Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AFK Tavern

A few weeks ago, Stephanie and I went to check out a new local business, the AFK Tavern.

They're here for gamers.

A lot of my friends posted reviews of the place - most of them were glowing reviews, with ... a few hesitations. There were a few reviews from people who I didn't know, as well. Most of them were hesitant. The biggest complaint was slow service - which, given that it was opening weekend, is a completely understandable issue.

Reading their blog and watching their Facebook page, I saw that they hired more staff, and made some other tweaks due to customer feedback.

My wife and I arrived on a Friday evening, and waited to be seated. "Oh," said one of the staff, "We took the sign down. You can just seat yourself - I just need to check your ID." And then we were shown to a table. I saw numerous customers over the course of the evening being seated.

The menu was entertainingly written. And they had "Games on Tap," - an odd mix that I suspect was from the owner's personal collection. Some of the games were ill-suited to this sort of environment - Diplomacy, for example.(AFK folk, if you stumble across this, a suggestion: Local Game Stores tend to have a number of store copies of games, and some of them have game rental services. You may want to consider some sort of mutually beneficial partnership.)

We sat near the door, so I didn't get a good look at the layout. From where we sat, we could see a couch facing an XBox and a PS3 with Rock Band. The central table had Magic players at it - and, based on the number of empty glasses in front of them, they'd been there for a while.

The atmosphere reminded me a bit of an upscale Denny's. It was loud enough that I had trouble carrying on much of a conversation with my wife - playing a game was the best option, as you can (usually) play a game without much conversation. Depending on the game, of course. Increasing the height of the booths will cut down a lot of this - but it'll also remove part of the geek social element.

Now Denny's makes much of their money be cycling people through regularly. And by being open all night. At night, they're slow. Gamers love it because they can be there all night without interruption. But if gamers head there by day, they're not nearly as welcome. Because Denny's needs those tables for customers who will spend money. When your business is designed for gamers, you need to encourage them to keep spending money. Otherwise, you're renting a table for too low a price for your business to be viable. It's a potential future problem, but doesn't appear to be an issue, yet. The Magic players at the central table kept ordering more food.

Speaking of the food (and beverage): They have mead. It's one of the many meads my wife and I have tried before, and it's decent. They also have a hard cider and a root beer and a number of beers, ales, and wines. I'm not fond of Snoqualmie Root Beer, but it did seem to be the only non-alcoholic item on their drink menu (unless I overlooked soft drinks, which is possible).

We ordered cheese sticks to start with, and I ordered the Orc Burger with extra cheese. Stephanie ordered the Dragon Burger with the salsa on the side. When trying out a new restaurant, special orders are important.

Yes, service was slow, but not on par with what had previously been reported. The place was still extremely busy. We had no less than three staff members checking on our table, however. Making sure we'd been able to order, that we had drinks, that we didn't need anything further ... Enough that, when it was time to pay and leave, we weren't sure who had our check.

The Mozzarella sticks were crispy and warm on the outside, and the inside was warm, but not as melted as I tend to like them. Either they didn't cook them for long enough, or else they sat for a while after they came out of the fryer.

When the burgers arrived, mine looked both dry and burnt. The cheese wasn't melted - it wasn't even in contact with the patty, in fact. It sat on the bottom bun, with the ham stacked on top of it and the patty was over the ham. The top bun held the salami. The burger was lukewarm. Much like the cheese, I suspect it'd been sitting for a few minutes after it came off of the grill. My wife's Dragon Burger was similar. They got our special orders right, though.

My burger was tasty, however. And not as dry as it looked. Really tasty. My wife said her burger was good, too.

I do plan to return - the food was tasty. The prices were a bit higher than similar places, but that may help offset the table rental issue I mentioned earlier. And they're not unreasonable.

All in all? I give the place a B-.

The food was tasty and not unreasonably priced, if a bit cold.
The service is a bit scattered (Are they seating customers or not? Who is my server?).
The atmosphere is loud, but social.
There was a little bit of Gamer Funk, but the ventilation was good enough that it was only an issue if we walked near the offending tables.
I would eat there again.


  1. When your business is designed for gamers, you need to encourage them to keep spending money. Otherwise, you're renting a table for too low a price for your business to be viable.

    So does AFK rent tables? I couldn't find that information skimming the website. If not, I can't see how hosting a role-playing game campaign could be feasible; either the restaurant's losing money or the players run up enormous tabs, neither of which is really feasible.

  2. When I refer to Table Rental at AFK, I refer to the same fees Denny's or Shari's or IHOP charge - you need to order food to use the table.

    At Denny's, you can be there all night long for the cost of a soda.

    I'd guess that - long-term - AFK will either formalize table rental fees or minimum hourly order size.

    Unless, of course, gamers respect the space and spend the money on their own (which is possible).

  3. It is possible, certainly, but the amount of money I guess a typical restaurant makes by turning one table over repeatedly in a three to four hour period doesn't seem like it could compare to what one group of people might order in that same period, unless they're having a phenomenal feast every week.

    On the other hand, bars and pubs make trivia night work, so I suppose there's precedent.

  4. It also depends on what the usual turnover is - Denny's allows one soda per night because they don't have a lot of people waiting most of the time (because the food is terrible, perhaps).

    For now, I don't think it's a problem - I just think that it may eventually become one.

  5. To answer some questions about the place, we do have non-alcoholic drinks and they are now printed on the menus. Those of us in the bar are also working on some non-alcoholic cocktails (something I always appreciated when I was under 21). All of the games on tap we have, have been donated to us by various game stores/people/groups, but people are always welcome to bring their own if they'd like (video games included in that too). As far as turnover time goes, people can stay as long as they like, we just ask that patrons purchase some form of food or drink every hour or so, so that we can afford to keep the place open.
    As for table rentals, last time I checked all we need is a reservation for large groups that want to run a TT game or something similar. And we do have a group menu to make large parties affordable. We also now have "seat yourself" or "wait to be seated" signs depending on how busy it is.

  6. Chieftessa,

    Thank you for popping in to answer the questions! The changes sound positive, and I appreciate the clarifications.

    We'll be back - that Orc Burger was good (if cold), and my wife really liked her burger as well.

  7. Anonymous11:24 PM

    I have heard multiple different answers to this, but do you allow people under 21 in to play games and get non-alchoholic drinks? Your response seemed to imply that, and I have had friends tell me so, but other reviews that I've read say that it is 21 and over only.

    1. Anonymous1:03 PM

      Yes! You only have to be 21 to be in the bar area.

  8. Anonymous1:27 PM

    I have gone there numerous times and the service was horrible, my wife and i went their or valentines day for the special. We didn't even get it, we were told they were out of food. We booked ahead with one of the owners and didn't even get what we came for. That was just lousy business. We will never be going back, which is sad because we are avid gamers with a lot of friends who now also refuse to go due to similar issues. There were however a few people that were great, our server for one on valentines day was great, however the way she was treated by whom ever was in charge was ridiculous. She was in tears, she deserved better. The bartender at the time was also great, but other than that, the whole experience severely sucked!! you should be ashamed of your selves for running it so badly.

    1. Anonymous1:03 PM

      The person they had in charge of running special events was let go, valentine's day was one of the many reasons why.

  9. Anonymous6:30 PM

    I think I'll try to go with my wife this weekend. And I'm looking for a place to run a RPG some night and this might be a good choice.