The Daily Gamecock

Eat, drink, play at Transmission Arcade

A customer orders from the bar in Transmission Arcade. The arcade is full of retro-themed games and artwork.
A customer orders from the bar in Transmission Arcade. The arcade is full of retro-themed games and artwork.

Ice Cold Beer is both a refreshing drink and one of the favorite arcade games of the owners of Transmission Arcade. Why not enjoy them both at once?

While video games might keep you at home, Transmission Arcade allows you to eat, play and visit immersed in the aesthetic of the golden age of entertainment.

When the sentimentality of standing at a flashing cabinet and the bar atmosphere mix, co-owner and game manager Josh Rainwater said, something special happens.

“We see a lot of — I mean, smiles, obviously. But there's also a smile that's associated with the nostalgia of the games,” Rainwater said. “That also kind of gets accompanied with the joy of realizing you're an adult that can order alcohol, too, at the same time.” 

He said part of the appeal is using the controller that is unique to the game, and there are over two dozen to pick from.

Rainwater and his family took on most of the design aspect, bringing individuality to this arcade with the hand-painted mural to the left when customers walk in. It's "Columbia meets Super Mario World," co-owner and bar manager Cam Powell said.

Powell said the fun environment Transmission brings is something he felt Columbia and its gaming community deserved.

Collectively, they decided to avoid the dark dungeon feel of many traditional arcade rooms. The game floor is separate from the dining and bar area, yet the place comes together with the "retro-futurism" that fills the room.

The looking glass into what people in the ’60s and ’70s thought the 2000s might be like partially inspired the name Transmission.

At the bar, such a transmission of time is shown through a big screen and 13-inch CRT monitor side-by-side, allowing gameplay through a Gamecube or Super Nintendo.

The bar has high-quality beer and cocktails to choose from, Powell said, and "emphasis is on local craft beer." They also offer mocktails for kids to enjoy.

Trusting the chef or bartender is important in branching out to see what your taste buds can appreciate, such as their version of a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich, fried mac bites or smoked wings.

Made in-house by the business partners behind local food favorite Smokey Loggins catering, co-owner and kitchen manager Joe Thacker said the food just keeps getting "better and better and better." His personal favorite menu item is the smoked tikka masala.

Coming together over a love for food, pinball and beer, the co-owners said they love working together and are proud of their inclusive space.

“I honestly believe the best part about this is getting to know [Rainwater and Powell] better,” Thacker said. “They're both just outstandingly great guys.”

Rainwater and Powell, both Carolina alumni, combined efforts to connect with others through cool concepts. Powell, a co-founder of Columbia Brew Bus, brings his love for beer culture to the arcade with Rainwater's fascination for gaming. Welcoming the Smokey Loggins team to the kitchen completed this quartet: Transmission might be incomplete if the bar wasn't filled with the smells of its award-winning smoked chicken.

“Bringing something that was kind of a new entertainment option for people in Columbia and having it be some things that we were already passionate about was what our goal was, ultimately,” Powell said.

After a soft opening in March, the Transmission team faced COVID-19 regulations in the city. It improvised by offering limited-size private parties and renting out game consoles. The opening to the public and introduction of game tokens is now here.

Transmission Arcade, located at 1712 Main St., is open to the public Wednesday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. The space can be rented out for private parties over the weekend, and it has carryout and delivery options Wednesday through Sunday.


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