The smell is unmistakable: greasy, smoky pork pulling you by the nose into the front door Camel City BBQ Factory, but you’re on a mission. Follow the signs for the bar up the external stairway. The table service portion of the restaurant is here, too, and if you want to avoid the demon children running around, screaming and speaking strings of English like a scene from The Wicker Man, then it’s best to come after their bedtime.
That should be no problem, considering the Winston-Salem “barcade” — bar and arcade — doesn’t close before midnight during the week.
The bar draws a fair number of late-night customers. On a recent Friday, nearly all the seats were taken, with more patrons standing behind. Still, it was easy to get the bartender’s attention and start a tab.
Camel City BBQ Factory is likely not on a beer nerd’s short-list. The offerings, even those on tap, are pretty mainstream, and many are owned by Big Beer: Devils Backbone, Lagunitas, Blue Moon and others. The Ballast Point Mocha Marlin Porter, another product of Big Beer, had a solid coffee flavor and made for a perfect second drink of the night.
Asterisks on the draft list denote North Carolina craft beers. These, too, are fairly typical, like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Red Oak Amber Lager. The Appalachian Mountain Long Leaf IPA and New Belgium Rampant looked interesting; unfortunately, both kegs were empty when I returned on Sunday. The Deep River Pumpkin Pie Porter was decent, and one I haven’t seen elsewhere. Wines unsurprisingly fall in the middle of the road, Cupcake Vineyards and the like.
Daily specials trend toward the bottom of the barrel, most with “lite/light” and “ultra” in the names. But all drafts are $5 when not on special, which is hard to beat.
Camel City BBQ Factory is best for liquor fans, who can find great spirits like Larceny bourbon or local products such as Sutler’s gin and Broad Branch whiskey. It also suits those who aren’t as concerned with what they’re drinking, as long as it has alcohol and the setting is right.
The bigger draw, aside from the food, is the arcade, located up a short flight of stairs from the bar. Adults flock to the darts, pool, air hockey and skeeball. Old-school electronic ’80s games are plentiful: Donkey Kong, Asteroids, Pac Man, Centipede. Pinball machines boast TV and movie themes like Ghostbusters, Starship Troopers and “Game of Thrones.” For those with no cash on hand — or when the change machine is broken, as it was on Sunday — giant Jenga and Connect 4 are good options, and they’re out of the way enough to give introverts some breathing room.
Reboot, a full-service bar and arcade, is slated to open mid-February on Liberty Street in downtown Winston-Salem, just down the street from Camel City BBQ Factory, according to recent news reports. It’s a move that will hopefully push the local forerunner to offer a better craft beer selection and ensure their games and other machines, including the Atari Flashbacks in the table service area, are in working order.
Even so, Reboot may find it hard to beat a place that offers a barcade with such delicious food, where the pulled pork and mac & cheese are among my favorites.