Valentine’s Day spells romance at the Logan Square/Bucktown border, as the folks behind the imaginative — and sometimes brutally frank and explicit — card game Cards Against Humanity open its restaurant, bar, and gaming venue to the general public. Chicago Board Game Cafe, one of the most anticipated openings of the year, embarks on its first quest Friday afternoon. It shares an intersection at Western, Armitage, and Milwaukee with venerable 98-year-old sweets spot Margie’s Candies.
This is an ambitious project, to open a full-service restaurant and mix in a dash of theater with gaming. Chicago has a pair of full-service game cafes already: Bonus Round Game Cafe in Lakeview and Relo’s Board Game & Dessert Cafe in Little Italy. Neither has the backing and popularity of Cards Against Humanity, the hit party game created in Chicago back in 2011. It’s tagline is “a party game for horrible people.” This is Cards Against Humanity’s first restaurant venture.
Outfitted to resemble a miniature town square, there’s also a basement where pop-ups and other events, like an escape room, are already planned. The new multifaceted business juxtaposes a playful atmosphere with a serious menu. Chef Aaron McKay has a fine dining background (Schwa, NoMi). The menu features shared plates from Vietnam, Spain, and Mexico.
The priciest item on the menu is $75 for a 24-ounce ribeye. Other large plates include Vietnamese bún (rice noodles, coconut, pickled vegetables, sesame, rau thom) inspired by President Obama’s famous meal with Anthony Bourdain in Hanoi. Add crispy, boneless chicken hindquarter, ribeye filet, salt and pepper tofu, or a fried egg for a slight up-charge. The Obama reference on the menu shouldn’t be a surprise. Cards Against Humanity co-founder Max Temkin worked on Obama’s presidential campaign.
There’s creative snacks, such as “ca ri fries” (shoestring potato fries, coconut curry, rau thom, jasmine rice) and kebab halabi (lamb and beef kebab, Aleppo pepper, sumac, tomato, lebne). A short dessert menu features intriguing options like a basbousa financier (brown butter-semolina cake, citrus-orange blossom sabayon, pistachio) and a Ecuadorian chocolate namelaka (toasted marshmallow fluff, cocoa nib brittle).
Management has worked around the clock on opening its first restaurant and kept much of the project under wraps. Come back for a closer look inside the cafe, but for those who can’t wait, Chicago Board Game cafe opens 4 p.m. Friday.