Toys for Tottering

A night on the town with pinball, pool, Ping-Pong, and plenty of incessant bleeping.

As much as I love kicking back in the usual bars with a strong cocktail and the bullshit of local gossip and grandiose ideas, there's only so much that one can endure before deciding to shake up the usual routine. With the goal of ditching our sedentary drinking habits, my friends and I embarked on a tour of city bars with some sort of physical activity on offer. We went looking for old men huddled around the dartboard's elusive target, defiant youths shooting pool, and possessed pinball fanatics, cursing and laughing while jockeying their glass-encased games.

First destination: the U District, where we wandered into the Monkey Pub (5305 Roosevelt Way N.E., 206-523-6457), the ideal neighborhood bar with pool, darts, and, surprisingly, local indie-electro band the Fitness on the jukebox. At 9 p.m., pool seemed to be the main draw. The two tables in the smoky main room were constantly in use but, happily, absent of aggressive or unfriendly players. A small closetlike side room contains the dartboard, and despite the tiny possibility that I might nail a bystander in the head with my (luckily) plastic-encased dart tip, we played a short and pathetic game while sipping cheap, strong cocktails from the friendly bartender. With the sounds of the Smiths and David Bowie emanating from the speakers, we finished our game and took in the cozy, colorful crowd.

Next we hit the Sloop Tavern (2830 N.W. Market St., 206-782-3330) in Ballard. At 11 p.m., there was plenty of room for us to play some pool in the nautically themed, mermaid-friendly room. Although we stuck out among the older clientele, who seemed to hail from nearby marinas and boatyards, they were more fun than the only other young people in the place, who hovered suspiciously in the back discussing God knows what. After pool, we made a beeline for the video games; the Sloop has everything from Golden Tee to virtual hunting, but if you want truly old-school games, try Kincora (518 E. Pine St., 206-325-0436) on the Hill. After bonding with the locals over the gargantuan "Slooper-sized" 32-ounce beers, we finally laid down our pool sticks and retired our joy sticks, then headed downtown.

Considering the entire room is dedicated to pinball and filled with an appealing clientele of bike messengers, punks, and pinball nerds (not to mention the best goddamn veggie dogs in the city), it shouldn't surprise anyone that at just after midnight, Shorty's (2222-A Second Ave., 206-441-5449, was our next destination. Regulars rule the bar, but drop-ins have plenty of opportunity to get to the games. While chowing down on veggie dogs drizzled with nacho cheese and drinking the dangerously potent Tropical Trash (Shorty's famous rum-smoothie concoction), we tried our best not to humiliate ourselves in front of the pros. Though the bar recently added liquor to its beverage list, the majority of patrons sipped pints of PBR and other cheap beer, and amidst the blinking lights and incessant beeping of the machines, time mysteriously flew by.

Although thoroughly entranced by the trolls that populate the pinball classic called Medieval Madness, we managed to drag ourselves next door to the Lava Lounge (2226 Second Ave., 206-441-5660,, a bar renowned for its quality jukebox, bathroom graffiti, and shuffleboard. And though this dark, smoky bar isn't the only place in the city where you can push a small disk across a sanded surface (Canterbury Ale & Eats at 534 15th Ave. E., 206-322-3130, also offers the game), the clubhouselike environment at the Lava suits the game perfectly.

At 1:10 a.m., the night was coming to a close, so we decided to quickly swing by Roanoke Park Place Tavern (2409 10th Ave. E., 206-324-5882), located in that no-man's land between the U District and Capitol Hill. Granted, a rainy autumn night isn't the best time for an outdoor Ping-Pong match, but we were charmed when we heard that the bar offers it, and we wanted to check out the court. Though visibly jock-heavy (the sports channels are monitored), the crowd enjoying the bar was warm and neighborly. Activities included homework, gossip, and more rounds of Golden Teeā€”but alas, no Ping-Ponging. The Roanoke's table is on its back porch, which was soggy on the night in question, so it wasn't in the cards for us to take charge of the paddles. Still, the overgrown garden area has the homey feel of a backyard barbecue at a friend's house, and we'll be sure to return for a little table tennis in better weather.

After our adventures at some of the city's more activity-oriented drinking establishments, we could all hit the sack, happy in the knowledge that our rest was actually well deserved and not just the usual alcohol-induced coma.

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