Some people like to drink while they watch the Chicago Blackhawks. Others prefer to butcher classic pop songs while nursing a beer at a karaoke bar. For those who are partial to playing backgammon while sipping a cocktail, finding a bar with a decent board game selection is key. That's why we've searched high and low for establishments that encourage friendly tabletop showdowns. Pick a card, roll the dice, and get ready for a highly competitive evening at one of Chicago's best board game bars.
RECOMMENDED: Our complete list of the best bars in Chicago
Chicago bars with board games
This inconspicuous bar is equal parts after-work dive and Antiques Roadshow. Amid dusty knickknacks and bric-a-brac, the family who runs the place will pour you a stiff drink and then try to sell you a Civil War–era revolver, a set of buffalo-themed shot glasses or anything else lying around—anything except for the patriarch’s wall-mounted marlin and the Hamm’s sign hanging out front.
The crew behind Green Eye and Underbar purchased the former Bar Vertigo space and gave it a bit of a face-lift, and, seemingly overnight, it’s already packed. The owners salvaged the Art Deco back bar from the old Lava Lounge space and somehow made it fit in these new narrow digs, but the real eye candy here is the never-ending parade of tattooed hipsters who seem to travel in packs to this bar family’s watering holes.
The theme at this cozy Wicker Park diner is old-school railroad dining car, which is fitting considering it’s underneath the Damen stop on the Blue Line. The menu has plenty of choices for eats (nachos, salads, burgers) and even more for drinks (pear, cucumber, even snickerdoodle martinis are represented). Drink up: The CTA's only a few steps away.
Do you play Dungeons and Dragons? Settlers of Catan? Carcassonne? Even if you have no idea what those things are, you’ll be welcome at Geek Bar, where geek-themed gastropub dishes complement a drinks list populated with craft cocktail and local beers. The bar operates out of the space formerly occupied by Storefront Company in Wicker Park and boasts one of the largest collections of board games that we've ever seen.
Goldies is the kind of place you hear about from a friend of a friend—a nondescript bar that you would usually walk past, without a second thought. Venture beneath the drab brown awnings and you'll find a decent selection of local beer and cheap PBR pints (naturally) along with pool, darts and some board games. Add this to your list of go-to dives.
There’s no pretense here—in fact, the Green Eye’s self-proclaimed addition to the ’hood is “cheap drinks for reasonable people.” Locals head here for Lagunitas drafts, a small outdoor patio (in the summer) and its prime spot right next to the Blue Line, which makes this place easier to drop into your routine than sleep.
The twentysomethings in the back room playing board games are missing out. The real action is at the bar, where silver-haired ladies flirt with ex-frat boys and the occasional indie-rock couple. It’s tough to find a place in Wrigleyville where worlds collide and all are welcome for a mildly drunken kumbaya vibe, but that’s exactly what this is.
Don’t take the name literally: There’s a nice crowd here, but the joint isn’t packed with followers, so you can usually find a seat to soak up the comforting vibe. We want to keep this beloved place low-key, and were almost hesitant to tell you about it, but we’re running out of board game and pool table competitors.
The latest sign of the emergence of Clark and Devon, this storefront bar offers a wide array of craft beers for Edgewater folks who want to avoid the crowds (and the attitude) of Hopleaf. There’s no food, but there’s plenty of Wii and tabletop games. Why “Norse”? When co-owners Ben Buhr and Ian Andrusyk moved from Bucktown, friends suggested “Norse” for their trek north. But when we asked our supremely laid-back bartender about it, he shrugged: “We needed a name.”
This casual, inviting South Michigan Avenue brewery produces small-batch beers and let's you bring in your own food from neighborhood restaurants. Once you choose a beer (the Everleigh ESB and Habitual Black IPA are solid bets), grab a board game and settle in for an evening of tipsy fun.