If you and your chums are getting antsy with the same old sit-still-in-the-dark weekday bar routine, mix it up by rediscovering the joy of board games. The thought of revisiting your Chutes and Ladders days might seem a little too wholesome, but give it a shot...You'll find that date anxieties melt away when you're busy removing the "spare ribs" from the Operation board, and a round of suds adds a dimension your fourth-grade self never dreamed of. Some of our favorite spots:
Name that tune at the Blue Frog Bar & Grill
Whatever your childhood favorite was, you can probably find it here: the Frog has more than 100 titles. Vintage games on display make memorable decor: You'll see relics like "WOW! The Pillow Fight Game (for girls)" (c.1964) and "Sink the Bismarck!" (c. 1971). The play-able collection encourages nostalgia of a different sort with titles like Candy Land, Battleship and Operation. Karaoke featuring an excellent song list and quick-witted DJs is another reason for the bar's cult following; check out a game and watch the time fly by as you wait to take the stage.
Go pop-culture crazy at Guthrie's Tavern
Find respite from Wrigleyville's typical nightlife at Guthrie's, where a healthy selection of game options helps keep your fuzzy mind focused. On weeknights especially, nearly every table in the bar is the site of a little friendly competition, whether it be Battle of the Sexes or Boggle. Guthrie's is well-versed in pop-culture-inspired games like "Napoleon Dynamite," "CSI Miami" and "Trump," and even has a handmade "Drinking Jenga" variation on its well-stocked shelves. For those who play by the rules, there is a Webster's on hand to regulate the bar's three Scrabble sets.
Just try to be bored at Newport Bar and Grill
In addition to a game collection that boasts a full set of Mexican Train dominoes, this Southport neighborhood hangout has a pool table, dartboard, eight TV screens, a handful of arcade games and all-day free wi-fi. Oh, and did we mention it's attached to a laundromat? An unusual number of games have a global bent: You could learn about the world with the "National Geographic" game, the "Discover Hawaii" game or the "Chicago" trivia game...or pick up Risk and just conquer it instead.
Guess Hookah isn't technically a bar...
But who wants to get technical with a BYO lounge offering sublime handcrafted hookah flavors like honey-watermelon, exotic mango and mint julep? In the dimly-lit back room of this Ukrainian Village storefront you'll find comfy couches and a few small tables, making Guess Hookah the perfect place to wind down. The game selection is heavy on intellectual choices like chess (one set is carved in Muppet form), with some rare finds including a wooden Sorry! set that looks like a bona fide antique. Keep an eye on your pieces, though; the owner's twin Chihuahuas are known to roam among the guests.
Also worth mentioning:
Beachwood Inn A quirky dive with a killer jukebox, this Bucktown bar boasts seven Connect Four boards and quite a few other options.
Blue Line Club Car This upscale diner club in the heart of Wicker Park lets down its hair and serves 40s at Monday Board Game Nights.
California Clipper Score fun prizes like LPs, snack cakes and Uncle Fun's grab bags at no-cover Bingo every Monday night at 10 p.m. in Humboldt Park.
Green Eye Conveniently located just off the Western L stop, this oasis for the nine-to-five crowd gets points for having Cribbage and Hungry Hungry Hippos.
Gingerman Tavern Stop in for Scrabble as you're leaving the Metro or the ballpark. This friendly spot in a prime locale draws a diverse crowd, and it's often packed.