With games from ping pong to bocce ball, these six bars go beyond your standard billiards offering.
Big Game Energy
Nestled in the heart of Fremont, Add-a-Ball takes beer and gaming to a whole new level. Retro in feel and with an array of different coin-operated arcade games—Time Crisis II, Space Invaders, Dr. Mario—it’s hard to say no to this place. Basement-esque? Sure. Still worth it? Obviously.
The combination of Washington beer and miniature golf is an undeniable recipe for a fun night. Add in Flatstick owner Sam Largent’s game inventions—Duffleboard, Smash Stick!—and you’re likely to spend an entire evening in the subterranean adult playground in Pioneer Square or its swankier new sibling in South Lake Union.
Marvel at owner Justin Cline’s peculiar but brilliant formula: pinball plus beer plus ice cream. Cline takes his game selection as seriously as his flavors, which can vary from Vietnamese cinnamon to mango chili to root beer (bonus points for vegan flavors that aren’t lame). A visit to any of Full Tilt’s five locations will probably feature a raucous soundtrack, a short but solid beer list, and the incessant plingplingpling of arcade games. Really, it’s more “world’s most wholesome dive bar” than “treacly sweet shop.”
Everything is bigger at Garage. Twenty lanes of bowling and 25 billiard tables to start. Add in a six-pound behemoth burger and a Dunk Tank Cocktail (it's “meant to be shared” but we’re not judging), and you’re set for an entire weekend. Food service is lane-side because it’s understood that bowling and burgers go hand-in-hand...sort of.
A massively tricked out German-style beer hall, dripping with chandeliers and reclaimed wood paneling and finished off with some bocce ball courts—it’s an unconventional combo, but man Rhein Haus is fun. The lineup of housemade sausages—kielbasa, cheddarwurst, nurembergs—is impressive but the spiral-cut fried potato impaled on a stick is drinking food at its sartorial best. The beer list is long and split between German brews and local ones (often in German styles).
As far as clown-surrounded drinking in the city goes, Shorty’s is it—either apotheosis or nadir, depending on how you look upon a painted face. That the circus decor here is antiquated only adds to the bar’s bent, after-hours luster. Shorty’s belongs in the same category as places like Blue Moon Tavern—true drives hanging on in an increasingly renovated city. Play pinball, drink Rainier tallboys, and get spooked when you notice the vaguely melted clown mask hovering over your friend’s shoulder. Thank goodness it's still here, just a few blocks down from its original location, serving the same carnival vibes we love it for.
These three bars have…well, unconventional games, to say the least. But they’re still just as entertaining and therefore deserve their own honorable mention.
Okay, so this one isn’t really a bar or restaurant just yet. But, it is an axe throwing sanctuary on Capitol Hill so, literally the only thing that could make it better is booze, which means we’re rooting for it to nail down that liquor license soon. The good news: you can bring in your own food.
You know that Harry Potter scene with the life-size chess, that is, Wizard's Chess? Well, Eastlake Bar and Grill has basically nailed that same concept—minus the life-threatening consequences and magical aspect of it all—with connect four and a waterfront view just right outside. Throw in that $5 menu that kicks in twice a day and you've got a game night worth leaving the house for.
Board games count as bar games, right? We think yes. Mox Boarding House is the hub for tabletop competition. With a literal “game library” plus a full menu and beers on tap, grab a spot early and plan to be there for a while. Catan? Yeah, they have it. Cat-Opoly? Of course. Oh, and every Friday there’s Magic. Ballard is calling.