Going Out

Level up! New venue for gamers in downtown Rideau area

Perhaps you remember your more rambunctious days – dancing atop a platform at the now defunct club Minglewoods, or grabbing a pint in a dark corner of the Lunenburg Pub.

Both spaces are a bit brighter now. Opened in 2014, the top floor is home to the Loft Board Game and Lounge, while the lower level — aptly named Level One — celebrates its grand-opening tonight, Monday, March 28.

The duo behind the Loft and Level One, Alessandro Argentina and Mike Hopkins, answer a few behind-the-scenes questions about this new social space for gamers:

Game and watch — one of the many screens and comfy seats available inside Level One

How did the idea for the gaming lounge come about?

In the spring of 2013, Argentina found Hopkins (who already boasted several hundred board games) posting on the Ottawa subreddit (r/Ottawa) about opening a board game cafe. Argentina reached out about discussing the possibility of opening a board game cafe together. The partnership was born and after about one year’s search for a suitable location, they found the second floor of the 150-year-old heritage building at 14 Waller available [and] The Loft was born.

And then the step towards video games?

The demand was so high [for board games] that The Loft started to get a name for itself as a place where you couldn’t get into on weekends. It would take upwards of three hours to get a table if you came in on a Friday or Saturday evening, and it wasn’t uncommon to have wait lists on week nights as well. The only solution we had to let everyone enjoy The Loft experience was to expand. In September 2015, the first floor of our building became available and we jumped on it. After much discussion with our staff and many of our regular customers, we discovered that there was a strong connection between playing board games and video games. 

In addition to 700+ video games, you’ll find a few arcade games and a couple hundred board games at Level One

Is this similar to House of Targ’s arcade?

House of Targ is really good at what they do. We’re trying to appeal to a larger audience — a place you can come with your kids, parents, grandparents, or a date.

Which systems do you have?

Lots! I’ll just name them from oldest to newest (roughly): Atari 2600, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sony Playstation 1, Nintendo 64, Sony Playstation 2, Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo Gamecube, Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo WiiU, Sony Playstation 4, Microsoft Xbox One.

Black bean and chickpea topped nachos available from Level One’s menu

How is the food menu different from what is available at The Loft?

The Loft and Level One have completely separate kitchens and, as a result, different menus. Level One has a larger kitchen with more equipment, which allows our culinary team — led by chef Jordan Merritt — to explore a greater variety of dishes. Level One offers everything from the classic pub food with a twist (fish ‘n’ chips with tandoori aioli, black-bean-and-chickpea-topped nachos, and root vegetable mac ‘n’ cheese) to decadent desserts (such as the London fog panna cotta, or the cheesecake parfait), to healthier options (four salads, a unique veggie burger, and a sauteed calamari). The culinary team are always tinkering with new recipes and the menu will be updated seasonally.

Level One also has a larger bar with 12 craft beers on tap as well as a specialty cocktail menu that includes martinis with such tricked out names as Konami Code.

The mural on the first floor was done by local artists, Dems & Doll

There will still be some board games downstairs?

Level One will have a relatively “smaller” (just over 300) selection of board games compared to The Loft’s (with over 900 games available), but Level One’s library will focus mostly on the best easy-to-learn and fun-to-play multiplayer games.

Visit Level One from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday – Thursday and until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Prices are $13 per table, per hour and half-priced on weekdays before 5 p.m. For this Easter Monday, Level One is partnering with the YMCA Strong Kids Foundation, with gaming proceeds from both The Loft and Level One being donated to help children attend summer camp; to enable struggling families to have access to licensed child care; and to ensure kids have the opportunity to participate in recreation and fitness activities.

Level One, 14 Waller St., 613-680-7529.