On a hot late July day last year my family and I drove down to Schaumburg, Illinois to visit one very specific place, Level 257. I had come across the barcade in late 2014 before it even opened, and had followed its progress on social media up until it did. So when it came time to plan activities for my sons birthday last year, he had no hesitations on picking the barcade as the place he wanted to go the most.

A row of classic machines, next to one of the two bowling alleys located at Level 257

The trip went well overall, and we as a family were impressed. The food was good, the adult beverages even better, and the ambiance was that of pure fun. As an adult I flash backed to my 6th birthday party at Showtime Pizza in Arlington Heights, IL and that feeling of “to hell with the food, lets just get to the games”, but of course you have to set a good example and prioritize your visit, that means lunch first kids. Of course being midday on a weekday during the summer, the restaurant and arcade was pretty much empty and the bowling alleys where going unused. This gave us free run of the place, and allowed us to explore.

My wife an I got the feeling that as adults, it would be a cool place to hang out with friends and have drinks while leaving the kids at home. Lots of cool lounge areas, plenty of social gaming opportunities including bowling and cocktail table arcade machines, and of course a great wine, beer, and mixed drink list. Of course it’s no surprise that although kid friendly, the restaurant has held some adult oriented parties for New Years Eve, and Mardi Gras.

Now, if you don’t know about Level 257 let me tell you about it. First of all Level 257 is a Pac-Man themed barcade located in Schaumburg’s famous Woodfield Mall. Whats even more interesting about the place is that it’s owned by Namco itself. According to some of the wait staff, at this point it’s the only Namco restaurant of its kind, and is 100% owned and operated by Namco, meaning this isn’t a licensing deal. Although Namco does operate similar restaurants around the world they go under the Funscape name, and not Level 257.  As far as the name Level 257 that too is Pac-Man oriented. In Pac-man the highest level you can achieve is that of level 255, but beyond that there is a level 256 which is nearly unplayable due to bugs, although some have tried. The moniker Level 257, obviously derives from that being a level beyond 256.

The restaurant features a “Level 256” arcade cabinet, which allows players to immediately experience Pac-Mans level 256 but this time without the bugs.

My family and I returned to the restaurant for my eldest sons spring break, in between visiting Legoland, and going to the mall. Unlike the first time though the restaurant was very crowded and service a bit slow. On top of that some games like the Star Wars: Battle Pod arcade machine, were overrun with kids who weren’t exactly up on sharing and proper arcade etiquette. The visit was still pretty fun though, but I did miss our more quiet visit in July.

If you haven’t checked out Level 257, make sure you do if your in the Chicago area, but let me also give you some info you may want to know before you visit.

-Level 257 is in the mall, but not IN THE MALL.
You can’t access the restaurant from inside the mall itself. It actually has its own entrance near the Sears women’s apparel entrance. The separate entrance may seem inconvenient, but it actually keeps a lot of the mall crowds and mall noise out so you don’t get that Rainforest Cafe feel. The restaurants entrance shares the same awning as that of Sears, so you do have some cover moving between the store/mall and Level 257 during bad weather.
-Not mall food
Level 257’s food is a higher quality then what you will find in the mall. But of course fine dining is always a bit pricier. You will get some great food, and good proportions, but be prepared to pay more. Also, as is the case in most restaurants, the mixed drinks are definitely going to raise your bill.
-Gaming by the minute
No need to bring singles or roles of quarters, the games are played with rechargeable cards. There are kiosks located throughout the gaming area that allow you to purchase cards and add time to them via debit/credit card or cash. I do wish there was a flat sum free play option though, or at least bonus time for dining there. But the time option does work well with kids since it allows you to limit time spent gaming, especially if you want to get back to the mall, or have to get back to O’Hare to catch a flight.

Overall, I think you will find it a pleasant experience, and you will be happy you visited.