2016 | Dine

VÜK to Offer Authentic New York-Style Pizza with a Side of Pinball

Eatery and pinball arcade opens Friday in Bethesda

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Mark Bucher, left, and VUK owner Scott Nash, right, inside the pinball arcade and pizza shop Tuesday

MOM’s Organic Market founder and CEO Scott Nash is ready to share his passion for pinball.

Nash is the man behind VÜK, the new pizza shop and pinball arcade on St. Elmo Avenue in Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle that opens Friday evening.

“I’m not here to make money, I’m here to spread the joy of pinball,” the paddle enthusiast and owner of the chain of 15 organic grocery stores said inside the new restaurant Tuesday afternoon. The restaurant’s name is short for vertical up kicker—the spring-loaded mechanism that shoots a pinball into the game.

But chasing the high score on The Twilight Zone won’t be the only reason to stop into VÜK—the arcade is using the kitchen equipment left by former tenant Pizza Pass to make authentic New York-style thin-crust pizza.

Nash, who admits he’s no expert in pizza making, brought in his friend Mark Bucher, the founder of the BGR burger and Medium Rare restaurant chains, to advise the kitchen staff on how to make pizza. Bucher, a New Jersey native, insisted the restaurant offer only traditional New York-style pies and hired experts from New York City pizzerias to train the staff.

“We don’t want to change what’s already perfect,” Bucher said.

And what was coming out of the oven Tuesday appears to be what you’d find in shops on Second Avenue in Manhattan—a no-frills pizza with a thin crispy crust that comes topped with a choice of pepperoni, mushroom or sausage. Pizza and ice cream from Trickling Springs Creamery in Pennsylvania—an organic outfit—are the only food items on the menu. Whole pizzas comes in one size, similar to a large pizza at other shops, and are priced at $14. Slices are sold for $2.50 each. In addition to serving pizza at the restaurant, VÜK will also offer delivery—as late as 2 a.m. some nights.

The 10 pinball machines, which have themes ranging from billiards to TV’s Game of Thrones, line a wall in the narrow dining room.

Pinball machines inside VUK. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

There’s also a patio with picnic tables—where parents can hang out while their kids hammer away at the machines. The parents will have to wait a bit to enjoy a beer or glass of wine, though, because the restaurant likely won’t receive its liquor license until after a June hearing before the county’s liquor board.

Once VÜK does receive its license, Nash said it plans to serve craft beer and wine and possibly offer cocktails in the future.

The interior of the restaurant is decorated with science fiction and heavy metal themes—there are posters of The Godfather and the bands Rush and Slayer hanging on a wall as well as a straitjacket and a horse skull on display. Nash said he took over the space to share his pinball machines, which he’s been collecting for the past six years in the basement of his Chevy Chase home.

The storefront is on a property slated for redevelopment by owner The Lenkin Co., which is planning to build a 16-story, 210-unit apartment building. That project is moving through the county’s approval process. Nash said he expects VÜK to remain at its location for at least two years and if successful, he’ll move it to another location in the area once the redevelopment starts.

The Game of Thrones machine

Picnic tables on the outdoor patio

The restaurant will offer New York-style pizza like this pepperoni pie. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

It's not all pinball inside VÜK; the restaurant also has two multi-arcade games like this one.