For years, the Stahr Armory was used as a functioning army base for a medical unit of the Pennsylvania National Guard.
Now, you can play "Centipede" there while drinking a fancy cocktail.
After nearly a full year of anticipation, Decades, the hybrid bowling alley/arcade/elaborate food and drink hotspot, opened on March 13. I'd personally been counting the days as a huge arcade fan. Since Arcade Lancaster's rapid rise and fall, I've been relegated to traveling to Ephrata's Complete in Box to play on the small number of cabinets there. After waiting two weeks for some of the hype to subside, my partner and I strolled to Queen Street to get the full Decades experience.
The outside of the building still has the cheery and not-at-all-ominous look of an army base, but that changes immediately upon stepping inside. The cavernous walls and lighting fixtures are welcoming, as is the staff that greets and shepherds you toward an open bowling lane. The website of Decades uses the description "boutique bowling alley," and that is certainly appropriate wording. There are six lanes, and it is $36 for an hour of bowling, with an additional $3 for shoes and $1 for socks if you somehow arrive without wearing any. For a large group, that works out to a cheap, long game. However, for a date, that option might be too pricey. My date and I were able to squeeze in almost exactly three games, though the last ten minutes were spent anxiously watching the clock tick down as we hastily threw gutter balls.
Each set of two lanes features a very attentive server to fetch drinks and food directly to you. There's an extra amount of satisfaction that occurs when you roll a strike - okay, a spare - and upon turning around for a victory celebration, see a cold beer already waiting for you. The chandeliers and overall cleanliness of the armory creates an upscale feeling that would be difficult to find in another bowling alley. The drink menu features a revolving list of 24 draft beers, a variety of wines and a good dozen cocktails. Throughout the evening, my date and I tried a few of the mixed drinks. We loved the Ryu, an intense whiskey concoction named for the "Street Fighter" character, and the passion fruit caipirinha, which came adorned with hefty pieces of tropical fruit.
Though our server asked if we wanted any food while we bowled, my partner and I decided to use our hour wisely by sticking squarely to bowling - and drinking - until the final seconds were up. From there, we made our way to the surprisingly ornate dining area. Seriously, think of any bowling alley you've ever been to and remember what you ate and where you ate it. Not exactly a Michelin-star experience, right? It can almost be guaranteed that the restaurant area of Decades is the most upscale eatery I've ever been to moments removed from wearing bowling shoes.
My date and I each got a variation of the delicious Decades Burger, though our next visits will be dedicated to trying the fried chili shrimp and brisket flatbread. Perhaps it was the drinks or the feeling of no longer being on a strict time clock, but before long, our server apologetically gifted us a crab pretzel bowl for the "wait," which didn't feel particularly long. Shrugging to one another, we feasted on crab before our burgers arrived three minutes later. Despite my date mentioning her dietary aversion to dairy, her burger initially came out with cheese, as did the crab bowl, so be sure to double-check before you take your first bite.
Finally, it was time to check out the arcade.There are nearly two dozen arcade cabinets in the gaming area, with an additional Skee-ball and arcade basketball setup. Perhaps purposefully on the opposite end of the pricing scale from the marquee bowling and drinks, tokens for each game are only a quarter each. The games include from stone classics such as "Super Mario Bros." and "Cruisin' U.S.A." I was also pleasantly surprised to also see a Nintendo 64, complete with "Goldeneye" and other cartridge classics available to play. I can say truthfully that it was my first time playing "Street Fighter II" near a regal chandelier.
By the time we departed, my partner and I had somehow spent four hours inside Decades. We'll certainly be back for food and games, but we might wait for a larger group of friends to return expressly for bowling. Though its still in its infancy, Decades is appreciated just for giving downtown Lancastrians multiple layers of fun in walking distance.