Sometimes the sheer power of conversation can’t save a date or group hang that’s doomed to be about as exciting as waiting your turn at the DMV. We’re pretty sure that’s actually why billiards was invented in medieval times - to distract from awkwardness that couldn’t be smoothed over with chalices of castle mead. Here are 16 spots perfect for clutching a drink with one hand and showing off your sportsmanship with the other. Using two straws to become a walrus doesn’t count.
Kangaroo & Kiwi is an Australian-themed bar in the shell of an old library. Instead of bookshelves, it has shark carcass replicas, maps of the land down under, and bathrooms for blokes and sheilas. Come here to drink beer and cider and play darts or hand shuffleboard while the rugby game blares. They serve things like toasties and Aussie-style pies, but we’d pass on most of the food - head next door to Li’l Woody’s instead.
The last time you hung out in a basement playing board games, you were in high school experiencing the placebo effect of a pipe packed with dried oregano. The basement at Capitol Cider is definitely more grown-up, with the added bonuses of having an excellent cider lineup, a fireplace, and a fully gluten-free menu. They also have big booths, hand shuffleboard, and board games you’ll actually want to play, like Taboo and Cards Against Humanity. Because you graduated from checkers around the same time you stopped hanging out in your parents’ basement.
Backyard is great because it gives you lots of options: Big Buck Hunter, pool, darts, a pinball machine, a jukebox, and some kind of electronic golf simulator. Plus, the housemade barbecue is delicious, there are plenty of beers to choose from, and the crowd is never too out-of-control.
Garage is ideal for when you want to go somewhere with a small group and stay put, since there’s a lot of ground to cover: this place has 20 bowling lanes, 20 pool tables, and six different bars. Most importantly, it’s adults-only, so you won’t find any elementary school birthday parties with children shrieking like pterodactyls here. Just make sure to reserve your lanes and billiard tables in advance.
Swinging golf clubs around while drinking a lot of alcohol is usually not encouraged - but that’s exactly what you’re going to do at Flatstick Pub, a dog-friendly mini-golf bar perfect for a big group (you can even rent out private course space). If you’re not into mini golf, Flatstick also has duffle ball, a tabletop version of golf where you use your hands and get even more frustrated. Either way, grab some tacos and guacamole from their Mexican food vendor (Manu’s Tacos) while you play.
Admit it: you miss playing cornhole while shotgunning beers on the lawn of that sketchy fraternity house in college. Lucky Envelope understands you. Their cornhole is on asphalt instead of grass, but their beers are infinitely better than warm Keystone Light. Make it here in time for a couple of sunset games before you hit the Ballard bars. Get the blood orange IPA, and bring some good snacks to picnic on in case there’s not a food truck parked in the lot.
Inside, Eastlake Bar & Grill looks like a duller version of a Red Robin. The tiki bar on the patio is where the real fun is. On a nice night, drown yourself in prickly pear margaritas, play life-size Connect Four, and school your friends in ping pong on the astroturf.
Shorty’s is one of the most iconic bars in the city, and it’s where to go if you’re a wizard with two ball flippers and immune to the annoyance of excessive neon lights. This is a pinball bar that serves strong whiskey sours and Chicago-style hot dogs to keep you going as you explore the rows on rows of vintage and new-school machines.
That one friend you know who owns a Sega Genesis is really getting sick of you showing up unannounced to play Mortal Kombat and eat all their Bugles. How to fix that: go to Georgetown Liquor Company, a musty dive bar with few redeeming qualities other than its three old-school consoles and massive library of game cartridges. Grab an on-tap sour beer and some vegetarian pub food, and rediscover how hard Donkey Kong Country actually is.
If you want to play skeeball but also drink quality cocktails and eat something other than French fries, Rabbit Hole is a great option. The theme is immediately obvious at this dark and eccentric little Belltown bar, which has a large mural of rabbit-headed people overlooking its skeeball machines. You can start with a tame group dinner and seamlessly transition to a cocktail-fueled skeeball tournament.
Rhein Haus isn’t the only German biergarten in the city, but it’s the only one where you can get a little too loud over indoor games of bocce while eating sausages. It’s best to hit the felt court here with a boot of beer and a competitive attitude that might irritate your friends. Plus, the homemade pretzels with molten cheese are great post-prost.
Unicorn is a hyperactive carnival-themed bar where acting like a fool is not only accepted, but expected. Get in on the multicolored sensory overload while drinking whimsical cocktails with ingredients like bubblegum vodka and orange soda. Then, spend all your pocket change on arcade games - and be prepared for the puzzle of avoiding the belligerent bachelorette party and/or person who just face-planted into a pinball machine.
Waterwheel Lounge feels like one big year-round dive bar party. When the weather’s gray and depressing, you can get in on some bingo or trivia, or sing “All By Myself” out of tune during karaoke night without judgment. When the sun’s out, the astroturf patio has ping pong, cornhole, and ladder golf - all things experts agree go really well with copious amounts of cheap beer.
Brave Horse Tavern is an upscale taphouse where you’ll find spiced tater tots, boozy jello shots, and lots of Amazon employees. They also have a great setup for hand shuffleboard. It’s the perfect Friday night HQ if half of your friends came to eat dinner and the other half came to pound Moscow mule slushies and artfully flick their wrists for sport.
When all of the dart throws and button-mashing at other bars have given you carpal tunnel, come to Peddler Brewing Company. During the summer they do a weekly movie night, and year-round they have trivia, science presentations, and an improv word game contest called “Pundamonium.” Don’t miss the tangerine Hefeweizen or the vegan hot dog that actually tastes good (from the Cycle Dogs food truck).
The Woods is a warehouse-style taproom connected to Two Beers Brewing Company. It’s a great place to play darts, foosball, hand shuffleboard, and billiards - and the staff is super friendly. Spend a few hours here with your friends and their dogs, and go in on some beer mac ‘n’ cheese or carnitas tacos from Bread & Circuses (the popular food truck has a brick-and-mortar location in-house).