The top 20 bars and cafes for board games in Toronto
A number of bars and cafes in Toronto do a remarkable job of refuting the idea that in order to play a board game, one should be bored. What could be more delightful than a game of dirty Scrabble over one too many pints? Or, for the non-drinkers out there there's always tea and lattes. Either way, it's easy to have a good time over games at one of these bars and cafes. Nerdiness is chic right now - everyone knows this.
My top 20 choices can be found below, but if you beg to differ, or if I missed a great spot to get overly competitive in public, add your suggestions to the comments. It's free to play at these spots, too, unless stated otherwise.
BOARD GAME SPECIALISTS
Snakes & Lattes
The original spot designed for board game geeks in the city, Snakes and Lattes, just west of Bloor and Bathurst, has literally all of the games. They have walls stacked full and including just about any game you could imagine, from your Monopolies of the world to Jumanji and Fireball Island. It's $5 to play, and there's an assortment of classic coffee drinks and treats on offer, too.The baristas are game geeks themselves, and can walk you through a new game after they make you a drink.
Snakes & Lagers
Okay, I know the cute name is overdone, but this one obviously had to be at the top of our list, too. Not only does the dual-floor Snakes & Lagers, on College just west of Bathurst, have walls including every game ever invented like its sister establishment, it also, obviously, has a strong beer focus. It serves up over 15 draught beers, most of which are craft beers, like Kensington Augusta Ale and Beau's Lug Tread. Most pints are $7, and on top of that, there's a decent cocktail list and gourmet mini snacks.
Castle Board Game Cafe
Castle Board Game Cafe is one of few Toronto establishments that rivals the "Snakes &" outfit in its dedication. The College and Spadina cafe has a few walls fully crammed with games - just about any game you can think of - as well as a selection of energy drinks and some half decent coffee-based drinks to keep you going. You'll also find desserts, friendly staff, and an interesting cross section of U of T geeks looking to amuse themselves on weekday afternoons.
Roll Play Cafe
Just north of Yonge and Dundas, Roll Play Cafe offers a deliberately massive selection of board games to its patrons, alongside a mix of coffee drinks, snacks, and full-on meals. You'll find classics like Taboo and Mad Gab, alongside crazier, more rare games, in case you're a committed gamer.
Cafe Princess, at Yonge and Finch, provides a comfy atmosphere to geek out and play games. Plush couches and a $2.50 fee to game gives the northern cafe a leg up on some of the downtown spots on this list. Cafe Princess offers a small stack of some of the more classic games in case you want to get your Jenga on, but you can also feel free to bring your own. Alongside their board game selection, you'll also find an affordable selection of sandwiches, desserts, and bubble teas.
Bampot Bohemian House of Tea & Board Games
In a cottage-style house on Harbord, Bampot Bohemian House of Tea & Board Games is, maybe, the coziest spot dedicated to games in the city. You'll find all of the classics in their mix of 160 games, or "pretty much everything," according to a staffer. Alongside a selection of games, you'll find specialty cakes, a hookah, and cute takeout Mason jars of lemonade, made in-house.
Utopia Dream Cafe
Utopia Dream Cafe is Markham's chief destination for board games, with a selection that rivals a number of Toronto's speciality cafes. It's a sprawling space, which also features foosball tables and televisions in case you're getting walloped at Settlers of Catan. The menu features an assortment of bubble teas and light food offerings. Bonus points for staying open way late on weekends (3am on Friday and Saturday).
Chit-Chat-Play is Markham's newest board game cafe, and early indications are that it's a good one. With over 300 games in its stock and a commitment to serving decent coffee, the small cafe hopes to prove a destination in a area that's prominently residential at the moment. The gelato will help, as will the fact that the place also sells games. Chit-Chat-Play is open until 2am on Friday and Saturday and midnight the rest of the week.
CAFES AND BARS WITH A GOOD BOARD GAME SELECTION
Stout Irish Pub
Get back to the classics at Cabbagetown's Stout, with a game of Risk, Connect Four, or Trivial Pursuit. Or, if you're of the new gaming generation, they've also got Settlers and Cards Against Humanity. To remain fortified, there's also a menu of pub food and a long beer list.
