“Wedgehead” refers to a pinball machine design that first appeared in 1960 featuring a distinctive wedge-shaped backhead, meaning it was wider on top than the bottom. Although the wedgehead didn’t change the game in any fundamental way, these classic models are now collector’s items to those in the know. But, you can catch a glimpse—and actually play on some of these classic machines—at Wedgehead, a pinball-only barcade located on the corner of NE 37th and Sandy Blvd in Portland.
The name of the bar is an homage to the pinball machines inside, and the building they’re housed in also happens to be wedge-shaped since it sits on a weird, triangular corner in the mess of streets that make up the Hollywood District. (Side note: I was also curious where the “pin” of pinball comes from, and this dates back to the 1930s when the game was first invented. Instead of having the mechanical flipper arms to shoot the ball back into play, it originally just rolled down the playfield bouncing off several set nails (pins). The More You Know™!”
At its core, Wedgehead is a retro pinball parlor, but it offers more to its growing customer base than your typical arcade. As you’d expect from a hip Portland bar, it’s very cool inside, bedecked with colorful, kaleidoscopic murals that pull from pop culture, gaming, and betray an obsession with Kurt Russel. The owners of Wedgehead have over 150(!) pinball machines, though only 25 of them are on the floor at any one time. The others are regularly rotated through so you’re always gonna get to play something new, even if you’re a regular. They even keep a running list online of what’s currently on the floor.
The games are all “free” to play with a one-time entry fee of $12 that gets you a wristband to play as long as you want—even if you leave and come back later that day. Minors are also allowed but only until 6:00pm per OLCC rules, making this a great place to bring older kids during the day. It’s also a fun spot to meet up with friends or go out on a date (you’ll have something to keep you occupied if the conversation gets stale).
Wedgehead stands out from the crowd by the variety of machines they have and their awesome food and drinks. The menu is somewhat predictable, but don’t conflate what they offer with standard bar fare. Everything here is done at the highest level (like they make their own chicken nuggets from scratch—who does that!) and includes burgers, chicken or veggie sandwiches, nachos, even arepas and churros! They also have jello shots, beer, wine, and inventive craft cocktails done by Little Hands.
Another endearing quality of Wedgehead is they seem truly committed to fostering a sense of community. They have a Wedgehead Reward program (where you can earn your own fancy card) that gets you extra perks and discounts on games, food and drinks. Plus, every Thursday night they host an event called “Howdy Pardner” which is an informal competition where you’re put on a mixed-skill level team of three to four people and compete in a fun, inclusive environment.
You can book events here like birthdays, work parties, celebrations, even weddings! Parking can suck, but that’s always been true in this neighborhood. There’s no parking lot so your best bet is to find street parking which means you’ll likely be walking a few blocks to get there. A small price to pay for the fun you’re about to have.
Hours: (21 and over after 6:00pm)
- Monday – Thursday, 4:00pm – 11:00pm
- Friday, 4:00pm – Midnight
- Saturday, 12:00pm – Midnight
- Sunday, 12:0pm – 10:00pm
Address: 3728 NE Sandy Boulevard, Portland