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Mountain View location of uWink closes

Original post made on Apr 20, 2009

The high-tech restaurant on Castro Street that promised to bring "social gaming" to Silicon Valley eaters has closed its doors.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, April 20, 2009, 8:27 PM

Comments (37)

Posted by Angela Hey
Mountain View Voice Blogger
on Apr 20, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Angela Hey is a registered user.

Maybe free WiFi works better to draw a crowd - Red Rock cafe was teeming with laptops and smartphones both upstairs and downstairs when I last visited.

Posted by GSB
a resident of Castro City
on Apr 20, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Another one bited the dust. Bodram's (sp) cafe will probably be gone in a little bit. Bring back the 'snitzel!

Posted by Mr. Big
a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 21, 2009 at 12:54 am

That corner location is cursed! It's probably the lack of parking and also the building looks more like office space than a restaurant. They need to allow sidewalk seating so that is looks like an eatery.

Posted by Albert
a resident of Castro City
on Apr 21, 2009 at 7:21 am

Maybe it also had to do with the bad food too... I mean, you could tell the appetizers were microwave reheated from out of the box frozen products which tasted horrible.

Also, the games weren't all that entertaining. If Chili's had WiFi free, I'd go there over the high priced uWink.

Posted by James
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2009 at 7:48 am

A great idea - but a lousy location. As far as anyone driving down Castro Street was concerned, what was uWink? Not one thing identifying the location as a restaurant. Looked like a high-tech company. The logo is cool and the name is cool and the food wasn't bad - but c'mon! Who's in charge of marketing and advertising and SIGNAGE??? I just read a uWink/Bushnell article in INC. online. Maybe if he hired QUALIFIED workers and not his family members to run this company they might have a shot. Sounds like all his wife does is follow him around like a puppy dog like he can't run a company or do a job or an interview on his own without her chiming in. And he had to have all of these honest comments with the reporter AFTER she left the room like a kid afraid of being punished by a parent. No wonder the company is failing! Grow a pair Nolan and lose the ball and chain!

Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2009 at 9:30 am

So, one of the few sectors of the economy that has shown growth is restaurants, but the economy-- not nearly as impacted here as the rest of the universe-- killed them. OK. And one bad lease (didnt they cut the deal middle of last year?) is why they had to delist their stock two months after opening in MV.
'business was steady'-- um, thats a nice way of saying SLOW. Did you ever see a crowd in there during the day? Me either.
'testbed for the gaming tech'- Millions to build out a restaurant to do beta testing?

Wonder if the spokesperson could keep a straight face when reading that. This place was just a bad idea in the wrong location.

Posted by Luca
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2009 at 12:17 pm

I agree with James! It really did not look like a restaurant... I was always unsure of what kind of startup it was.

Posted by Betty
a resident of Castro City
on Apr 21, 2009 at 12:18 pm

What - this is supposed to be Nolan Bushnell's place, right? We are talking about Chucky Cheese, Atari stuff. This guy was running this place with his family? Couldn't he afford to have a real staff? So was his wife in the back microwaving cheese puffs and hamburgers too?

Why is this guy running a burger slinging joint and not making video arcade games or something, leave this stuff to McDonald's and TGI Fridays and the like, if people want to be "Social" they'll log onto Facebook through their iPhones, not go to some wannabe restaurant run by a guy who hasn't done anything successful since the 1970's and 1980's. I wonder how many millions he squandered on this boondoggle

Posted by rr
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2009 at 1:53 pm

The location did fine when TK noodles was there...

Posted by smart growther
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Went only once. Lousy food, lousy service. Ordering online or gettgin service online didnt work very well. hard to talk or play games with a big screen on your face. Better if flat in table. Dining is a social activity , not a place to play individual games. It might work with better screens

Posted by oldschgrl
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2009 at 2:14 pm

We need Winerschnitzel back or a good hamburger joint in Mountain View. (Clarke's are you listening?) Someplace where kids and family could sit and eat or even something like the Old Cal pizza we had back in the day on Castro.

Posted by kanan krishnan
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2009 at 2:38 pm

i stopped visiting downtown. it has become too yuppy and crowded. too many children , noisy..u get my point? the last time i had dinner was probably in 2000 or 2001. i don't visit any coffee shops either because the coffee is real bad and overpriced. i used like the the way it was in the early was nice,quiet,not too many restaurants and coffeeshops. thanks to google, it lost its virginity and glow.

