Opening a food and arcade games venue in the vein of Barcade doesn’t exactly instill confidence during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the owners of new Flushing establishment Playdate, at 135-29 Roosevelt Avenue, near Main Street, are forging ahead, betting that people will make a return when they are allowed to and it is safe to do so.
What’s more, Playdate is inspired by the night markets of Taiwan, and the owners are banking on its mix of street food like braised skewers paired with arcade games like claw machines filled with stuffed Gudetama, to make it stand out as a nightlife destination.
“People keep telling us that we’re crazy for opening during Covid, but we see so much potential,” says Pamela Lin, a Flushing resident and entrepreneur who opened the establishment along with eight of her friends.
For now, the restaurant will only focus on the food portion of the establishment, while arcade-game venues remain closed due to coronavirus safety guidelines issued by the state. Chinese skewers are the focus here with meats like duck wings, chicken feet and lobster balls ($2 to $3.50) and vegetables like cauliflower, tofu skin with enoki mushrooms, and lotus root ($1.75 to $3). Unlike most of the Chinese skewers spots in NYC, like Xinjiang BBQ cart in Flushing, and Le Sia in the East Village, skewers here are braised, not barbecued.
The meats and vegetables are braised in a soup — which features 13 different herbs and spices — created from a Lin family recipe, and served in seven ($16), 10 ($18.50), and 12-skewer ($21) combos. Fried chicken is another focus of the menu at Playdate. Chicken wings come with the option of being doused in three sauces: the original, which is slightly sweet, and resembles Korean fried chicken, a soy garlic creation, and a spicy sauce. They can be purchased as a three-wing combo ($6.95) or a larger plate of six wings and cajun fries ($10.95). A crispy chicken sandwich with fries and a drink rounds out the poultry-focused section.
Playdate is taking over the Flushing outpost of international bubble tea chain Mi Tea — which closed in July — and will continue to sell its beverages as part of the new establishment including bestsellers like the mixed fruit tea, strawberry green tea slush with cream cheese foam, and black tea brewed with cream cheese.
The dining portion of Playdate is located in front, though the restaurant is operating as takeout and delivery only for now, and co-owner Terry Sun says all the food is ideal for on-the-go dining. The arcade in the back will remain closed indefinitely until state guidelines allow for its reopening. Playdate is open Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.