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Introducing: Snakes and Lattes, the Annex’s clever new board games café

Not since the opening of Sam James have we seen so many re-tweets and wall postings about a new café. But it’s not the coffee that’s generating excitement for Snakes and Lattes, it’s the concept: customers can choose from more than 1,000 board games and play all day for just $5.

Parisian couple and first-time business owners Ben Castanie and Aurelia Peynet got the idea for a board games café from memories of toy libraries in Paris—places where kids can rent playthings—and from a visit to a hobby shop in Chicago two years ago. After amassing 1,500 board games from vintage shops, yard sales and toy stores, the pair moved into a defunct coffee shop at Palmerston and Bloor West.

True to the owners’ heritage, the selection focuses more on European board games that are short, family-friendly and don’t eliminate players. In other words, there’s less Monopoly and more Mastermind. Settlers of Catan, which has been slowly gaining popularity in North America, is here, as is the ultra-rare Fireball Island (recently seen on eBay for $200). Helpful staffers are on hand to offer tutorials and recommendations.

“There’s going to be wear and tear and pieces lost. I sound naive, but I want people to play and have fun, which is why board games are created in the first place,” says Castanie. “Our mission is to mix gamers and non-gamers and get them to socialize and meet new people under one roof. There’s a social aspect. It’s not like Facebook, where you connect with people by staring at a computer screen. Here you have to look at people in the eye and talk to them. It’s a great way to break the ice without having to talk about the weather.”

Snakes and Lattes, 600 Bloor St. W. (at Palmerston Ave.), 416-500-2911, snakesandlattes.com.

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  • Flux-J

    This is an Amazing place and’ Awesome concept!!!

  • ageroni

    “memories of toy libraries in paris”? how’s about memories of clinton’s doing the exact same thing one block away for a while. if this couple doesn’t have anything to do with the neighbourhood institution, i cry foul for concept bitery.

  • Tru Dat

    I remember when the Bishop & Belcher was on Queen West, they had all kinds of games – and alcohol.

  • Laura

    The problem with this place is they don’t know how to treat customers. Is it because they are so busy they feel the ones in the door are most important and potential ones do not matter. I tried to make a reservation and after a month of calling I finally get a human. He tells me they cannot take my group of eight and that we should go else where. What did I hear that correct? He just said my group of eight people should go else where? Yup, that’s good business savy! Now I’m posting it. I will go else where with my group of eight, tonight and every night!!!

  • Elaine

    Super rude, super stinky. horrible coffee!!!
    delicious brownie.
    sooo mean though.
    i would rather go west to holy oak and play games on wednesday night (or any other time) and drink amazing coffee followed by amazing local beer.

  • Phil

    The idea/concept is good. 5$ to help maintaining the board games sounds fine for me.
    The problem, the food and the owners.
    Food is frozen and/or several days old and the owners don’t give attention to this. They are not very into cleaning tables and the place and I’m not really sure the kitchen might be as clean as we can expect… And what about cleaning the games after a party ??

    It will be a NOGO for me despite the fact that I found the idea is great but hygiene is not really a top priority for the owners…

  • Mark S.

    We had an awesome time at Snakes & Lattes last week! We’ve been telling everyone we know about it, and we’ll be back for some more board game.

    The owner was really nice to us and Sarah, the local game expert taugh us 2 games. We Love S&L!!

    Mark.

  • John

    C’mon guys, the $5 is to justify taking up a whole table and playing games for 1-3+ hours!

    I’ll admit though that when a whole table pays for the admission and then also buys drinks and food, it does adds up. Maybe they could make it a cheaper admission IF you buy food or drinks?

    The coffees were superb. Food was ok. But the game selection’s amazing and the environment is super comfortable!
    Totally going again!

  • Barbara

    I was there for the first time, earlier this week.

    They guy who was working there was SUPER friendly and welcoming. He was helpful when I couldn’t decide what kind of tea I wanted. We sat in the sun, by the front window, had our tea and chatted. Then the nice guy brought us free cookies. We’ll definitely be back!

