It's not a huge secret that pinball is alive and well in Pittsburgh — the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association, after all, keeps its headquarters in Scott Township. But Lawrenceville's Kickback Pinball Cafe, which opened in May, is unique in that it combines a passion for pinball with a passion for java.
Twelve years ago, owner Mara Kline moved from Maryland to Pittsburgh for college, and ended up staying. Last year, she pursued a plan that allowed her to realize her dream of opening a coffee shop — and to get some of her husband's pinball machines out of the garage.
"My husband, Joe, has always been really into pinball, and he had started collecting machines," Kline explains. "One day it dawned on us: Why don't we open a coffee shop that has pinball too?"
Kline's husband, Joe Veltri, runs The Gallery 4, in Shadyside, and Kickback exhibits a commitment to aesthetics, too; the floor is painted like a huge pinball machine. A mezzanine level will soon be open, with additional machines to play.
Kickback offers light lunch fare — Kline says the smoked-salmon sandwich is particularly popular. And working with the roasters at Kiva Han, Kickback developed its own signature house blend. You can come for the brew, but don't be surprised if you end up sticking around for the play.
"Sometimes people come in just for coffee, and ended up being really interested in the pinball," Kline says with a smile.