My current Torontonian obsession is a geek-chic café just west of Bathurst on Bloor called Snakes & Lattes. The wildly popular destination is pretty much exactly what it sounds like- a board game café. If you’re lucky enough to get a table (or smart enough to call the day before to get yourself on the VIP list) you can hole up there for as long as you want (really, they won’t even start to scowl at you after 7 hours- trust me, I’ve tested them), enjoying berry cheesecake milkshakes and hot chocolates that are made out of- wait for it- hot milk and actual chocolate that you stir in yourself (caramel, hazelnut, white, milk, dark- whatever). It’s a magical place where the cool kids geek out, the geeks rule the roost and the divisions between the two seem to pretty much vanish.
$5 per person buys you unlimited game time. And they’ve got everything- from Risk to Dream Phone, Survivor Trivia to Sorry. The walls-lining game shelves are beautifully overwhelming so should you choose not to waste your precious time starring at their brilliance, the staff will come by your table to find the one you were looking for or suggest something new. For someone who pretty exclusively plays Taboo and Monopoly, this is a major selling point. Not only do I not know how to play most games (and despise reading instructions), I’ve never even heard of most of them. Who knew there was something called Pandemic wherein the players all work together to eradicate disease from the globe? I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a board game where the players worked together; I thought game night was a time for the hyper-competitive to prove their dominance and destroy all their friendships. Nope, Pandemic exists, and it’s pretty much the greatest game ever. But it was also the first one that cool guy in the hat introduced me to, so I’m biased. (For the record- about 90% of the Snakes & Lattes staff could be described as “that cool guy in the hat”, depending on your definition of “cool”, but we’re going with mine, so it applies).
The multi-room café is always packed but the staff sticks close by anyway, explaining games in detail, taking new orders on their schmantzy ipad system and supervising your first few rounds on a new game. And if you happen to hate the one they suggested? Just pick a new one. My friends and I made the rounds to 3 other games before ordering up another shot at Pandemic (which we’ve yet to beat, by the way, we keep getting too cocky then freakin’ Manila starts a new outbreak).
Toronto also has a serious café hours problem. I can’t seem to find a decent one open past Starbucks closing, but these guys are still going even after most bars have closed (2am most days; 4am Friday-Saturday) and are open at 11am 7 days a week. Oh, and they serve sandwiches and baked goods too- so you don’t starve while you save the world or battle ghosts or discover which boy has a secret crush on you (told you they had Dream Phone– 12 year old me was thrilled).
Snakes & Lattes, 600 Bloor St W. Go ahead, you’ve got some time, go stop a worldwide Pandemic– and order a raspberry cheesecake milkshake while you’re at it- that cool guy in the hat will be happy to help.