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4 board game cafes & shops to help beat the winter blahs

By Maksim Apelfeld on December 23, 2014

With the holidays fast-approaching, and as exams and work slowly wind down, it’s easy to drift into winter hibernation.  A warm cup of hot chocolate and a Home Alone marathon are hard to resist this time of the year. But if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous this holiday season, and are willing to venture outside of the warm and cozy confines of your home, why not check out one of Ottawa’s up-and-coming board game cafes & shops.

Quite possibly the ideal winter activity, board games allows you stay in the warmth while spending some time with friends and family in a laid back and comfortable setting. With that in mind, I hit the town to check out the best board game spots that Ottawa has to offer.


Sitting on the east end of Chinatown, near Bronson and Somerset, this cozy board game cafe first opened its doors in the summer of 2013. Gamers can enjoy a the relaxing atmosphere while munching away on one of Monopolatte’s gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches or indulging in a grilled chicken Panini. There is also a selection of beers, wines and mixed drinks (including Harry Potter shots) as well as lattes, cappuccinos.

Owner David Narbaitz, an avid board gamer himself, has set out to create a place where people can pick up and explore the interactive world of board games in a social and comfortable setting. Monopolatte is certainly a good place to do so, whether you are a self-professed guru, or an avid beginner. The staff are there to give you a hand in case you need to brush up on the rules of each game, and can even suggest some  new titles to check out if you are looking for a change.

If you are looking to stop by Monopolatte consider doing so on Cover-Free Mondays,  or if your friends are not as adventurous as you are, stop by during Drop-in Tuesdays where you can have a good time with other drop-in gamers. Check out Monopolatte’s Facebook page for details on their up-coming New Years Eve party.

Owner David Narbaitz brewing up his signature hot chocolate at Monopolatte.

Owner David Narbaitz brewing up his signature hot chocolate at Monopolatte.

Monopolatte is located at 640 Somerset Street. $5 cover. Open 12pm-2am on weekdays,11am-3am on Friday and Saturday. 11am-1am on Sunday.

Loft Board Game Lounge

Image 2One of the newer players in Ottawa’s board game scene, The Loft is located at 14 Waller Street, a block south of Rideau Street. We checked out the Loft earlier this year before their grand opening, and it looks like owners Alessandro and Mike have been busy at work since then.

The board game collection has been bolstered with about 100 additional titles to choose from, and a new retail section has been added with board games available for purchase. The menu has also been updated with seven varieties of Belgian waffles, added to complement the selection of flatbread pizzas, sandwiches and appetizers. The beer selection has been expanded to include 6 beers on tap including a rotating craft beer tap. A new game board-theme mural by local west-end artist Danny Ong is taking shape on one of the walls near the bar.

There are also plans to introduce a new loyalty program allowing patrons to collect points with their purchases using a loyalty card & app. The points can then be redeemed for a variety of food, drink and other goodies.

Good times to check out The Loft this Holiday season: Tuesdays for no Stay & Pay fee, and weekdays before 5pm for $5 pints.

The Loft Board Game Lounge is located at 14 Waller Street. $5 Stay & Play charge. Open Sunday to Tuesday 11am-midnight, Friday & Saturday 11am-1am.

The Game Buff / L’As des Jeux

If you are looking to bring the joy of board games home to your family, The Game Buff might be the spot for you. Located in Gatineau at 151 Boulevard Maloney Est, this family-owned shop is stocked with an extensive selection of over 800 new and used board games, with titles available in both official languages.

The unique twist to this shop is their process of completing classic games. Owners Caroline and Roch meticulously check each used board game to ensure that no piece is missing before it is put up for sale. Often, several incomplete copies of a game are used to create one complete game. With this unique process the Game Buff keeps its shelves well-stocked with a large selection of classic board games with some titles dating back to the 1950s. Customers looking for some nostalgia can even request games, and let the Game Buff do the searching. In addition to the classics, an array of new games is available for purchase both in-store and online through The Game Buff website.

The Game Buff also offers a weekly board game night on Tuesdays hosted at the Bistro Des Alpes.

Co-owner Caroline Paquette of the Game Buff.

Co-owner Caroline Paquette of the Game Buff.

The Game Buff is located at 151 Boulevard Maloney Est, Gatineau. Open Monday to Wednesday 9am-5pm, Thursday & Friday 9am-9pm, and Saturday & Sunday 9am-5pm.

Échec et Malt

Residents of Hull & Gatineau will be glad to hear that there is a local gaming option available in Hull. Situated at 131 Promenade du Gatineau, the newly-opened Échec et Malt combines the engaging world of board games with the goodness of craft beer.

Owner Érik Pichette has stocked the Échec et Malt with over 80 varieties of craft beer, including many from local breweries across Quebec, with plans to expand the beer selection to over 100 in the future. Patrons can enjoy the wide variety of brews and snacks while playing their way through the extensive board game collection available in-house.

The central location of this establishment is an added bonus, as it is steps away from the Portage Complex with many bars, restaurants and shops available nearby. A street patio is in the works for the summer, as well as periodic game board tournaments for the more serious gamers out there.

Busy night at Échec et Malt.

Busy night at Échec et Malt.

Échec et Malt is located at 131 Promenade du Portage, Gatineau. Optional $5 fee for access to the board game collection.

Maksim Apelfeld is a contributing photographer for Ground Floor Photography, a local, Ottawa-based blog and online print shop, specializing in fine-art photographic prints for home décor. 

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