The unimpressive exterior of GameHäus Cafe in Glendale disguises a hidden gem: a warm and welcoming oasis stocked with a profusion of food and board games.
GameHäus is something of a mix between a game store, a library, a cafe and a living room. For a $5 cover charge, patrons are welcome to sit and play as many different games as they want, for as long as they want. While most come in with a group, there are also areas for single players to meet and game together.
When I came in on a Tuesday evening with a friend, it was immediately obvious that GameHäus does not cater to the casual passerby popping in. Instead, the inside is packed with those settled down to play games for a long while.
The interior is bright and cozy, with high ceilings, bright light and a series of small rooms broken up by partial walls and bookshelves filled with games. Some of the rooms offer restaurant-like table setups, while others have leather couches and chairs clustered around low, wide coffee tables.
Perhaps the number of patrons present should not have been surprising, considering that the cafe was first publicized via a successful Kickstarter campaign. Founders Robert Cron and Terry Chiu set up the fund before they opened shop last November. Despite the fairly low original goal of $7,500, they ended up raising over $12,000 from 223 different backers.
Still, the sheer quantity of games on GameHäus’ shelves is the most striking feature of the cafe. There are over 800 games available, ranging from classic titles to adventure games most people have probably never heard of.
“In the beginning, before we actually got started, we had about 300 titles between two of us, but in the middle of building we had to just start acquiring more,” Cron said. “I became a bit of a mercenary. I would scour eBay, Craigslist and some local thrift stores. I started going maybe two or three times a week and would sometimes come back with two armfuls from the thrift stores.”
But their extensive game collection did not just come from Cron’s tireless searches.
“In the middle of building I contacted a bunch of the popular game publishers and just told them, ‘This is what we’re doing, and we’d love it if you could provide,’” Cron said. “A number of them really stepped up and really augmented what we already had.”
According to Chron, the most familiar titles are also the most played, despite the quantity and range of games available.
“They had all the classic games I used to play as a kid,” Frankie Radogna (senior) said. “The nostalgia is what really got me.”
Still, Cron said he has seen every game be played at some point, including such hidden treasures as “Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game.”
GameHäus follows through on the “cafe” part of their name as well. They offer an array of sandwiches, both hot and cold, all named after different games. I decided to try the Rialto, a grilled panini with tomato, mozzarella and basil. Despite a surprisingly long wait, the sandwich arrived hot and perfectly melted. The cafe also offers cornmeal pizzas, pastries (including in-house pies) and munchies like chips, salsa and afternoon tea.
On my visit, the cafe was quite full for a weekday and continued to fill up as we played a few games. The diversity among the patrons—anyone from 20- to 30-something “hobbyists,” to college students, families and couples on first dates—is also impressive.
“I’m kind of amazed at how often some people come,” Cron said. “People are so gung-ho about their hobbies.”
Whoever is working the front counter—often Cron and a few other employees—is also more than happy to offer recommendations and guidance in anyone’s game-playing adventures.
“We all have a degree of awareness about the games,” Cron said. “I certainly haven’t played all the games, especially as we get even more of them, but we know a lot of them. Even the newer staff pick up on a lot as they progress.”
The enthusiasm that the owners show for the games and cafe is infectious. Even in the short time I was there, it seemed impossible for anyone not to have a good time. It was the perfect study break—removed from campus, relaxing and completely engaging.
“There’s something here that’s fun and social and makes you think or work, in a good way,” Cron said.