As a longtime whisper on the breath of many Corvallisites, I’ve been keeping tabs on The Dam almost every step of the way. From something resembling a dungeon to easily the most clever and colorful hangout spot in town (no joke), I expected my first step into an officially open “The Dam” to have few surprises. Instead, I found a machine fully alive, packed with people; despite an opening with no advertisement to speak of. I stayed about three times longer than expected, feeling compelled to have a hell of a lot more fun than you’re supposed to on the job.
Cliché as it sounds, The Dam is more of an experience than an establishment, and seems designed to draw both sports and arcade lovers together – succeeding where, as far as my research tells me, all others have failed. Most of the downstairs floor is done up like a basketball court with custom cornhole, bordered by games, seating, a gorgeous bar, and the kitchen. Look up and you’ll see a ceiling covered in movie posters, custom painted sports cutouts all over the walls, and a basketball style jumbo-tron setup with numerous sports-tuned TVs for those upstairs in the arcade to watch. The arcade section has a small bar and no shortage of fantastic arcade and pinball titles, such as the classic Sea Witch, Galaga, Ghostbusters, Crazy Taxi, Street Fighter II, and much more (including a custom Donkey Kong machine inside an actual barrel). The arcade snob in me can finally stop driving to those other towns.
Above the arcade games is an in-progress mural designed to eventually house a classic game projection – as in, actual classic Nintendo games. This is the center of my excitement: The Dam is still a work in progress in every right way. Not just in terms of new games, but in the incredible attention to detail that goes into the life of the entire building. Just check out the countertop in the women’s bathroom. I don’t think I’ve ever said this, even if by accident… but that’s pimp.
Pimpness aside, a lot of times the bar / arcade culture can feel exclusionary, but not here. Grandma chucking cornhole for the first time, a five year old being held up for a game of pinball, a number of Beaver’s fans that said “Woo!!!” a lot. Something for everyone. Even the man who tried to give me a quote about the food, but could only manage a “Mumbralbrle!” of approval.
While I didn’t enjoy a meal during my stay (too busy gaming, sorry), the menu goes from salads to sandwiches, dogs to nachos and milkshakes. Just drop on in, see what’s on tap, watch a game, play one, or play one while watching one.
The Dam is located at 349 SW 4th St., right across from Safeway. Hours are 11 a.m. – 2 a.m., with minors allowed until 8 p.m. Look them up on Facebook!
By Johnny Beaver