One of my favorite neighborhoods in the city is the Village. I love strolling around the streets and being able to go from a quiet tree-rowed residential little street to a lively, loud commercial one, window shopping for expensive groceries, walking by a park and peeking into townhouses. I loved hanging out in this neighborhood when I first moved to New York almost 15 years ago and even thought I had an hiatus for a while, I somehow always come back to it.
I have the luxury of having four hours to myself every Saturday, in which I can choose from walking around the city to reading magazines in a café, pretending I am a carefree soul back in Europe. I’m pretty sure all of you know how invigorating four hours on your own can be (without your kids fighting in the background for who knows what or screaming your name because they can’t find that little princess Lego piece. Screams that, of course, go off when you are in the powder room or in the middle of a conference call in your work-from-home day).
So my Saturday ritual starts by finding a nice café where I can take my time and read. If the weather is nice, I grab a small skim cappuccino to go (as adventurous as I can be with food, there are certain times in which I am a creature of habit) and find a nice park to enjoy the weather and my coffee.
One of the cafés where I have accidentally ended up at is The Uncommons. At first sight this café is the furthest thing from the instant pretend “I am (single and) glamorous again” Saturday morning escapade that my imagination has created for itself. Let’s face it: it’s a game café in the epicenter of NYU. And not even in my youngest youth was I a good board game player. In fact, I was one sore loser that would be automatically bored if the game didn’t go my way (not one of my best traits, I must admit). So no, a game café wouldn’t be a place where you would ever dream of finding me.
The café is on Thompson Street, on a seemingly lazy block (at least on a Saturday morning; but then, who would wake up before 10am on a Saturday unless they really had to?) where The Village Chess Shop used to be. I would say that the look of the space is purposely raw: a little bar-with-kitchenette welcomes you amidst a bunch of different collector cards; a fridge on the left with cold drinks; white walls with shelves from floor to ceiling packed with all kind of imaginable board games: strategic, traditional, action, modern, you name it. And then a number of tables (most of them communal) and chairs where one can sit for as long as they want and play board games to their heart’s content for the modest fee of $5.00. Quite a deal for New York prices. Of course, forget about high chairs, there is serious gaming going on in here, but not only for adults, they do have some traditional board games for the younger ones and they even have a children chess club in the store. You can also purchase some of the games at the store, should you need to finish playing at home, even though they are open until pretty late.
The coffee is very good (Brooklyn Roasting Company sans the Dumbo lines), and given their limited kitchen space they only offer baked goods (to go with that coffee), soups and sandwiches, which do look good and which I have been able to avoid not without difficulty and exerting a lot of willpower on my side. Come on, there is nothing that screams more of European je ne sais quoi than a chick effortlessly playing chess with a piping hot café latte, an existentialist book and a good croissant on her side. And a cigarette, but that was in the times when smoking in public spaces was allowed. Or at least that is what my imagination says. I spoke with the owner and they have applied for their liquor license so, hopefully soon, they will be able to offer wine and beer as well, which can definitely make any board game better.
There is only one bathroom, which is tiny and has no changing table. It’s not the most modern bathroom but they have definitely put their imagination to work and made the best of it.
It will be a great outing to spend some time with the girls without looking at our iPhones. And with a glass of wine, I guess I could even graciously let Little Sous-Chef beat me at one of those games. Dad Vivant, I don’t think so. Or it will have to be another glass of wine.
230 Thompson Street
New York, NY 10012
Monday – Thursday: 8:30am – 12:00am
Friday – Saturday: 8:30am – 1:00am
Sunday: 8:30am – 11:00pm