By Fritz Hahn
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, February 15, 2008
Sitting in a bar shooting the breeze is a great way to spend a night, but sometimes you want to do something while you sip your beer.
How about bowling on a big screen, playing Jenga or proving that you know more about bad '80s hair metal than your drinking buddies?Ready, Set, Wii
Pool, darts. Ho hum.
Instead, how about virtual tennis or golf to spice up a night at the bar?
It might not seem like a natural fit for a night on the town, but a growing number of bars are finding that the Nintendo Wii draws crowds to more than living rooms.
At Bedrock Billiards, the Wii (and the accompanying 60-inch flat-screen TV) completes the subterranean pool hall's transformation into Adams Morgan's unofficial neighborhood rec center; patrons can choose from pool, darts, shuffleboard and such classic board games as Battleship or Connect Four.
Nicole Reigle, a server at neighboring Cashion's Eat Place, stops in with co-workers after their shifts for a few games of bowling. She doesn't have a Wii at home, but some of Bedrock's customers do. A few even bring their own controllers, much like pool sharks who carry around their custom cues.
There's no waiting for the game in the Great Room at the Doubletree Hotel Bethesda, where a Wii sits in a nook near the wine bar. You can play as much as you want as long as you're 21 and buying drinks. Just take heed of the signs reminding you to use the controller's wrist strap when playing, lest it fly out of your hand and hit the TV.
Wii games merit their own projection screen at Laced, a monthly "video party" at Cue Bar that features VJs cutting up golden-age hip-hop and R&B videos (Run-D.M.C., Prince, Eric B. and Rakim) while the crowd dances, shoots pool and plays table tennis. The next edition is Thursday.
BEDROCK BILLIARDS 1841 Columbia Rd. NW. 202-667-7665. Wii costs $12 a couple, $16 for four or more players Sunday-Wednesday; $14 per couple, $20 for four or more Thursday-Saturday.
THE GREAT ROOM 8120 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda (inside the Doubletree Hotel Bethesda). 301-652-2000. Wii is free, but players must be patrons of the bar.
CUE BAR 1115 U St. NW. 202-332-7665.Drunken Jenga
If you're like most Americans, you probably spent part of your childhood playing Jenga, the simple game that requires you to remove wooden pieces from a tower of stacked blocks and place them on the top without knocking the whole thing over.
It was hard then. Add beer and it gets much more difficult -- and a lot more fun.
The Rock and Roll Hotel has turned Jenga into a drinking game with three rules: If you move a piece to the top, you make another player drink. If you use two hands to remove a piece, you drink. If you knock the tower over, you have to finish your beer, preferably by chugging.
Drunken Jenga is the brainchild of bartender and managing partner Fritz Wood, who dubbed himself "Jengis Khan." He was looking for a way to drum up business on slow nights and figured that Jenga, paired with $2 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, would be just the thing.
I stopped by with friends a few weeks ago to find most of the eight Jenga games occupied, though the bar's second level was less than half-full. We quickly learned that concentration is key: During one game, I tried to delicately remove a piece when I was startled by a loud clatter on the other side of the room, followed by laughter and shouting. Wood swiveled toward the noise. "I heard that!" he shouted. "You better drink."
DJ Ben Breier, who goes by Mr. Disco, provides a steady stream of indie rock and Britpop hits to keep the crowd entertained, though he's occasionally drowned out by the crash of wooden blocks.
DRUNKEN JENGA Thursdays from 8 to 2. Rock and Roll Hotel, 1353 H St. NE. 202-388-7625.Brain Games
It seems like half the bars in the area have quiz nights these days, but the event at Nellie's Sports Bar really stands out.
The questions at the Wednesday event cover everything from Derek Zoolander's favorite Starbucks drink (orange mocha frappuccino) to the locations of the world's tallest volcanoes (South America). You may also have to identify one-hit wonders of the '90s based on 30-second audio snippets or identify photos of a dozen celebrities and then figure out the common thread. (In one recent case, they all had the same names as the characters on "The Brady Bunch.")
The quiz night "is the result of a lifetime spent gathering meaningless facts, watching un-funny sitcoms, listening to awful hair bands and engaging in otherwise unproductive activity," says Andrew Grossman, a lawyer who plays regularly.
A game consists of three sets of six questions each, plus a special round. Tension ratchets up in the final "wipeout round": Get one answer wrong and none of your correct answers matter.
While answers are being scored, the sound system plays pop songs related to the questions you answered. During a recent game, host Andy Austin asked which song Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson were performing at the Super Bowl when the "wardrobe malfunction" occurred. A few minutes later, groans rose from surrounding tables when "Rock Your Body" came on and teams realized they'd gotten it wrong.
Winners knock $30 off their tab; two runners-up receive $20 and $10 off, respectively.
TRIVIA NIGHT Wednesdays at 8 and 9. Nellie's Sports Bar, 900 U St. NW. 202-332-6355.