One of my favorite things to do with my kids is play board games. Another one is to eat a meal together that I haven’t cooked and don’t have to clean up.
So basically I was a sitting duck for Game Knight Lounge, a newish board game café on a bustling, built-out strip of North Williams Avenue. All the board games we could ever play plus a tasty food menu? Sold.
My son and I went to check it out on a sleepy Saturday afternoon, getting there soon after they opened at noon. There’s a $4 charge per person to access their massive game library (the shelves of board games cover a floor-to-ceiling wall when you enter), but it’s free for kids under 12 and once you’ve paid the fee, you can play for as long as you like.
There were so many great games that food felt secondary, but we were hungry. I was pleased to note their kids’ menu: the “Connect Four” is a PB and J on toasted sourdough; the “Gooey Louie” is a melty grilled cheese. Both will run you $6 and come with chips (though you could probably sub in the healthier, housemade cucumber slaw, which has a nice zing to it.)
The named-after-games theme continues on the adult menu — there’s a Cuban-style “Clubano” with pork shoulder, pickles and “Colonel Mustard,” and a loaded “Battleship” club sandwich. I tried a “dice bowl” for $11, with jasmine rice, cilantro, kimchi, sesame seeds, cucumber slaw and some-ever-so-slightly-mushy lamb-basil meatballs. The whole bowl was simple and tasty, but could have used a sauce of some kind to bring it all together. Next time, I’d go for a big salad ($8) and maybe a charcuterie board, with pickles, mustard, olives and toast points, though those who are looking for something shareable should give the “Hungry Hungry Chippos” a try — $12 gets you a loaded platter of nachos, easily big enough for 3 or 4. There’s a full bar menu too, though I didn’t partake on this visit.
The food came quickly — we’d barely had a chance to try out their vintage-y version of Rock ’Em, Sock ’Em Robots — but Game Knight invites lingering. We stayed for two hours, trying out the eclectic board games that the friendly owners had recommended from among their stacks and stacks of choices. Their picks were spot-on for an 8-year-old, and new to us; we particularly liked Niya, a Japanese-inspired strategy game that takes tic-tac-toe to a whole new level and Ghost Blitz, a test-your-reflexes game from Germany. (For the record, the former was a draw, and I pulled out a win on the latter.)
I also dug the mix of discovering new games and finding old favorites. We finished out our day with a rousing game of LIFE, which has been somewhat updated from the version I remember playing as a kid, though it still has its quirks. For example, when I landed on the Have Twins square and got to pick two LIFE cards, those two cards turned out to be worth $40,000 at the end of the game. (As the mother of twins, I attest from personal experience that the exact opposite is true. )
The overall vibe is mellow and friendly — there were serious gamers playing marathon strategy games while we were there, but also plenty of games available for the very youngest players, from Strawberry Shortcake the Game to Hungry Hungry Hippos to the Goodnight Moon Game.
The café could be a great birthday party locale or a spot for an afternoon playdate hang. I know we’ll be back, to play some of the games that we didn’t get to that looked intriguing. (Though spoiler alert — that Trump: The Game in the photo? The proprietor says “A lot of the pieces are broken and no one ever makes it to the end.” Draw your own conclusions to that one.)
3037 N Williams Ave. Visit pdxgameknight.com for hours.
Plenty of other restaurants around town have a few board games in stock to while away the time whilst you wait for your food. Our picks include Junior’s Café on SE 12th Avenue in Ladd’s Addition, which has Exploding Kittens for the brunch-craving hordes, while Leisure Public House in St. Johns has an appealing menu of pressed sandwiches to go with a shelf-full of board game favorites, including Connect Four.