It's been a rough year for nerds in Portland.
The pandemic killed off the Northeast Broadway location of comics store Things From Another World and gaming bar The Nerd Out in quick succession. But times were tough even before COVID-19 struck: Time Vault Games, beloved by Magic: The Gathering players, shuttered in April 2019, and robberies at both Portland Game Store and Guardian Games inflicted serious harm on a pair of businesses with tight profit margins.
For a community historically lacking in reasons to leave the house, it doesn't seem like things could get worse. But then, after months of delays, comes a beacon of hope.
In its first expansion beyond the Seattle area, Mox Boarding House on West Burnside Street is a gilded palace of geeky delight. With chandeliers hanging from vaulted ceilings and clean, heavy wood tables for playing, it's a convincing rebuttal to the false assumption that all gaming stores must be cramped and devoid of congeniality.
Customers can crack open a freshly purchased game from the showroom or borrow one from the generous game library, then settle in at the expansive bar and restaurant, with full service at a table in the adjacent dining room.
The bar has a 20-handle taplist with reliable regional favorites like pFriem, Breakside and Cascade, and offers something missing from the original Mox locations in Seattle: cocktails. Most are on the sweet side, but the Strategem ($11) balances the tinge of Evan Williams bourbon with the demerara syrup and chocolate bitters quite well.
Appetizers like the soy-glazed Biang Biang Brussels ($8) and the honey gochujang lollipop wings ($10) were excellent for sharing, though a tad too sticky to manage while a heated game of Pandemic drags on. The cumin-roasted Peruvian Porn sandwich (served with fries, $16) is worth the trip on its own, and it's easy enough to order online to bring home along with your stack of board games, Magic cards or Warhammer figurines. It's such a pleasant place to spend time, however, that you might as well sit a spell and, well, cast a few spells while you're at it.
GO: Mox Boarding House, 1938 W Burnside St., 503-506-0669, moxboardinghouse.com. 11 am-10 pm Monday-Friday, 10 am-10 pm Saturday-Sunday.