A bit of the “Cheers” mentality is felt when walking into Zulu’s Board Game Cafe in Bothell: It’s a place where everyone knows your name.
The cafe has been through its fair share of ups and downs already, and it hasn’t even been a year since it opened in April. Its location directly across the street from the Mercantile building, which burned down in July in the incident known as the Main Street fire, led to embers from the blaze starting two fires on the deck at Zulu’s, destroying the roof.
Miraculously, the cafe was able to open its doors again the day after the fire due to quick responses by the fire department, the building inspector, the cafe’s staff and some very loyal customers, who showed up with towels and wet-dry vacuums to help clear out the building’s flooded basement after the fire.
Those loyal customers are what has kept the cafe going over the last eight months.
“We had regulars right away,” owner Matt Zaremba said. “People knew it was coming.”
Matthew Rowan, who lives in Woodinville and went to Cascadia College when Zulu’s opened, is one of those people who started flocking to the cafe soon after the doors opened. “I was eager to check it out,” he said, adding the friendliness of the staff is one of the reasons he keeps coming back. “This is a convenient location to meet friends; plus, it’s open until midnight.”
Customers can bring in their own games or borrow something from the cafe to play, and they also encourage anyone who is looking to create a board or card game to do a demo session at Zulu’s.
“We love to have them in to show off their games,” Zaremba said.
Josh and Jenn Evans, who live in Bothell, have been bringing their two kids to Zulu’s since opening weekend as well.
“They have so many different games,” Jenn said. “We find something new every time.”
“It’s been a great place for us to go hang out,” Josh added.
The cafe also has become the host for groups who play a variety of different games, including Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering and Pathfinder. In addition to the space on the main floor, two rooms are available to rent out for a fee ($50 for the smaller room, $100 for the larger) or the equivalent in food and beverage purchases during the rental.
Regan Bruck has been a regular at Zulu’s, along with her husband and son, since June.
“We were looking for Magic cards, and we went in there and were pretty entranced,” she said. “It’s such a nice, relaxed atmosphere. … It’s very family-friendly.”
Bruck, who also lives in Bothell, sees the cafe as a very welcome addition.
“I love that Bothell has all these small businesses,” she said. “(Zulu’s) really fits in here.”
In addition to being a cafe with a full menu including alcoholic beverages, Zulu’s sells a variety of games and game components, both in the cafe and online, and they’re a good local resource for anyone looking to purchase games as gifts this holiday season.
Instead of giving blanket recommendations about what games to buy, Colleen Zaremba, who owns the store with Matt, said they prefer to customize the recommendations depending upon the interests of the recipient. Those looking to figure out what to get the gamers in their lives are encouraged to call or stop by the cafe, at 10234 Main Street, for personalized recommendations.
For more information, visit zulusgames.com.