Eater Chicago | Naomi Waxman | October 23, 2019
Chicago Board Game Cafe will offer games, a bar and restaurant, and two escape rooms in Logan Square/Bucktown
The team behind Cards Against Humanity, the popular and gleefully offensive card game, is opening a full-service board game restaurant, bar, shop, and library near the border of Logan Square and Bucktown. Chicago Board Game Cafe should open in January in the same building as Margie’s Candies, the 98-year-old ice cream and candy shop at 1965 N. Milwaukee Avenue.
Margie’s won’t be affected by the new venue, according to a news release. The building will also soon be home to Marz Community Brewing’s second tap room and Wormhole 2, a ‘90s-style sequel to essential Wicker Park coffee shop the Wormhole.
Also on Thursday, Uber Eats announced the specifics behind its plan to run a virtual restaurant with Rachael Ray—called Rachael Ray to Go—which will operate in 13 North American cities from mid-October until December 13 to cross-promote her new book.
Reservations are already live on Tock with January 10 as the first available date. The release teased a menu designed to evoke Spanish, Vietnamese, and Mexican sidewalk cafes. Executive chef Aaron McKay (Schwa, NoMi, Le Lan) will team with chef de cuisine Evan Behmer (Mercat a la Planxa, North Pond). McKay described a few dishes to the Tribune including a crispy boneless chicken (rice vermicelli noodles, nuoc cham, pickled vegetables, fresh herbs) and lamb and beef kebab Halabi (Aleppo pepper tomato sauce). Patrons can also expect cocktails, beer, and wine at a full-service bar, or purchase a private table for $30 per person, which will then be applied to food and beverage purchases.
Cards Against Humanity’s Max Temkin released the game in 2011 with seven other Chicago-area high school friends. He’s expressed a passion for food and drink on social media and even weighed in on Twitter when Alinea’s Nick Kokonas tweeted an invitation to the Clemson Tigers in response to the fast-food dinner they received at the White House. He also hosted the launch party for comic book-style cooking guide Let’s Make Ramen! at Cards Against Humanity HQ near the proposed Lincoln Yards development. Kokonas is, of course, behind the Tock reservation portal which Temkin will use.
In the years since, Temkin has created new games, including Humans vs. Zombies and the intentionally eyebrow-raising Secret Hitler. According to his website, he also advises and designs for nonprofit organizations such as Emily’s List, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Obama for America.
The city is also home to other game cafes, though few have the size, full-service restaurant component, financial support, and scalability of Cards Against Humanity’s forthcoming spot. These include Relo’s Board Game & Dessert Cafe in Little Italy, Lakeview’s Bonus Round Game Cafe, and suburban Evanston Games & Cafe.
Unlike Cards Against Humanity’s claim in its news release, Chicago does have full-service gaming cafes. Bonus Round in Lakeview has a full waitstaff and silverware. Geek Bar, which opened in Wicker Park in 2014, was arguably Chicago’s first full-service gaming restaurant. Geek Bar closed in 2016 with the announcement of mega-popular pop-up diner Saved by the Max.
In addition to the hundreds of board games, Temkin said the space will also house two escape rooms crafted by House Theatre of Chicago. Artistic director Nathan Allen hopes that his experience telling stories through design will immerse customers in venue’s two escape room games the Last Defender, and its follow-up, Nova to Lodestar. The House debuted the former in Chicago in 2016 before taking it to Denver for 15 sold-out weeks of shows, while the latter is a brand new title created for Chicago Board Game Cafe. Each escape room will hold up to 16 people.
Despite January 10 being the first available reservation date, the news release didn’t specify an opening date, only stating that Chicago Board Game Cafe is slated to open in early 2020. Stay tuned for more news on the restaurant and venue.