In the city of Toronto where Snakes and Lattes is from, board game cafes are popular places to grab a drink, maybe some food and nerd out.
These businesses do especially well when the weather is bad and people are looking for indoor activities to do with their friends. Drinks and board games are a winning combination that Aaron Zack hopes to popularize in the United States, starting in Arizona.
Snakes and Lattes is opening its second U.S. location at Main Gate Square in August, inside the former American Apparel building at 988 E. University Blvd.
"Arizona presented an opportunity," said Zack, the company's chief operating officer. "It has various similarities to Toronto ... We have really bad winters and you have really hot summers."
The company opened its first U.S. location off Mill Avenue in Tempe late last year, and plans to expand from there across the Southwest. Many Snakes and Lattes customers are students, but they also do a good deal of business with corporate clients who hold company game nights as team building exercises.
How does it work?
Customers pay a $5 per-person fee to access the library of 500+ different board games. Then you can stay as long as you want, because "we don't think fun works on a time limit," Zack said. (Food and drinks are separate.)
In Toronto, the game libraries can have as many as 1,500 games, but the Arizona location will start small and build up from there. The selection is a list of "greatest hits" that includes "nostalgia" games like Monopoly and Guess Who?, "light strategy" games like Settlers of Catan, "party games" like Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens, and "heavier strategy" games like Risk.
A special game guru will be on hand to help customers pick a game that works for them, and even teach them how to play it. Zack described these employees as "game sommeliers" who understand the pedagogy of teaching games.
Food and drink options
The company is currently sending its chefs down to research Tucson's food and drink scene, so the menu has local dishes and flavors on it.
The menu will be similar to the one in Tempe, which has sandwiches, burgers, thin crust pizzas, salads and more. Because of its Canadian origins, there's also a separate section of different poutines, which includes funky combos like the Korean Fire Chicken with fries, cheese curds and spicy sweet Korean fried chicken. Snakes and Lattes also has vegan options like an Impossible Burger and a vegan poutine with vegan cheddar and portobello mushroom gravy.
There will also be a full list of cafe drinks using espresso from Toronto roaster Propeller, which sources its coffee directly from the farmers. On the bar side, Snakes and Lattes plans to have 12 taps with local Tucson beers, plus a small list of bottles and cans.
The restaurant also does wine and cocktails, and will even have a D20 drinking game where you roll a 20-sided die that corresponds to different shots on the menu. If you roll a 1, they might give you a really spicy shot with ingredients like Tequila and hot sauce.
"We like to think of ourselves not so much as a restaurant, but as an experience," Zack said. "We want people come out and have a wonderful time."