The Chicago Board Game Cafe is Chicago’s newest, nerdiest watering hole.
From the horrible minds behind Cards Against Humanity comes Chicago’s most anticipated board game cafe. Similar to Bonus Round Game Cafe (although much bigger at 14K sq ft.), The Chicago Board Game Cafe has a full dinner and bar menu, hundreds of board games, and two escape rooms from The House Theatre of Chicago. The new restaurant is now taking reservations online and walk-ins.
The layout of The Chicago Board Game Cafe is inspired by outdoor food markets in Spain, Vietnam, and Mexico where locals might be seen playing games at street cafes. Join CBGC for dinner and you’ll have access to the building’s bank vault, recently converted into a game library. The library has over 300 board games from classics like Monopoly, LIFE, and Cards Against Humanity to indie tabletop games made right here in Chicago! Not sure what the rules are? Not to worry! Game teachers are on hand to go over the rules and make game recommendations.
The menu includes snacks and entrees inspired by Spanish, Vietnamese, and Mexican cuisine and range from $14 to $60. Guests can enjoy snacks like Pho Ga Popcorn and Lotus Chips; small plates such as Charcuterie and Kebab Halabi; and large plates like Pisto Manchego and Huaraches. There’s also a full bar because beer and board games are a match made in heaven!
The new board game cafe is a great way to meet people and make new friends. “I think part of the reason board games are having a renaissance right now is that people are really atomized and alienated and lonely,” says Temkin. “I remember when I moved to Chicago after college how hard it was to connect with a community and find my people, and my dream is to make that easier for people in the future.” GBGC hopes to bring people together over a common love of board games and food.
In addition to the hundreds of games, full menu, and game teachers, CBGC is also home to two escape rooms directed by The House Theatre of Chicago‘s Nathan Allen. The Last Defender, a Cold War-era thriller, and science fiction rescue mission Nova to Lodestar. “The House was able to use theatrical lighting, sound design, and story to elevate the escape room format to something extraordinary,” says Cards Against Humanity co-founder Max Temkin. “It’s like being inside of a great play or movie. You’ll leave high-fiving and hugging total strangers.”
The new board game cafe also hopes to bridge the gap between game novice and aficionado; the gaming community has a reputation for being exclusionary. CBGC wants everyone to feel welcome at the new space. “Our guiding principle is to build bridges, not walls. If you’re reading this and you haven’t played a board game since you were a kid, I hope you come in and give us a chance to share this thing we love with you,” says Eric Garneau, Director of Games and Retail at CBGC.
Feature photo: @imaaronj