We Found SF’s Hidden Ball Pit & Indoor Swing
During the height of the pandemic, we all had to hit pause on any amount of fun for a moment while we sat inside waiting for the world to reset. The toll that took on us was huge. Since then, I’ve been bopping around the Bay Area finding the places with the biggest dose of fun so I can share them with you. All that being said, I’ve found a new place worth raving about. Opening just last October, Thriller Social Club is my new favorite place to have fun in San Francisco.
You may recognize the space if you’re a person who loves arcade games. Thriller took over the Coin-Op Arcade space which closed in 2020 around the corner from the newly re-opened Hotel Utah in SOMA. Bringing back the fun into SF, Thriller has a fresh take on the arcade space with upgraded games, elevated food, beverages, and a more whimsical look and feel.
Maybe it’s the hidden ball pit, the endless games, the masterful drink menu, or the yummy food… either way, this place is a blast. You don’t even need to pack a thousand quarters in your pockets because they use innovative digital cards you load with money to add credits to each game. It makes bopping around the space with a drink or hot dog in your hand a lot easier, honestly.
The folks running Thriller have a unique way of partnering. Joey Mucha (also known as Joey The Cat) is in charge of amusements – keeping the games running, leading the SF Brewskee-Ball® Skee-Ball® League within the space weekly, and bringing in new games. For refreshments, there are two others leading the charge. Stag Dining Group is doing the food and Kingston Wu is the bar proprietor. This type of partnership is definitely unique and it sets the space up for success with a clear individual focus for each partner.
“This industry is demanding and often management of food and beverage are not always able to focus on what they do best. In this case, each department is very specific to its piece of the operation and collectively we offer amazing hospitality and amusements experience,” says Jordon of Stag Dining Group.
I’ve known Joey for nearly a decade now through Brewskee-Ball®, a national Skee-Ball league with two chapters (SF and Oakland) in the Bay Area. I wanted to get more of a scoop from Joey and the team at Thriller on what makes this space so special. I bopped by on a Sunday when Brew-Skee Ball was having a league night.
I started off the night by heading to the upstairs bar where the bar manager and I instantly started joking around with each other. I told him my previous Skee-Ball team had a drink named after us when we rolled at the now-shuttered Buckshot on Geary. Before I knew it, the bartender and I were creating a new drink to put on the menu together.
We called our concoction the “Bobbing for Apples”. Hard cider, a little bitters, and a shot of Fireball over ice. I’ll say it now – that drink is amazing! So after I became the world’s best mixologist, I took my drink on tour around the space with Joey as I interviewed him about the space. While I don’t think the drink we created that day will end up on the menu, they have some really fun cocktails on the menu at all times like the “Yabba Dabba” featuring Fruity Pebbles as well as other playful drinks!
When you enter the space, there’s an incredible state-of-the-art golf simulator on your left and a massive bar right in front of you. Tons of space to stretch out between all of the games. Joey tells me that the golf simulator is the only one of its kind in SF but only that, Thriller has the largest Skee-Ball® arena in San Francisco with eight machines.
Every corner of Thriller has a special little surprise – something that delights us and brings out our natural curiosity. Fun fact, the decor of the space was designed in collaboration with Scott Levkoff – the creative mind behind Midwayville. The space was designed specifically for all of us to relive our childhoods. At some point in my tour, I sat down on a swing and just started pumping my legs to see how high I could get. I felt like I was blasted back to being 5 years old. Reliving the sweet innocence of my childhood.
“Listen, I grew up with parents that ushered me past arcades and midways saying that they were a waste of money or were rigged so the players would always lose. They overlooked the fact that you could simply play for the fun of playing alone. At Thriller, you can wind back time and simply enjoy these amusements for what they’re designed to do – put you in a head-to-head situation with a friend for bragging rights until the next rematch!” Says Kingston, the bar owner.
For me, I want to live a life filled with moments where I let go and just play. Where I put down my phone and create memories with my favorite people. I’m glad to have a place like Thriller to go to which is designed especially for fun to be had.
What’s coming up at Thriller Social Club?
Brew-Skee Ball SF starts its next skeeson on May 18th. While Thriller already has the Skee-Ball league, Joey also hopes to start up a golfing league using their rad golf simulator. Also, they are always hosting special events. I’ll be bookmarking the fun I see on their website.
Follow Thriller, Thriller’s partners, and their other projects here:
Thriller Social Club website: thrillersocialclub.com
Thriller Social Club IG: @thrillersocialclub
Stag Dining Group stagdining.com
Derby Cocktail Co. derbycocktail.co
**all photos by Jon Fong unless otherwise noted