Fun for all ages at Uncle Virgil’s Hamburger Shack and Arcade

Fun for all ages at Uncle Virgil’s Hamburger Shack and ArcadeWhen a customer thanks you by saying, “We had the time of our lives. We haven’t had that much fun as a family in a very long time,” you might think you are on to something good. Once a popular dinner house, The Indian Wells Lodge, is now Uncle Virgil’s Backyard Hamburger Shack and Arcade which is a mere fourteen miles from Ridgecrest on Highway 14.

“There is a great assortment of games to choose from,” says LaFawn Antonaros, who owns it with her husband, Greg. “The games all take quarters or bills. We have a lot of old style games. Captain Fantastic pin ball game may be the oldest game that we have. We have a couple of Mrs. PacMan with 60 different games to chose from. Some of the favorites are basketball, crane machines where you grab a prize, skee ball where you throw a wooden ball, a hunting game with rifle, guitar hero, two motorcycles you can drive and two cars.” She adds, “We tried to cover as much as we could. Everybody finds something to play. Mostly adults play the pinball games because they bring back old memories from when they were kids. A lot of younger kids love the crane and the basketball.”

The Antonaros are also part owners of Indian Wells Brewery which is on the same property as the arcade. COVID restrictions caused the lodge to close several times and they decided to rethink things a bit. With grandchildren in Southern California and the high demands of the restaurant business they decided upon a weekend business. They first opened Uncle Virgil’s Hamburger Shack with outdoor seating and a walk-up window to order food during the first shutdown. With it looking like they would be able to reopen indoors, they decided to do things differently. Greg noticed that the arcade games in the brewery were popular, so they drove all over California and Las Vegas purchasing arcade games. There are a few fellows on staff who can fix and fiddle with the machines. Manager Josh Mangum is on site during the weekends keeping the fun going.

They kept the menu simple and fun. Burgers, nachos, chili cheese fries, ice cream in cones or cups, and since the brewery also makes soda you can create a float with any soda you choose. “Root beer floats are quite popular,” says LaFawn. They also have a full bar so parents can relax while the kids have fun.

Their location has quite a history. Since it has an artesian well it has been a destination for over a century. According to the website, “It began as a U.S. Army Cavalry outpost in the 1860s. Then, it became a freight and stage station until the turn of the last century; a healing waters resort from 1900 to 1920; a base for the CCC and WWW in the 1930s; and a doctor’s office in the 1950s.”

LaFawn tells us, “The restaurant originally opened in 1962, my husband’s uncle, Virgil Nowles, turned the building into a restaurant. We’ve been here since 1979. Uncle Virgil passed in 1981. Greg was born and raised in Bakersfield. Virgil and his wife, Lynn, didn’t have any children of their own. Greg would come and spend summers and when he became a teenager he would work in the restaurant and help with business. They were very close, he was like a son to Virgil. It was a natural thing for Greg to come here and take over the business.

We welcome everybody. I hope prior customers will come up and see what is going on,” invites LaFawn. “We still have the bar and some of our people that used to work the restaurant are still here. Come check us out and have a great time.”

Uncle Virgil’s Hamburger Shack and Arcade is open weekends and some holidays from 11:30 am until 5 pm at 2565 CA-14, Inyokern, CA 93527

Laura Austin photo: The crane is very popular with kids. Carl Austin shows his delight as Manager Josh Magnum assists.

Story First Published: 2021-10-08