Posted by phm
a resident of The Crossings
on Apr 21, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Went to UWink once. Food was unremarkable, in fact I don't remember what I ate. Screen in the middle of the table distracted from conversation - yeah, I talk with the people I go with to a restaurant. My grey-haired husband also went by himself once and an employee commented that he's not in their usual demographic. Hope it's replaced soon with better food and service.

Posted by dr click
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2009 at 2:56 pm

> i stopped visiting downtown. it has become too yuppy and crowded.
> too many children , noisy..u get my point?

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

Posted by Andrew L. Freedman
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Remember the movie "It's a Wonder Life" when James Stewart went back in time as if he was never born? At the bar, he orders something really different and he's acting a little strange to which the bartender shot back at him something like, "Hey! This place is for people who want to drink and we don't need anyone to give it character." Maybe resturants should just be a resturants. I like the idea of eating and conversing with folks - not playing games. But that's just me.

Andy Freedman
Palo Alto

Posted by d songer
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2009 at 3:34 pm

There are many restaurants in downtown mv that are PACKED all the time.
Bottom line:

Posted by Bernie Brightman
a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 21, 2009 at 3:42 pm

So, they didn't know about the lease cost when they took it out?

How do you open a franchise with a lease that's too high if you you become the highest grossing franchise they have?
Did someone not know how to operate a calculator?

File this one under Baldfaced Lies.

Posted by MV Mom
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2009 at 3:52 pm

My kids are so sad that uWink is dark -- they loved it and, I'll admit, I liked that there was at least one place downtown that catered to families and school-aged kids. We always had good service. If I owned a bar or cafe, I'd hire their wait staff since I found them personable and attentive.

Posted by GE
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2009 at 3:59 pm

I didn't think uWink's food was that bad. My first time there the computer crashed and they couldn't restart it. We had to change tables. I didn't find the games all that interesting.
X100000 on bringing back der Wienerschnitzel. I hate having to drive to Santa Clara (which has two!!) to get my fix. I'd gladly trade one of our In-and-Outs for a Wienerschnitzel. I think the city council at the time couldn't wait for it to leave. I don't think they thought it fit in with their vision of Castro St.

Posted by Catherine
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2009 at 4:09 pm

:-( My kids and I will miss this place. Snif!

Posted by MV worker
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Several of my colleagues and I went to uWink for lunch on a regular basis and enjoyed it. Everything we tried on the menu we liked, and we found the service more than acceptable. We were very sad to learn that it was closing.

Posted by Loretta
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2009 at 4:16 pm

uWink was a great restaurant with great food, great people, and even the games were pretty diverting. During the time it was there we ate there at least once a week, sometimes twice. They were generous with coupons which caused to even go three times a week sometimes.

I tried all sorts of things from the menu including salads, burgers, appetizers, sides, etc. I never had a lousy meal there ever. And the staff were great. They were friendly, generous, and fast.

I loved playing 21, trivial pursuit, and most of all, group games! My friend and I went down last week to find the doors shuttered. We were incredibly disappointed.

Thank you, uWink staff for all your kindness and service!

Posted by Bruno
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Sorry to see you go uWink, your burgers were so tasty. I think better promotion would have helped some. A lot of people simply did not know what uWink was.

Maybe we could get a Peninsula Creamery in town now. That would be very cool.

Posted by AC
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2009 at 5:15 pm

AC is a registered user.

I agree, Tung Kee Noodle always seemed busy.

I have to say that I am surprised at the clamoring for Der Wienerschnitzel. I personally would prefer a A&W Root Beer.

Posted by Hood wink
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2009 at 6:02 pm

When I went to Hood wink, I never saw anyone clean the touch computer monitors between customers. I didn't want to touch the screens then eat my dinner. The food was ok, but the bill wasn't. Shame though, they spent a lot of money renovating. I think it be a good spot for a massage parlor.

Posted by Zane P
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 21, 2009 at 6:14 pm

I have no comment regarding uWink because I didn't feel attracted to the idea of looking at computer screens while dining. However, I am attracted to the idea of a gourmet Mexican restaurant like Reposado in Palo Alto. A Buffalo Wild Wings would suffice as well.

