As one of America's oldest and final bastions of the pizza, arcade, and animatronic-variety-show trifecta, Chuck E. Cheese upholds an important entertainment legacy. Though their core philosophy and slogan, "Where a Kid Can Be a Kid," sounds like a simple-enough mantra to maintain, many years have passed since Atari inventor Nolan Bushnell opened the first location in San Jose.
Despite the ever-changing nature of entertainment consumption, Chuck E. Cheese has done nothing but flourish. Intrinsic to this continuing knack for capturing kids' imaginations is its incorporation of modern entertainment and adherence to the robotic act that got it started in the first place. Chuck, Jasper T. Jowls, and Helen Henny are all still there, suspending a new generation's disbelief in gargantuan singing animals. Their charms, though, have been bolstered for the appetites of modern kids with more immersive games, wilder rides, and sweeter prizes.
Skytubes traverse the ceilings as an oversize human Habitrail, offering fantastical escape for energetic kids above the lights and sounds of the arcade. Staples such as skee ball and hoops now stand alongside sense-saturating simulator rides and the latest video games. At many locations, even the variety show has been modernized for the digital era. In its place is an interactive experience dubbed Studio C, where, thanks to bluescreens and video cameras, kids get to jam with Mr. Cheese himself.
Majestic cannons extend from the wall of a realistic pirate ship in Pirate Island Pizza's fantastical surroundings, as family-friendly fare and adventurous entertainment satisfies swashbuckling sprouts and hungry adults alike. Esurient expeditions can set sail with a dish of Pirate Coconut Shrimp ($8.99) and follow with a choice of bread bundles such as the Buccaneer Beef Sandwich, a fresh ciabatta bun filled with grilled black Angus steak, chipotle mayonnaise, sautéed peppers and onions, and draped in melted swiss cheese ($7.99).
Wiseguyz Pizzeria slings pies across the Salt Lake City area, offering a host of specialty pizzas, hot sandwiches, and crispy golden calzones at five separate locations. The signature pie is coated with barbecue sauce and topped with chicken, cheddar, and fresh cilantro. Classic sandwiches include the Philly steak and cheez, which features meat, alfredo sauce, mushrooms, peppers, and melty mozzarella and Swiss.
At each of Fat Cats' five locations, strikes and spares light up the screens of automatic scoring systems. Bowling balls roll and skip down lanes in normal conditions, against retractable bumpers, or under the fluorescent glow of Thunder Alley, when the facility transforms into a music-filled fusion of a bowling alley and dance club. Each lane's crashing pins echo the softer clacking of putters at the glow-in-the-dark miniature golf course and the ringing lightshow of the arcade. Elsewhere, the scents of pizza and deep-fried bowling balls waft through the fun haven. Each Fat Cats location partners with different restaurants, including The Pizza Factory at its Salt Lake facility and Champzz Bar at the Westminster location.
Hand-crafted sauces and imported cheese form the base of many of the Italian specialties at Gloria's Little Italy. Plump potato gnocchi—a customer favorite—and oven-baked salmon grace tables at dinner, and lunchtime ushers in waves of paninis and pizzas dressed in fresh veggies and meatballs. Pick out a cannoli from the glass display case or stop in on a weekend night to have a live accordionist soundtrack your dinner.
At Lotsa Motsa Pizza, pie slicers assemble custom creations from a menu of 13 toppings or choose poultry-centered combinations such as chicken-bacon-ranch or buffalo chicken to eat in-house or on the go. Pizzas range from an 8-inch edible Frisbee ($3.89+) to a 16-inch behemoth ($13.39+) large enough for multiplayer games of musical forks. Salads are equally customizable with a lush spread of toppings ($3.99+ for small), and pepperoni and cinnamon enliven breadsticks ($2.99–$5.19). Like a bashful suitor, the calzone ($7.99) keeps most of its positive qualities on the inside for fear of coming across as too cheesy.