The Penny Arcade Expo is this coming weekend with four full days of video and tabletop gaming, panels, and concerts at the downtown convention center. The first Expo was in 2004, and it's grown exponentially year after year celebrating gaming culture and all the nerdom that goes along with it. Two reasons you may be attending this year:
A) You’re an insanely awesome gamer and champion of the world.
B) You happen to have a nerdy—but handsome—husband, and he’s making you go.
Either way you’re going to need to eat. And drink (especially for those in column B). Skip the three-hour line at Subway and the 25-page menu at the Cheesecake Factory and head to these spots within a mile from the convention center to level up and refuel.
This bar is all about another type of nerd—the ice nerd. It’s not a lollipop cheerleader with a chainsaw here, it’s co-owner Jim Romdall working the Clinebell ice block machine. Not only is there fancy ice, but the bar boasts a nightly rotating bartender-created craft cocktail menu and snacks, like vermouth cured olives and foie gras popcorn. Vessel showcases traditional concoctions with unusual ingredients and local liquors. And it’s only two blocks from the convention center.
Walking right past this bar is as easy as missing a clue in Myst. With a true speakeasy vibe, the outside does no justice for the inside. Quirky and fancy paintings line the walls and bartenders serve funky craft cocktails. One drink on the menu is the Hemmingway—a shot of tequila, a bottle of Mexican beer, and a Nat Sherman cigarette.
Li’l Woody’s Burgers and Shakes
It’s BurgerTime. And this week’s special is The Hatchery—fried chicken, hatch chilies, Monterey Jack cheese, and chipotle mayo. Or just build your own, pile that burger high with non-enemy foods and wash it down with a root beer float with Molly Moon’s vanilla ice cream.
This spot may remind you of the Yoshi’s Tropical Island board in Mario Party and here you can enjoy the taste of the islands in over 250 rum selections. Video gaming is always more fun with drinking rules. The five-minute walk will be worth it for a classic daiquiri or Mai Tai and a plate of chorizo, chicken, or veggie empanadas.
There isn’t Dance Dance Revolution here, but there is delicious paella, house made sangria, and the decadent El Diablo chocolate dessert. Only a two-block walk from the center, Tango is all about happy hour from 4:30pm to 6 for Spanish tapas and $6 cocktails.
The Raygun Lounge
If you want to continue gaming on your break from the Expo, this Capitol Hill spot has World of Warcraft and many tabletop games. Sustenance comes in sweet and savory pies from High Five Pie or naan-wiches. And the chalices of mead will satiate that thirst.
John John’s Game Room
After grabbing a quick potpie from Pie Bar next door, head to this 21 and up barcade on the corner of Olive and Melrose. From Addams Family pinball to Contra, this neon-lit lofty space offers video game nostalgia to the max. And there are lots of ledges and cup holders to set your tallboy while you play.