic foray, but if you're hosting a kid's birthday party, you can kind of pretend that you're in a lucid nightmare. And if that doesn't appeal to an adventurous spirit, I don't know what will.

The place smells like vomit was invented there—I'm sure if those walls could talk, they'd vomit. But hey, kids vomit. I know that. I also know they don't wash their hands, making this place a huge-ass petri dish. To the germaphobe, this place is hell.

To be fair, the pizza isn't that bad. The lunch buffet is only $6 (you don't know sadness until you're one of the first people at a deserted Chuck E. Cheese's lunch buffet). It also has beer, and you're going to need it.

To further hit home the purgatory aspect of this place, there's a seven-minute, looped video consistently counting down until the moment Chuck E. the mouse is going to emerge and dance with the kids. During my visit, Chuck E. phoned in a half-assed dance and then gave up halfway through the song.

Photo by Julia Evans

SHAKEY'S PIZZA PARLOR

Shakey's (555 Broadway, Chula Vista) is for Chuck E. Cheese kids who grew up and never stopped loving Chuck E. Cheese but court orders restrict them from being within 100 yards of a Chuck E. Cheese.

Sure, it's classier, but it's not like any discerning adult goes to an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet and arcade, and it's that diametric opposite of "let's be fun" and "let's be classy" that makes the Shakey's experience so weirdly intriguing. For this reason, it's a good thing it has a relatively decent beer selection. Plus, it offers chicken wings, mashed potatoes and pasta in the buffet line, and that's nothing to sneeze at (but given the sanitation situation at any buffet, I'm sure they've been sneezed at plenty).

The "Fun Stuff" room is dark and dank, and during my visit, many of the games were out of order. But the sweet oldies music playing over the speakers sounded like angels singing compared to the perpetual countdown of Chuck E.'s arrival.


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