Weekend nights as a kid often meant chilling out at home playing Monopoly or Nintendo.
My, how times (don't) change.
More and more Cleveland bars are offering vintage arcade and board games as an alternative to the usual mix of sports-related entertainment offerings. The appeal is understandable — after all, it's tough to beat sipping a beer and noshing on snacks while enmeshed in a heated Donkey Kong or Scrabble battle, or matching wits with pals during a game of Trivial Pursuit.
As its name implies, this cozy and inclusive Ohio City establishment is a gaming paradise catering to all ages and skill levels. Pay $5 per visit for unlimited access to an ever-rotating mix of nearly 1,000 games, ranging from familiar standbys (Scattergories, Uno) to unique card, dice and strategy games. Wine and beer are available, but Tabletop's menu also offers plenty of non-alcoholic drinks — smoothies! kombucha! coffee! — along with sandwiches, paninis and other small plates.
16-Bit Bar + Arcade
Flash back to the '80s and '90s at this always-packed Downtown Lakewood destination, which puts an adult twist on the kid-friendly arcades of yore. 16-Bit crams more than 40 consoles into its space, ranging from classic games (Pac-Man, Centipede) or multi-player competitions such as The Simpsons or NBA Jam (boom-shaka-laka!). Bonus: Gameplay is free with the purchase of a soda or alcoholic drink. On the latter tip, check out 16-Bit's kicky and fun cocktail menu, which features drinks named after notable retro figures. Try the Cyndi Lauper, a mix of grape vodka, sour mix, Sprite and grenadine.
The Side Quest
Get your geek on at The Side Quest, which feels like the coolest basement rec room ever. This Lakewood game oasis features a mighty impressive list of card and tabletop games and tons of special activity nights. (Dungeons & Dragons lessons and the ever-popular console gaming event "Mario Mondays," anyone?) Plus, Side Quest's happy hour, which offers drink specials and free game rentals, is just flat-out perfect.
Superelectric Pinball Parlor
Before heading to the Capitol Theatre in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, be sure to pop into the Superelectric Pinball Parlor, an impressive corner emporium that (as its name implies) features neat rows of pinball machines. Naturally, old-school is the name of the game here—from the decades-old magazines available to read and the garage sale-caliber wall decorations to, of course, the machines themselves—although Superelectric does rotate in modern pinball games, such as one modeled after beloved movie Ghostbusters. Superelectric also recently opened a larger parlor in the basement of the 78th Street Studios, which will be open during the establishment's Third Fridays events.
Townhall is known for its non-GMO menu, vegan food choices and extensive list of craft beers. But did you know that the popular Ohio City establishment—which often resembles a tropical island getaway, between its high ceilings, rustic accents and wooden tables—also has board games on the premises? It's true: The café side boasts an A+ selection of tabletop entertainment.
The B Side Liquor Lounge & Arcade
Underneath Conventry music hotspot the Grog Shop is the B Side Liquor Lounge & Arcade. As its name implies, the low-lit space not only boasts a full bar—it also has pinball and video game consoles at the ready for players looking for some friendly competition.
Merwin's Wharf features one of the most tranquil settings in Cleveland, especially during the summer, when its riverfront picnic tables are among the most coveted happy hour seats in the city. However, the casual establishment, which is tucked away in an industrial-burnished spot in Flats, also offers visitors cornhole and giant Jenga. These games will no doubt help work up an appetite for one of the restaurant's burgers, sandwiches or seafood-driven dishes.
The Bottlehouse Brewing Company
Both the Cleveland Heights and the Lakewood locations, which feel like community gathering places thanks to their communal tables, have a fun and often funky mix of board games for their thirsty patrons. Throw in a few pinball machines—as well as a drink menu featuring their locally brewed beer and mead—and it's a recipe for one fun night out.