Games rule at Game Master Grill, a new Mineola restaurant where diners can plan a chess move or roll the dice between forkfuls of pasta.
Michael Tesmacher, 54, of Central Islip is a returning customer who likes the atmosphere and the food (he had the lobster macaroni and cheese), and works close by. He was playing Quarto, a strategic board game, for the first time with his friend Eric Leder, 33, of Farmingville.
"I have to bring a group of friends back to play Apples to Apples," said Leder.
Brothers Duane and David VanderWerf, who own Game Master Games, a retail board game store on South Broadway in Hicksville, opened Game Master Grill a few months ago to create a place where families and friends could connect over food and games -- both traditional and new -- and kids would have something to play with other than their food. There's no charge to play the games.
"The concept is really a social alternative to just dining," David VanderWerf said.
No computer games here. Board games line the walls, and the tablecloths are made of rubber play mats from games, too.
While the restaurant features traditional games (Candyland and chess were among the many choices), the emphasis is on more strategic games, such as Quarto, where the object is to think a few moves ahead of your opponent as you try to place four wooden pieces of the same shape in a line. Players choose the piece for their opponents.
But game lovers also can play Zombie Dice, where the object is to collect brains, or educational memory board games for children and adults.
Never heard of these games? Don't worry. The staff joins in by teaching customers how to play.
"Part of what we were thinking is to get people to look up, and not at their phones," said Duane VanderWerf.
Indeed, there was lots of chatter and nary a cellphone on the tables on a recent Friday night. At a back table, six friends supped on salads and hamburgers while playing Quarto.
"Choosing the piece you give your opponent is critical," David VanderWerf told members of the group, who were playing for the first time. The waiter, Will Scripps, 22, looked on and shared some strategies.
"I like that it's eating and games," said Julia Santaniello, 10, who was with her mother at the table.
That playful spirit also is evident on the menu, which features dishes that refer to games, such as the Gettysburger, a hamburger, for $9.95, or Legend of the Five Wings, an appetizer, for $3.95. A liquor license is in the works.
Customers ranged from a young couple with their toddler to a group of teens watching a basketball game on one of two flat-screen TVs. Kristen DeMayo, 25, of Glen Head and Scott Fitzsimons, 22, of Manhasset have been to the Game Master Grill before and love the concept of playing games during their meal.
"You can stay as long as you want," DeMayo said. "It's more like a cafe."
The VanderWerfs are expanding their business to catering -- where they will deliver food and board games for a family night or business party (games must be purchased) -- as well as in-house private parties. For customers who enjoyed playing the new games, they are on sale at the restaurant.
GAME MASTER GRILL
HOURS 11:30 a.m.- 10 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday, noon-10 p.m. Sunday
INFO 516-506-7446, gamemastergrill.com
Some traditional cafes and restaurants also have board games on tap for diners to enjoy. Here are three:
78 Second St., Mineola
At this bar, you can stop in for a drink or games such as Life, Scrabble, chess, checkers, Pictionary and Jenga. No food, but you can get a free hot dog if you are hungry.
81 Broadway, Greenlawn
Relax at this family-friendly fireside bar and restaurant for classic games such as Yahtzee, chess, checkers and backgammon. There also are tic-tac-toe boards for the tables and booths, and an old-fashioned bar bowling game.
465 Rte. 25A, Miller Place
At this new cafe, games including chess and Catch Phrase may not monopolize the evening, but they are available for customers to play. Sometimes a game will get started at one table, and other patrons will join in, said employee Samantha Graham.