Pick up your beer and back away from the plasma TV. Sure, you can sit there slack-jawed, watching ESPN on 15 screens, or you can test your own skills against other breathing bar-goers. From bocce ball to volleyball, bean bags to horseshoes, we've got the playbook for this summer's sweetest bar games. Just remember that spiking someone else's pint will definitely get you ejected.
Horseshoes at Montrose Saloon
The backyard of the Montrose Saloon looks more like a great spot for a family reunion than a run-of-the-mill beer garden. You'll find a tent and grill for parties, tables built on tree stumps and a horseshoe pit where veteran regulars school rookies in the art of pitching. Games are free every day on a first-come, first-served basis; if the pit is crowded, hit the Sox vs. Cubs-theme bean bag toss instead. The staff says heated rivalries flare up from time to time, so keep things cool with $3 domestics in frosty mugs or one of the ever-changing specials.
Shuffleboard at Toon's
For a spot with such a zany name (and a Charles Bukowski quote on the menu), Toon's turned out to be pretty tame. Expect thirtysomethings playing lots of early '90s radio hits on the jukebox and mostly uninspired grub coming from the kitchen. Watch out for the goofy black-lit hall, too, or risk fumbling your way into the wrong john. Still, it's worth the trip to claim a spot on one of the city's few shuffleboard tables. A handy electronic scoreboard keeps count while you play ($1 for each 15-minute game), and framed rules clarify where to put your puck.
Volleyball at Augie's
If you absolutely must get that ESPN fix, Augie's sports 11 TVs, plus two installed in the floor. We're not sure why you need tubes beneath your feet, but patrons seem to like it almost as much as the roomy sidewalk seating and sand volleyball court out back. Though Monday and Tuesday summer leagues have already begun, net jockeys can drop by Saturday and Sunday for open play, provided they lay down a $100 minimum tab per team. After working up a healthy thirst, that $20-$25 per player is an easy goal to attain, especially since Augie's offers no weekend drink specials.
Bags at Old Barn
During the Dirty Thirties, the Old Barn operated as a speakeasy, serving moonshine to local aviators and the likes of W.C. Fields. These days the restaurant keeps things above board with classic American fare like Lobster Bentley ($6.95) and Neopolitan Pork Chops ($14.95). Out in the new beer garden, teams face off for bags, or cornhole (hey, we didn't name it), after dropping off a driver's license at the bar. The concept is simple: Players toss bean-filled bags at holes in boxes for points. Regulars put on tournaments every few weeks, but anyone can grab a bag for daily play.
Bocce Ball at Pontiac Cafe
Whether handing out toys at Honky Tonk Bingo or fulfilling rock star dreams with live music karaoke, the folks at the Pontiac Cafe know how to keep crowds entertained. Now bargoers lazing on the sprawling patio can try their hands at bocce ball, too. There's no charge and no deposit to bowl on the new sand court; just step up and start tossing. Stop by Wednesdays for $3 burgers and fries, and then see how close you can land your ball to that jack. If we could just get that guy in the trucker hat who calls Bingo to give the play by play, this would be our new favorite sport.
Keep the game going:
Hit the batting cages at Sluggers.
Step up for the shuffleboard tourneys Wellington's.
Shoot electronic skeet at Marie's Riptide Lounge.
Toss bags at Moretti's.
Try your hand at shuffle bowling at Bucktown Pub.