The creators of Cards Against Humanity are set to open the Chicago Board Game Cafe on January 10 in the Margie’s Candies building downtown.
The idea for the venture came to the popular card game’s co-creator, Max Temkin, about 10 years ago when he visited a board-game café called Snake & Lattes in Toronto. Upon his return, the board game enthusiast asked himself, “Why don’t we have anything like this in Chicago?”
The team of co-founders (including Temkin, chief executive officer; Aaron McKay, chief operational officer; and Eric Garneau, director of games and retail) has been crafting the project for about two and a half years. The business will include the merging of a full-scale restaurant and bar, hundreds of board games for guests to choose from, a retail store, and two escape rooms produced by Nathan Allen, artistic director of the House Theatre of Chicago.
Garneau told The Maroon, “We have spent the last two and a half years just trying to crack this model that we’re doing because it’s pretty rare to merge a full-service restaurant with a games, retail, and playing environment—just trying to figure out all of the inputs that go into one output, which is giving our guests the best experience that they can possibly have.”
Patrons will be able to make two-hour table reservations to eat a meal and play board-games or book an escape room in the basement of the board game café. Garneau told The Maroon that the café will have a rotating group of about six “Games on Tap” that employees will be able to teach guests, with a focus on independent and local games. The group is converting an old bank vault in the space to fill with different games.
“Our goal is that we have all this stuff that we like. Stuff that’s made in Chicago, independent games, food, and drinks from all around the world, and we want to get people out of their comfort zone and try something new,” Temkin said.
For Temkin and Garneau, who both enjoy board games in their personal lives, the overall goal of the Chicago Board Game Cafe is for people to connect with each other and bond through a new hobby.
“You don’t need to know anything to come here. You just have to want to have a good time with your friends, or maybe not even with your friends, and just try something new, eat some good food, and you’ll leave feeling welcome, is my hope, and wanting to come back,” Garneau said.
Temkin said the Chicago Board Game Cafe would have been a magical experience for him, had there been one while he was still in school, and he hopes that current students will be able to find a new and exciting way to enjoy their time in Chicago and build a community.
Garneau took it even further: “I feel like we’re building the best date stop that doesn’t exist.”
Reservations for the Chicago Board Game Cafe, located at 1965 North Milwaukee Avenue, can be made online. Reserving a table requires a $30 deposit per person, applied toward food and drinks.