Games & Drinks: Tabletop & 16-Bit Bar + Arcade

March 2, 2016
Games & Drinks

From Abalone to Zelda

Danielle Frezza

If you've gotten tired of the typical bar/club scene, then Cleveland has some great places for a new night out. These popular spots specialize in arcade games and, believe it or not, board games, which is fresh and different from the traditional bar activities. Because, honestly, whose brilliant idea was it to give drunk people darts?

Tabletop: My sister Mari and I visited Tabletop, a new Ohio City cafe dedicated to the love of board games, and it was a refreshing spin on the watering hole.

Passing by on the street--and even when you first walk in--it's easy to mistake Tabletop for a bookstore, except when you take a closer look at the shelves lining the walls, they're filled with hundreds of board games, not boring, intimidating, hardcover books. It's cheerful, quirky, with eclectic decor, and--like Ohio City itself--has a diverse array of patrons of all ages. With its well-lit and friendly atmosphere, it always feels like a Sunday afternoon, even when it's pitch-black outside. I didn't even feel like a freak for sitting there taking notes with my paper and pen!

They also offer a menu of small plates, wine, and beer, as well as some delicious drinks for the teetotalers, too. One example: Cleveland Sunshine, which is a smoothie of mango, pineapple, banana, orange juice, coconut milk, and yogurt.

For a small fee, you and your party can play as many games as you'd like for the entire night. And there's a big selection; some popular, some obscure. Mari and I ended up starting with Mystery Date, a game we'd always coveted in childhood because our parents said it was inappropriate, which turned out to be surprisingly complicated (yay mimosas), and then moved on to Urban Myth, and finally KerPlunk, during which I had a losing draw that cost me eight marbles that I dropped and scattered across the wooden floor (again, yay mimosas). Luckily, the Cards Against Humanity group at the next table was sweet enough to help us find them. So the moral of that story: never judge a book by its incredibly distasteful fill-in-the-blank answer.

For more on Tabletop, click here.

16-Bit Bar + Arcade: Located in Lakewood, I celebrated my friend Rachel's birthday here after pregaming (haha, pregaming, get it?) at the Winking Lizard. 16-Bit has a classy (heated!) patio out front, and the inside is lined with every old-school arcade game you could imagine (or in my case, never even heard of). My personal favorites: NBA Jam, Golden Axe, and The Simpsons. The really cool part is that they're completely free; so if you're a somewhat inept gamer, you can just keep playing no matter how many times you die.

It's always packed on weekends, even early in the night. Luckily the bartenders are patient, because it's hard to pick which one of their specialty drinks to try first. Their menu is dedicated to nostalgic pop culture--a plethora of craft beer, classic cocktails, and fruity girl-drinks with names like Macho Man, The Dude, and Cyndi Lauper. My friends all tried that night's special, the Reptar--named for the beloved Godzilla-figure on the Nickelodeon cartoon Rugrats--some kind of bright green, melon liqueur concoction, and I opted for a Hulk Hogan, which is vodka and lemonade with a firecracker popsicle dropped in.

Our designated driver, Brandon, asked for a Darryl Hannah--"hold the vodka, hold the Blue Curacao, hold the lime," which, essentially, ends up being simple syrup and Swedish Fish, and he was promptly carded.

I started playing Ms. Pacman, and as I struggled to run from the blue ghosts, I must have been hitting some button absent-mindedly, because a friendly, bearded gent playing Galaga next to me chuckled and said, "That version doesn't have turbo; I tried it."

And I said "Oh..." as I smiled and nodded, pretending to know what he was talking about.

But, in a full-team effort, we did beat Golden Axe--an '80s medieval fantasy game where you kick trolls and slay armed skeletons, Argonaut-style--and it was a great rush for me.

After that long road to victory, though, I felt pretty brain-drained, and my friend Katie said, "Come on, let me kick your ass at Street Fighter!"

I knew I was gonna need a glass of Burt Reynolds before that.

For more information, click here.

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