photo: courtesy of Bridget Cicenia
Antidotes to monotonous people-watching at the corner dive, bar games are a wholesome way to up the ante on your midnight mischief. But if you're not much for barroom sports or you're bored of board games, revitalize your competitive streak and beat the barrelhouse blues with these inventive, light-on-intensity tournaments. We've chosen a match for every day of the week, so get out there and play fair!
Monday: Bingo at California Clipper
Bypass your local Elks lodge and settle into a booth in the Clipper's lovely digs around 10 p.m. for a round of cover-free, traditional Bingo. Something about this specialty game culls a cultish following, and the young, Humboldt Park crowd at this retro-swank cocktail lounge follows suit. The creative and stiff cocktails here—like the Purple Martini ($5), a mix of grape soda, coconut rum and soda—and nicely priced beer make for plenty of premature "Bingo!" calling, but the comic relief emcees "Steve and Steve" won't mind; they'll probably just make fun of you. Prizes from trinket store Uncle Fun (1338 W. Belmont) entice the participants to keep on playing.
Tuesday: Ping-pong at Happy Village
Though we're partial to Tuesdays, visit this Ukie Village hideaway spot, spangled with Christmas lights and vintage beer cans, on any night of the week, grab a Hamm's and duck into the rec room for pick-up ping-pong tournaments. No matter if the transient weekend crowd is a little uptight, all Villagers share a love of the game, and you'll never catch any of 'em screeching the tables together for a college-inspired beer-pong blitz—just a whole lot of paddle power. Due to the loosely rotating rounds on weekends, it's not uncommon to see the ham-handed and heel-clad getting a soft serve from a pong pro. But settle into Happy Village's plastic, wedding reception-esque chairs, and you’ll eventually spy some showmanship.
Wednesday: Literary trivia at Sheffield's
Sheffield's Reading Under the Influence event takes place on the first Wednesday of every month, with local literary-minded hosts issuing a slew of deep trivia questions. Sure, you haven't picked up To Kill a Mockingbird since high school, but what was that thing that Scout did, you know, on page 25? Beginning at 7 p.m., this three-hour long nod to writing and reading (and drinking) hits the classics and more, with book prizes and other relevant awards. The bar's 80-plus beer list is veritable novella in itself, with complex characters, subtlety and a brilliant balance of flavors; aspiring wordsmiths take note!
Thursday: Rock-Paper-Scissors at Ravenswood Pub
A school bus staple graduates to full-blown, two-minute combat at this neighborhood pub's Thursday night RPS (that's rock-paper-scissors) League. Operating at full tilt since Chicago's own hero, Jason Kieronski, competed in the World Championships in Toronto last fall, the tournament even pulls in some off-duty bartenders. Expect around 15-30 palm pounding patrons a week, all vying for the proverbial glory—or at least the giant Cheez Ball tub that round winners score. The grand prize, a gift certificate to, um, Ravenswood Pub, keeps the champs on a virtual retainer; though, the callous-free are also welcome to stop in around 10 p.m., sign up and take a seat.
Friday: Turtle races at Big Joe's 2 and 6 Pub
This Aesop's Fable- and Mark Twain-inspired operation has gotten its share of press, and the owners even ask regulars to keep the turtle races on the hush-hush. Whoops. Mosey in on a Friday around 8:30 p.m. and get yourself a drink; with your purchase comes a ticket that, if chosen by the bar's emcee, might help you land a front runner in one of the turtle races. Despite what many of the extremely vocal patrons may think, there's not much spectators can do in the way of strategy except sit back and have some faith in their little guy. (Animal-rights types can rest easy: no turtles are harmed in the process.) Out-of-bounds turtles score you a t-shirt, while coming in last place earns you another free drink.