Lipstick & Dynamite
At Queen and Ossington, you'll find Lipstick & Dynamite, and within, you will find a chilled out bar with a decent list of craft beers and a few big piles of board games. Candy Land, Balderdash and Taboo all await in this dark and divey west end bar, which is complete with reasonably priced soups and sandwiches, so you can camp out for a while if things get extra heated.
The Tampered Press is an adorable cafe and community space just east of Dundas and Ossington, and alongside its exposed brick, delicious coffee, and affordable snacks, it offers a satisfying mini library and board game stack. You'll find Scattergories, Mad Gab and Scrabble. You can feel free to bring your own game if their classic selection doesn't suit your needs, and the staff are friendly. Based on experience, I can assure you they'll always greet you with a smile, and never hustle you out before your time.
Old Nick at Broadview and Danforth has a huge stack of games in back. Alongside Yahtzee, Scrabble and Jeopardy, you'll also find Sex and the City Trivia, should you feel so inclined. (Um, anyone wanna go there on a date with me? No reason...). Gaming is always a good option following their weekend organic brunches, or accompanied by some pub food.
Bishop & the Belcher
The Bishop & the Belcher in the gay village has a serious affinity for board games. There are Trivial Pursuit cards on every table, or, if that's a bit much for you, there's always a drunken game of Jenga to be enjoyed along with your wings.
MODEST SELECTION BUT BOARD GAME FRIENDLY
Disgraceland is a charming staple of a spot just east of Bloor and Ossington. It boasts a hodgepodge of board games for its patrons' gaming pleasure, like Yahtzee and Monopoly, alongside a menu that's extremely pleasing to the vegetarian palate. There's cheap beer, too, so they basically have everything a person could feasibly need.
You'll find 3030, at High Park Ave. and Dundas in the Junction, and within, you just might be able to feel like a kid again. They've got cozy seating areas perfect for snuggling in with friends for a night of gaming. There's a stack of games (a game of Mastermind, anyone?), as well as pinball.
C'est What, at Front St. and Church St., is a dark and cozy spot to unwind with friends over a beer (there are no fewer than 35 on tap). And if you feel like hanging out for a bit, they've got Backgammon, Scrabble, crib and Trivial Pursuit to keep you entertained by the fireplace.
Swirl Wine Bar is a cozy, romantic spot on the second floor of a classic Toronto house at Queen St. E. and Carlaw in Leslieville. Tuesdays are game nights at Swirl, and you'll find gems like UNO, Scrabble and Taboo. Alongside the games, you can enjoy some bread, cheese and charcuterie, as well as $3.50 beer specials to fuel your competitive side.
Grapefruit Moon is one of the city's cutest, coziest spots for brunch, and a chill spot to catch up with friends in the afternoon. They've got a selection of classic board games on hand to facilitate optimal times, including: Trivial Pursuit, Clue, Risk, Jenga, and Monopoly. "They're a tatty bunch, so beware," a lovely staffer warns over the phone. Grapefruit Moon is on Bathurst just north of Bloor.
The Only Cafe
A small neighbourhood joint with mismatched furnishings, The Only Cafe at Danforth and Donlands has 12 beers on tap, and over 100 different kinds in bottles. They have both a stack of board games and pinball, as well as the gamut of classic coffee drinks and snacks, too, and a giant patio. I call to see what kind of games they have, but the dude on the phone can't tell me, though he does confirm they're there. Methinks the beer list alone would make it worth the mystery hunt.
The Central is a student fave at Bloor and Bathurst, and alongside their pub food and cheap beer, they've got a stash of board games nestled in beside the bar. You'll find the classics like Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit, and BYOGame is fine, too.
Holy Oak Cafe
Holy Oak Cafe at Bloor and Lansdowne is licensed and has a selection of board games, but apparently it's not kosher to just play on any given night. Game nights are held the first and second Wednesday of the month from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m., and you can feel free to bring your own game, too, though their selection, which ranges from backgammon to Settlers of Catan, might have you covered.
Lead photo by Natta Summerky