But how many pinball machines had to die for the decor?
Trendy hot dog places have popped up in seemingly every city, a phenomenon matched only by the proliferation of video game bars luring hipsters with Ms. Pac-Man and expensive craft beer. Combining the two with a dash of dive bar seems like a natural and yet underexplored niche, one that Lubbock’s Flippers has carved out with its gourmet brat and pinball presentation.
As with many of the bars reviewed here that had the audacity to open their doors more recently than the Dust Bowl, Flippers Tavern can’t in truth be called a pure dive bar. But part of the hot dog bar concept is the undercurrent that the place isn’t taking itself too seriously and believes in delicious food without any hint of pretention. And those traits provide fertile common ground with the great dive bars, which believe in a very similar no-frills, come-get-drunk-here attitude.
That Flippers sits next to a similarly neon-lit tattoo shop only adds to the experience, with the exterior façade looking like a hill of rocks tumbling into wooden planks. A small parking lot borders the space itself, with a word to the wise that what looks like a typical pull out at the front edge of the parking lot is actually a pretty steep drop off and not a great way to leave a bar.
Inside, the theme is taken to every bit of an extreme degree. Reclaimed pinball boards comprise the drinking surface of the bar that dominates the space. There are similarly reclaimed boards on seemingly every flat vertical and horizontal surface throughout the bar, from the long table that comprises the bar’s second room to the decorations behind the bar. Mercifully, a handful of live, playable machines have taken up residence toward the rear of Flippers shotgun-style layout.
Bar seating is the clear winning attraction here, though a handful of tall tables sit midway between the bar and a line of red, plush booths that line much of the space. A small porch extends the experience, because when it’s 100 degrees in Texas, why not eat a brat outside. The food, by the way, is worth a visit on its own merit, with this reviewer sampling a green chile-infused selection that price pretty much had to pack a punch to be worth it, and it did.
While not purely a dive bar in any sense, Flippers provides a unique Lubbock experience that takes the hotdog or brat restaurant template, twists it with a little bit of pinball and practices some extreme dedication in playing out the theme. The food lives up to the pricing and ingredients, the draft list was impressive and while not the grimiest place to grab a beer in Lubbock, sometimes a great brat can be the foundation for more adventurous PBRs later in the evening.