The Best Bars With Board Games in America
Analog board games have mounted a surprising comeback. The young—and young-at-heart—crowd are now opting to socialize with friends over games not just at home, but also out in public. They’re tucking away their smartphones and going all-in, staying engaged over drinks and shareable plates instead.
Board game bars and cafes have been popping up all over the country to serve the enthusiastic competitors. Our favorites add craft brews, cocktails, or on-tap wine to the mix for even higher spirits. Many also fuel the energy with gourmet sliders and other easy-to-nibble bites.
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Some bars proudly geek out, stocking hundreds of intense strategy games and obscure indie titles to keep patrons occupied for hours. Others take the gaming lightly, breaking out just a few classics and retro surprises to enjoy over a beer or two. Here is a range of playful standouts from every corner of the U.S.
Kingmakers Columbus calls itself a board game "parlour" in the trendy Short North district of Ohio's capital. This elevated bar offers 500-plus games and beer, wine, and mead on tap. Kingmakers also employs "board game sommeliers" to guide customers in choosing and learning artfully curated diversions like Battlesheep, Rampage, and Hoopla.
Cloak & Blaster
A playful Orlando couple opened their dream Britpub, Cloak & Blaster, in 2014. The tavern serves up geeky, delicious bites like dragon eggs (sriracha fried-chicken bites) and a White Walker (stout and ice cream). Along with board games, the pub hosts quirky and fun events like cosplay karaoke.
Inside the Chicago Athletic Association, a boutique hotel in a Venetian Gothic building along Michigan Avenue, is an elegant, dark-paneled area called the Game Room. It’s one of the hotel’s four bars (all reimagined by of-the-moment design firm Roman and Williams), with classics like chess and checkers. On tap is “Play Nice,” a beer collaboration with local Hopewell Brewing Co.
Thinking Man Tavern
Outside Atlanta in Decatur, Thinking Man Tavern has stacked up an impressive game library in what feels like a professor’s office, complete with antique shelving, reference books, taxidermied animals, and multiple thinking-man sculptures. The food and drink are serious as well—inventive burgers, chicken and waffle sliders, 21 beers on tap, and a full craft-spirits bar with more than 50 kinds of whiskey.
Highball Lounge infuses nostalgic fun into Boston’s boutique Hotel Nine Zero downtown. The bar stocks bright 1990s-kid throwbacks, like Candyland, Hungry Hippos, and Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots, and a DJ spins Thursday through Sunday nights.
New York City
Tucked into a Greenwich Village nook near New York University, The Uncommons is as cozy as a dorm room. Its food and drinks are college-friendly, too: satisfying snacks like mozzarepas and Brooklyn bagels, fun coffee flavors like chocolate peanut butter mocha, and a serious craft beer inventory of 30 brews. Oh, and it’s got a library of nearly 1,300 games, including hard-to-find titles like Trumped Up Cards.
Pour Haus Wine Bar
Pour Haus Wine Bar is an elegant spot for playing games L.A.-style: on a stylish patio, under champagne grapevines, blooming jasmine, and a peach tree. The bistro itself sits in the Los Angeles’ formerly industrial, now mural-filled downtown Arts District. It has both classic and wine-themed games, bites like oxtail tacos, and 100 vinos by the glass.
Vigilante Gaming Bar
A fun-loving crew teamed up to raise funding on Kickstarter for Austin’s just-opened Vigilante Gaming Bar. Every detail was carefully designed for play, from cupholders and rolling trays to custom-built wooden game boxes and table lights indicating that groups need more competitors. Their street-food menu lists exclusively handheld options like “Pigs Are the Blanket,” chewy pretzels wrapped in bacon and served with local-stout queso or house mustard.
The quirky AFK Tavern starts with 14 craft brews, three ciders, and a root beer on tap. It adds a full bar, party-food favorites like pizza and tacos, and special gatherings like role-playing groups and karaoke nights. It tops off the fun with 300 board games, including indie surprises like Obamarama and Exploding Kittens.
Board Game Island
Plant-filled and painted sea-foam green, Board Game Island is perfect for lazing away a Sunday afternoon off the beach. Its beer menu is relaxed and unpretentious, with various Lone Star State brews and warm-weather favorites like Shiner Bock, Spindletop, and Dos Equis. Challenge yourself not only to the 450 games, but also to the giant foot-tall Bavarian pretzel with queso blanco.
Behind a massive Portland game store is a back bar, Critical Sip, where geeks can duck in for good times. Guardian Games added this casual space—set off with plastic tables, a space mural, and Han Solo encased in carbonite—in 2008. Players can borrow from 700 games while drinking from a rotation of seasonal beers and ciders. And upstairs is a wall of Nerf guns that the owners bring down for especially nerdy moments.
Hurry Back is where you can kick it Nashville-style, at outdoor picnic tables under an “Ice Cold Beer” sign—while playing with friends. Choose from the bar’s 50-some titles, and enjoy high-gravity craft beer and other unique special-edition brews.