Monopolatte, Ottawa’s only board game café, has a homey and inviting feel to it.
Located on the ground floor of a house on Somerset St. West, the café was opened by owner David Narbaitz last June to fill a niche he felt was missing in Ottawa.
“I needed a place to introduce people to board games as I have long been an avid board gamer,” he said.
“It’s a super hobby and I wanted them to get into the hobby. I wanted some place that was inviting and that’s basically what Monopolatte is—an inviting place to play board games.”
Narbaitz has partnered with four others, including his brother Bruce, all of whom are board members. They all work on the premises to make Monopolatte a comfortable hangout for playing board games.
With a $5 cover you can play board games until the wee hours. And yes, it’s a café too, with a small but appropriate menu of food and snacks.
There are actually two menus. One is a games menu from which you choose your game and the other is a food menu offering a choice of drinks, sandwiches, and snacks. The games range from traditional board games like Risk and Monopoly to the latest releases that can be played by one, two, or several players.
If undecided about which game to play—there are 800 to choose from—you can spin a wheel and choose a game based on the number the wheel lands on. Alternatively, one of the friendly staff will suggest a game based on your likes, the amount of time you have, or even the size of your group.
If you don’t know how to play a game, the servers will explain the rules and walk you through it. Narbaitz said the servers need to know at least 30 games to get hired.
“I myself only know the rules by heart to 310 board games, and then with the instruction booklets probably another 200, so there are even a few board games on the shelves that I don’t know by heart yet,” he said.
The games can be enjoyed as a group or a family. On Drop-In Tuesdays, customers can join in games with other drop-ins. There are no restrictions on the time spent playing or the number of games one can play.
The café menu includes a selection of grilled cheese sandwiches (served with either kettle chips or salad), paninis, desserts, and even a candy platter if you really want to authenticate the childhood experience of gathering in the family den on a Saturday afternoon to play board games. There are also vegetarian and gluten-free options.
For drinks there are lattes and espressos, a variety of teas, beer, and mixed drinks.
Evenings find the place packed. Word of mouth keeps it hopping with people wanting to try a new game or play an old favourite. Some of the newer games are for sale.
“Those are the games that we predict people will fall in love with and need immediately and sometimes we’re dead on. There’s a game called Snake Oil where after you play it you will want to buy it. It’s that good of a social game,” said Narbaitz.
On the May long weekend, Narbaitz will be attending CanGames, an Ottawa board game conference at which he has volunteered for 11 years.
“That’s three full days of board gaming and tournaments all the time. I have to defend my title in some of the games from last year,” he said.
He will also “research, find what games people like and what’s going to be popular in the future.”
Located at 640 Somerset West, Monopolatte is open till 2:00 a.m. most nights. It closes one hour earlier on Sundays and one hour later on Fridays and Saturdays. Check the website for hours and an alphabetical listing of all of the board games: http://www.monopolatte.com/