A Night at uWink
The founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese glances over at us, somewhat incredulously.
“Nolan, c’mere, c’mere!” We are so excitedâ€¦not ten minutes earlier, we were interrogating our “runner” about Nolan Bushnell: How often is he in? Is he coming in tonight? Is he cool?
And there he is. He smiles broadly and walks over to the table. We all start stammering and gushing, I grab him and ask him if he’d kindly pose for a picture with me. He agrees, even sits with us for a while and talks about his newest venture, uWink.
uWink is a self described “Media Bar”, the first of a grand global project. Tables are equipped with touch screen monitors for ordering up drinks, food and games. Nolan Bushnell hopes to network all the franchises once they are established, enabling the customer to play against customers on the other side of the globe.
Tonight, uWink is still in something of a beta phase. We are disappointed that our party of ten must be split into two separate tables and that the touch screens are not yet networked. The touch screens themselves are fun; the customer scrolls through menu options, selects (and modifies when necessary) desired items, swipes a card speed-pass style and waits for food to arrive via a â€˜food runner’.
I have no trouble finding modifiers for any item– my Beefeater martini, up with a twist, is my test for the system. Someone complains that there isn’t an option to put “sauce on the side”, only “extra sauce” and “no sauce”. Someone else can’t figure out how to an extra sidecar shot to his margarita. The menu attempts to be crowd-pleasing and aims to ultimately define the menu at the eventual franchises, not unlike California Pizza Kitchen and Wolfgang Puck Express. The “Build Your Own Burger” seems to be the favorite at our tables.
The games are still a work in progress, but we have fun with them just the same. We stuck to word games and trivia and had a great time. The games are intended to engage the table, but presently only hold scores for one player. uWink intends to have many more games in the near future, including Texas Hold’Em and Pictionary.
Nolan Bushnell is a gracious host and checks in on us from time to time. The â€˜father of video games’ even flatters us by sending over drinks, offering a job to the lone programmer of the bunch and, my favorite, playing a round of group Pong with us. The entire table leaves uWink elated and anxious to see what’s in store for this ambitious chain. Mr. Bushnell has won our hearts repeatedly throughout our lives, we are certain this time won’t be any different.
6100 Topanga Canyon Blvd
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Possibly the greatest photo of Nolan ever taken: [ here ]