The Lion and the Compass

No, this is not a fantasy novel written by the combined literary forces of CS Lewis and Phillip Pullman. This is a restaurant located in the heart of Silicon Valley, in Sunnyvale. My wife Jen and I had the pleasure of dining there last night, and I must say, the food was great, ingredients were fresh, and the waiting staff was attentive (although it was a bit overpriced for our taste). I had a very well-prepared New York steak with thin-cut fries and green beans, Jen had the more sensible option of grilled salmon, which was great as well. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed my and Jen's meal. For appetizers, we had shrimp marinated in a pineapple glaze. Now, Im not a big pineapple fan, but these shrimps were very tasty, regardless. I must give props to any restaurant that can make something I normally don't care for taste good, and this place did just that. Still, I don't think I'll be eating pineapple pizza anytime soon. Our dining party happened to know the manager, Kim, so we got a tour of the place and found out some interesting facts about it along the way. The restaurant's bar is actually a converted 19th century British pub, with stained glass, seats and countertop all disassembled back in England, shipped over, then reassembled here. You see, the restaurant opened back in 1979 and was and still is owned by a Mr. Nolan Bushnell. Although his is not exactly a household name, you might have heard of these thingamajigs called video games, or perhaps you have heard of a place called Chuck E. Cheese, or both. If it turns out you do know what these important staples of pop culture are, or happened to be a eight-year-old in the early eighties who attended a birthday party or two, then you owe a tip of the hat to Bushnell. Back in 1972, his company helped develop and market the one and only Pong, one of the first arcade video games ever. By 1975, his company had then made a home video version of Pong, and by 1977 they released a video game system that would change the face of home entertainment forever (and be the cause a lot of sore thumbs), the Atari 2600 VCS..this company, of course, is none other than Atari. Thirty years and a few Nintendos, Wiis, and Playstations later, Atari holds the honor of being the one that started it all. Pong, anyone? Back in the day, there used to be coin-op Atari games lining the back wall at the Lion and the Compass, and Bushnell was a regular sight, walking around tables and greeting guests. The manager, Kim, told us that Bushnell still does so, however he was not there last night. Being a vintage video game enthusiast (nerd) myself, having the chance to meet Nolan Bushnell would have been an honor  to say the least (I had the curious fortune  earlier  this year of meeting KISS's Ace Frehley and classic Battlestar Galactica's Richard Hatch, go figure). I was also told by Kim that Bushnell is a popcorn enthusiast and pops up a mean batch, complete with exotic flavors. I can definitely relate to that. Overall, it was a very fun, tasty and educational dining experience, complete with engaging company. If you are looking for a nice place to have a fine dining party, want to hob nob with Silicon Valley executives, or learn a little about video game history, I recommend. Who says you can't combine food and learning? The Lion and the Compass is located at 1023 North Fair Oaks Avenue, Sunnyvale California CA 9408.

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