  • Caitlin

    I went to Snakes and Lattes last Monday (December 27th, 2010) with a group of about seven people – mostly Indian. We got there around 9PM and the place of course was packed. The host person said we might have to wait anywhere from 30 mins to 2 hrs – which makes sense because we all know how long boardgames take.

    But when he asked us for our number.. we had a bit of an issue. It went down like this:

    Host: “Can I have one of your names?”
    Indian friend: “Sure you can have mine – it’s Lisa”
    Host: “Oh, like Lisa Ray”
    Indian friend: “Or like Lisa Simpson”
    Host: (In a mocking Indian accent) “Very nice very nice”

    Safe to say we didn’t return and won’t be returning to this place.

    P.S. The $45/hour Karaoke place across the street was just as great!

  • Jahavad

    honestly they should charge 10$ not 5 and it would still be really cool

  • MS

    I was so excited to try this place, and went with my friend tonight. The place seemed awesome at first, but as soon as you got talking to someone about getting seated (which took a while) it started going downhill. The guy at the front was so RUDE! He was surprised we were only two and made a ridiculous face as I told him my name (Which is unusual but not at all weird) as if he didn’t believe me. As well, he just had a stupidly rough demeanour for someone whose manning front of house. The games are Fantastic and the food we had was fine. BUT getting the food was another story all together, again rude, but they were also incredibly inattentive and disorganized. It made for a very uncomfortable experience all together when speaking to anyone who works for Snakes and Lattes. I will be going back, BUT only because the concept is fantastic and the games are Amazing. The staff and owners need A LOT of work because if their attitudes continues, many more of these reviews will pop up and they will slowly have no business. Hope they get better!

  • Naomi

    It’s weird hearing all of these comments about how shitty the service was. I’ve been in a few times with friends since it opened, and have NEVER had ANY issues at all. The food was very yummy, and the service was great. They helped out and explained the games to us, were fast and attentive when it came to ordering drinks or food, and were all friendly. The place in general had a friendly and warm vibe. I’ve never had any issues with other customers, either. As to how long it takes to be seated, yeah, it takes a while if you don’t go early – because the place is always packed! But it’s not that hard. You can put your name on a waiting list at the front, give them your phone number, and when a table comes free for your group, they give you a call and hold it for you. I’m DEFINITELY going back. Many times in the future.

  • Julie Evans

    Me and my friends thought the concept of this cafe was great. We found no problem at all with the staff or food that was supplied.
    Hopefully one day when I come to Canada I will go back for another visit

  • Anthony

    I went to Snakes and Lattes for the first time last friday for my pre birthday shindig. There were 5 of us. I was instantly amazed at the concept and how enjoyable this place was. The staff was friendly i didn’t have a problem at all. I went back with the same group lastnight. They remembered us and had a blast watching us play Im the boss! The in house guru was super helpful and enthusiastic aboutthe game. We were the last to leave, and may i add it was 4am…on a Thursday. I think it’s quite innovative that they use an Ipad to conduct orders and such. This will definitely be a common thing for other restaurants. The atmosphere is great. Obviously nothing is perfect and there is always room for improvement. Through time, im sure that the staff will develop new methods of service or improve on things. From what i was told by my friends, the place looked like a construction site at first. It is now well lit and fairly rennovated. I think people are expecting too much for what this place is. (referring to comments above) The price is reasonable. Complaining about a measly $5 is excessive. Really people? You’re playing boardgames that some have never heard of, having a great time, and engaging in something that has been relatively unheard of in Toronto. Everyone has their own opinions, but i am definitely a huge fan of this concept. I can still be a kid and enjoy the company of my friends without doing the “same old” Thank you Snakes and Lattes staff, and to my friends for taking me to this place!!!

  • Derek

    I just wanted to point out to Lisa that the “$45/hour karaoke place right accross the street” is BMB Karaoke, and its actually $25/hour but they have a reputation of bilking non-asians for extra cash. So say my Korean and Chinese friends, who were not-so shocked at the price I paid.

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