Posted by Johnny Robots
a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 21, 2009 at 7:25 pm

uWink was AWFUL in every way. The computer screens on the tables had to be the worst idea since George Lucas made a movie out of HOWARD THE DUCK. Nolan Bushnell created the greatest personal computer ever devised, the Amiga. I can't believe he created something as gruesome as uWink.

Posted by )'(
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 21, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Uh, Nolan Bushnell had nothing to do with the Amiga - he founded Atari, and the Amiga was from Commodore.

Anyway, Cascal proves that location can do *gangbusters* if the right restaurant is there. uWink's problems had more to do with food and concept, and less to do with the location.

Posted by tommygee
a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 21, 2009 at 9:35 pm

I had a feeling when uWink openned that it would not last; and lo and behold I was right. But it seems like any restaurant at that golden intersection just can't make it. Tung Kee Noodle house was at that corner, and the restaurant was very successful. But after so many years Tung Kee lost its lease and closed up. After a few years reopened a half a block away.
Is there something going on that we the public don't know about???

Posted by mj
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2009 at 10:07 pm

oh, no-- our kids will have to learn how to deal with people in a restaurant now instead of continuing their video game addiction in and out of the house

Posted by Ric
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2009 at 10:30 am

It was anti-social gaming, no? I mean could the non-adjustable screens be placed any closer to your head blocking all conversation? Still I will miss it. Three times there with friends were all genuinely enjoyed (admittedly much of it making fun of the concept) and the food was decent and drinks well priced. While Castro does have a diversity of restaurants ethnically, in age focus and related activities it could use a boost and uWink did bring something different. Then again, didn't it seem strangely haphazard for an outside company to plop down monitors and offer lite gaming in a restaurant and expect it to succeed in Silicon Valley? We'll never know if local focus group research was done before, but last I looked there's still a lot of disposable income around Mtn. View. Was uWink ever even half-full?

Posted by andrea
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2009 at 2:32 pm

My friends and I were super-excited by the concept, and super-disappointed in the execution.

The negatives:
1) gaming was largely anti-social (needed more pub trivia, pictionary, multiplayer arcade - less single player)
2) screens interfered with table conversations (mount flat please)
3) food was unremarkable to bad (food quality matters in a restaurant town like mtn view)
4) the picture menu made it look like the food was going to be delicious (sets high expectations; also you're disappointed if the food looks just a little off from the picture, even if it would be fine if you'd never formed an expectation)
5) the games felt like cheap siphons off of free internet sites like Yahoo Games - but maybe even not that good. Could get that kind of gameplay with wifi anywhere. We wanted uWink to be *the future* not the past.

On the positives side:
1) self-service ordering & bill pay worked remarkably well
2) handled large groups well
3) beautiful large wall screens could lend itself to so much more - superbowl showings, movie screenings, game shows with contestants in house...

Posted by Wage Slave
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2009 at 12:36 pm

I went there once. Not very impressed by anything.

Put in a Buffalo Wild Wings and that site will do well.

Posted by hungry
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 24, 2009 at 1:22 pm

how about a King Egg-roll?

Posted by Mr.Blah Blah
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 24, 2009 at 7:04 pm

Castro St is a $$$ Pit for city revenues, I know it's crowded, hard parking during peak hours. I bet a lot of depressed cities wish they had our problems. Bring back Weinersmitzel. If you own any property in MV you get my drift.

Posted by Scott
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 25, 2009 at 9:13 pm

I went there once. My burger and fries took over 30 minutes to come out (both cold!) and the server had no idea who ordered them. This confounded me as I ordered them from my terminal ... they should at least be able to figure out where the order came from. That was the first and last time I went to uwink.

It is of chief importance for any new restaurant to make a splash when they come to town or they will alienate local clientel like me. Hopefully something better will go in that actually looks like a restaurant and not a startup

Posted by Francois
a resident of Whisman Station
on Aug 2, 2009 at 10:43 am

I went there early after it opened, a woman on the corner of the street was advertising the cool atmosphere. Hey, just another restaurant on Castro street, why not give it a shot ?
The major flaws I saw with that restaurant was its overpriced menu (burgers near $15, not worth it) and screens blocking your view. It's one thing to allow patrons to play games while eating (whatever sense it makes) but uWink pretty much forced you to do that. I remember asking myself how long it would be before they closed down like its predecessor (California Road House). It didn't take that long after all.

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