Mano a Mano in Midtown

Sometimes being the first to down a pint of beer just isn’t enough to fuel your competitive spirit

Don Chili, Olivia Swift, Creezo and George Murphy get down with the free Xbox 360 at R15.

Don Chili, Olivia Swift, Creezo and George Murphy get down with the free Xbox 360 at R15.

Photo By Jeremy Sykes

Drinking is a pretty passive activity. Sure, it might compel you to dance a bit or cross the room to ask for someone’s phone number. But for the most part, imbibing with friends poses very few challenges unless someone’s dared you to drink an Irish carbomb before it curdles.

So what can you do when you want some friendly competition to make your drinking experiences a little more interactive? It’s easy to find a place that offers traditional bar pastimes like billiards or darts, but maybe those just aren’t your game. To help you keep your blood and brain cells moving the next time you say “cheers,” we went bar hopping in search of some not-so-typical ways to go hand-to-hand, or more often head-to-head, with the competition.

Xbox 360 at R15
Instead of forking over $300 for your own Xbox 360, spend just a fraction of that on spicy peanuts and beer while you play to your heart’s content on the high-definition, flat-screen TV in your own private “living room” at R15. You’ll have at least a dozen games to choose from, including titles-of-the-moment like Gears of War or Lost Planet. Get road rash in Burnout, toss around your testosterone with Fight Night or stick with various iterations of old stand-bys like basketball, golf, football and soccer. Comfortably appointed with couches and a coffee table, the living rooms are available to whoever grabs them first; they are also popular with people watching broadcast sporting events. A server will come to take your food and drink orders, so you needn’t take a break from your game playing to refuel and refresh. And when you feel like using the Xbox controller is starting to give you carpal tunnel syndrome, you can take a break to shoot pool on one of R15’s four coin-operated tables. 1431 R Street, (916) 930-9191

Pub quiz at BonnLair
If you sleep with a World Almanac under your pillow and have seen every episode of Jeopardy!, grab a group of your smartest friends and head to the BonnLair around 8:30 p.m. on Sunday for this laid-back but competitive affair. In the tradition of authentic British pub quizzes, teams fabricate names that are as rude and ridiculous as possible (witness “Wee Titties and a Hose”) before tackling such enigmas as which movie monster’s name means “fear” in Yiddish (Shrek). You’d think people with a preternatural ability for factual recall would have high-brow tastes … until someone yells out “Astroglide” in response to the question, “What did the 2002 Malibu Barbie carry a bottle of that the 1970s version did not?” (It was actually sunscreen.)

Forty questions are read in two rounds, and each team receives pencil and paper on which to record answers—assuming they can hear the questions over the din of the crowded bar. Quizmaster Joe Dempsey won’t divulge what version of Trivial Pursuit he pulls his questions from, but admits he likes to ask ones that are “ironic, sarcastic or that I think are funny.”

Even if you don’t think you’ll know how many out of every seven homes contained a bathtub in the year 1900 (one) or which ocean has the greatest depth (Pacific), the prospect of winning a $20 bar credit for getting the most points should keep your team coming back every Sunday. 3651 J Street, (916) 455-7155

Poker at the Limelight
Ever since Tennessee accountant Chris Moneymaker won $2.5 million in the 2003 World Series of Poker, playing Texas Hold ’em has become almost as commonplace as George Bush bashing. To coincide with that trend, the Limelight Bar and Café has expanded its card room to one of the most comfortable in town. Food and drink are served at the poker tables, so you don’t have to sacrifice much more than socializing with your friends back in the bar—which will seem a small price to pay when you are pulling in your first pot. The Limelight runs two 20-person, no-limit tournaments five days per week; one tournament on Fridays and Sundays; and cash games of varying limits around the clock. The lowest limit available is $3-$6, which means you’ll be betting and raising in increments of $3 during the first two rounds and in increments of $6 in the last two rounds. Flatscreen televisions in each corner of the card room ensure that you won’t miss the sporting events or Bush bashing of the day. The Limelight card room is open 24 hours per day, seven days per week, so you can keep playing long after your friends have gone home. 1014 Alhambra Boulevard, (916) 446-2208

Board games at True Love Coffeehouse
If it’s been ten or even twenty years since you’ve played games like Connect Four, Boggle, Trouble and Yahtzee, run, don’t walk, to the newly reopened True Love Coffeehouse, where you can regress to your childhood over any number of warm and cold non-alcoholic potables. The True Love has more than two giant blackboards worth of hot cappuccino and espresso drinks that you can choose from before butting heads with your buddies over UNO. The atmosphere is cozy comfort, so you might feel more like you’re in your mother’s living room than in one of Sacramento’s most popular hangouts. Enhance the experience of regression with messy finger food like nachos or sweet treats like chocolate chip cookies, cheesecake and soon enough, waffles after midnight. 2315 K Street, (916) 448-5683

Trivia Night at Sacramento Brewing Company.

Photo By Marianne Mancina

Other Trivia Nights

Bistro 33
226 F Street, Davis
Mondays at 8:30 p.m.

Capitol Garage
1500 K Street
Mondays at 8 p.m.

Main Street Brewery
101 Main Street, Roseville
Thursdays at 9 p.m.

Sacramento Brewing Company
2713 El Paseo Lane
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.

Sacramento Brewing Company
7811 Madison Ave, Citrus Heights
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.

Streets of London
1804 J Street
Sundays at 9 p.m.