Sometimes all you need for a night out with friends is a pint of beer or snifter of whiskey — but having a game to play can take your night up a notch. Looking for a local watering hole where you can show off your Scrabble skills or pinball prowess? Here’s a roundup of some of the best places.
We can’t start this list without mention of one of the most obvious bars for a game night: Vigilante Gaming Bar.
Specifically for the nerd in all of us, Vigilante opened in January at 7010 Easy Wind Dr. with already quite a stockpile of more than 150 games: everything from classic chess to Cards Against Humanity to Magic: the Gathering, as well as far more obscure titles.
The bar’s co-founders gave thought to every little detail that might enhance the gamer experience, right down to the custom tables equipped with an “Accio Server!” button you can push for service. Vigilante focuses on local beer for its selection of booze and also has an on-site chef who prepares food you can eat without interrupting playtime.
It’s hard to beat that, although the Emerald Tavern Games & Cafe at 9012 Research Blvd. has been around longer, since the fall of 2013, and offers much of the same, including food, in a slightly different setting.
Modeled after an English pub, the Emerald Tavern offers more than 300 games and makes it easy for you to choose one by labeling how long it’s expected to take and how many people can play it at a time. Drinks there include English ales that you can mix together for combinations like the Chocolate Truffle: a Belhaven Black Stout topped off with Lindeman’s Framboise.
And did you fall in love with the game and wish you could play it more often? Emerald Tavern doubles as a store and has a stock of games for purchase.
Other game-friendly bars:
- Hops & Grain, 607 Calles St. You don’t have to wait until the monthly board game meet-up at the East Austin brewery to sit at one of the picnic tables and hope for a winning streak, but Hops & Games is an entire night devoted to playing board games. Join both amateur and experienced gamers alike the second Wednesday of every month — you can bring your own food.
- HandleBar, 121 E. Fifth St. The rooftop of this multi-story downtown watering hole is an adult playground, with plenty of space for dancing, an additional bar to refill your drink, and also game-related revelry in the form of giant Jenga and cornhole. And did we mention the seesaw and other playground equipment? A literal playground, y’all.
- Kung Fu Saloon, 716 W. Sixth St. and 11501 Rock Rose Ave. Both Austin locations of this “bar-cade” have board games, arcade games and table games, including Battleship, Donkey Kong and skee ball. (Check the Kung Fu website for each bar’s specific offerings; they differ slightly.)
- Punch Bowl Social, 11310 Domain Dr. OK, what doesn’t this massive adult wonderland have? Part restaurant, part arcade, part billiards lounge and part bowling alley — with karaoke rooms to boot — Punch Bowl Social doesn’t have much in the way of traditional board games, but you’ll still play like a kid again with ping pong, vintage arcade games and so much more.
- 4th Tap Brewing Co-operative, 10615 Metric Blvd. Don’t let the North Austin warehouse space fool you: 4th Tap knows how to party. The cooperatively owned brewery isn’t just the home of the theatrical wrestling group Party World Rasslin’; it also has quite a collection of board games, kept in their own alcove off the taproom, that you can play at one of the long picnic tables.
- Buffalo Billiards, 201 E. Sixth St. Housed in an 1860s-era building that was rumored to have once been a brothel, the Sixth Street bar still knows how to deliver a rowdy good time with darts, pinball, foosball, shuffleboard and pool all available along with sports on the TVs.
- The Buzz Mill, 1505 Town Creek Dr. Even lumberjacks play board games. This 24-hour coffee shop — with the decor and atmosphere that suggest you just walked into a literal log cabin in the Pacific Northwest — has a large outdoor patio where you can play giant Jenga or a board game like the classic Monopoly.
- The Highball, 1120 S. Lamar Blvd. If it’s a Tuesday night, you can count on knowing what this Alamo Drafthouse bar is doing: playing a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity at the weekly Game Night starting at 8 p.m. That’s followed by very R-rated bingo at 10 p.m. As a result of these adult activities, anyone under 21 won’t be permitted into the bar starting at 9 p.m.
- Parlor & Yard, 601 W. Sixth St. The Bridget Dunlap concept opened as an old-school sports and game lounge, so you can find throwback board games, darts, ping pong and a full-fledged game room here with foosball, shuffleboard and dome hockey. Ping pong is outside in the expansive astro turf-covered patio.
- The Goodnight, 2700 W. Anderson Ln. Let this bowling bar make good on its promise to give you a night you won’t forget. Like Punch Bowl Social, it’s got it all: shuffleboard, billiards, ping pong, even a weekends-only mechanical bull named El Jefe. Tuesdays are devoted to Geeks Who Drink, if you’re a trivia master; Wednesdays have adult bingo.
- Recess Arcade Bar, 222 E. Sixth St. As the name suggests, Recess is all about bringing out the kid in us while we drink and has everything from giant chess to Frogger to NFL Blitz. The full list of games is available on the website.
- Craft Pride, 61 Rainey St. Miss your old Nintendo console? The beer bar on Rainey Street hosts Video Game Nights with classic video games and consoles on Monday evenings. You can participate in tournaments for prizes ranging from gift cards, brewery swag or free pizza from the on-site Via 313 food truck.