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Gaming arcade levels up as an American-style burger joint

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Forced to close its laser tag and virtual-reality offerings on Grote Street, Core51 has reopened as a burger joint called MK’s Café in a new location on Hutt Street.

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MK’s Café is a newly-opened American-style restaurant at 178 Hutt Street, but it was first established on Grote Street in 2018 to service hungry gamers from a laser tag and virtual reality arcade called Core51.

The venue was popular for birthday parties and private groups until COVID-19 forced owner Imad Khan to shut down the gaming components indefinitely.

The hospitality component of the venue lives on though, with MK’s Café last week opening at a new location on Hutt Street, a few doors down from the Havelock Hotel.

MK’s Café serves American-style food: burgers, loaded fries, and milkshakes.

Khan says the decision to close Core51 was a difficult one, but has allowed the business to take on a new life.

“Burgers and gaming were originally the perfect duo, but as time passed we noticed that people were coming back for our burgers instead of the gaming facility,” says Khan.

“We decided to develop and focus on our burgers and it has slowly become a passion… which ultimately led us to the decision of closing down laser tag and VR and making a burger joint.”

MK’s Café continues the same menu from its previous location, which includes the “gamers burger” of two patties, onion rings, grilled mushrooms, melted cheese, and a secret sauce. There’s also a “laser burger” and “the baconator”.

Burgers start at $7.90 for a cheeseburger, up to $13.50 for a Caesar burger — all toasted on a sesame brioche bun, with gluten-free buns available.

The range also includes a Vegetarian’s Choice, Classic Chicken Burger, and Beef Burger, as well as loaded baskets of nachos, fries, and tater tots, milkshakes and waffle cones.

For $25, customers can tackle the Challenge Burger Meal, which is loaded with triple beef patties and melted cheese.

“There is a very blurred line between fast food burgers and gourmet burgers. We believe that we have figured out the perfect balance between being as filling and crave-worthy as fast food but at the same time keeping the burgers refined,” says Khan.

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