This library has games galore promoting play - Albuquerque Journal

This library has games galore promoting play

Rory Veronda turned his love of board games into a new business. He is opening Empire Board Game Library in Nob Hill. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)
Rory Veronda turned his love of board games into a new business. He is opening Empire Board Game Library in Nob Hill. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Rory Veronda would like you to think outside the Monopoly box.

bizO-Dyer_Jessica_BizOHe wants you to see past the Scrabble board. Look beyond the Yahtzee cup.

Riff Raff, a dexterity game in which players balance "cargo" on a ship, is one of the estimated 600 games available to play at Empire Board Game Library.
Riff Raff, a dexterity game in which players balance “cargo” on a ship, is one of the estimated 600 games available to play at Empire Board Game Library.

Veronda doesn’t have anything against the classics, but the entrepreneur behind Albuquerque’s first board game cafe has so much more to offer – another 597 or so other options, in fact.

Empire Board Game Library – which is scheduled to formally open its Nob Hill doors at 4 p.m. Friday following some soft-opening events – has approximately 600 games in its collection. Yes, the neatly organized shelves contain familiar titles like Sorry!, Clue and the aforementioned Scrabble. But the selection also includes harder-to-find German imports and games that will likely be unfamiliar to all but the most impassioned players. They include strategy games like the chile pepper-themed Scoville and Twilight Struggle, in which players act as either the U.S. or the U.S.S.R. in the Cold War.

Albuquerque's new board game library and cafe features an estimated 600 different games for customers to play, including party games, strategy games and "cooperative" games in which players team up to beat the game rather than each other.
Albuquerque’s new board game library and cafe features an estimated 600 different games for customers to play, including party games, strategy games and “cooperative” games in which players team up to beat the game rather than each other.

Veronda, himself a game fanatic, says he’s personally played “a massive chunk” of the hundreds he has in stock. (His favorite: Space Empires, which he describes as “sort of a galactic war game.”) As part of their training, his employees also had to study many of the games so they can then introduce customers to unfamiliar titles.

“There are many, many games people don’t know about,” says Graham Gentz, one of the shop’s specialists. “It’s exciting to get people excited about (them).”

For $3 per person per hour, customers can pull a game and sit down at one of the tables to play. Some – especially those from the family/party section – can be played in as little as 10-15 minutes, while the heavy strategy titles might require several hours to finish. But even during those marathon sessions, players won’t run out of fuel: Empire Board Game Library has an on-site espresso bar, and will also sell baked goods, sandwiches and other munchies.

And when players want to keep the fun going past closing time, they can even buy a game to take home. Empire keeps a separate stock of new games available for purchase.

While Empire comes from Veronda’s deep personal love of board games, he says similar concepts already are popular around Europe, Canada and other parts of the U.S. He thought the idea – an entertainment option that doesn’t involve alcohol – would resonate in Albuquerque and the turnout for a recent soft-opening special event convinced him he was right. In conjunction with the Dukes of Dice podcast team, Empire hosted an April 11 International TableTop Day celebration. Veronda expected 40-60 people, but an estimated 200 came through, packing the place for hours on end. It drew teenagers, seniors and even families with young children, leaving Veronda particularly heartened.

“We had no idea we were going to get smashed like that,” he says. “It made us feel really good.”

Empire Board Game Library is located at 3503 Central NE, near Carlisle. Veronda says it will likely be open from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, with the possibility of extended hours on Thursday-Saturday nights. The phone number is 232-4263.

Vernon’s rebrands, expands menu

Pssst.

Mike Baird, owner of Vernon's Speakeasy, has not only introduced the new name for his restaurant, but also an expanded menu with several lower-priced offerings. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)
Mike Baird, owner of Vernon’s Speakeasy, has not only introduced the new name for his restaurant, but also an expanded menu with several lower-priced offerings. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Hey, youse.

Did you hear the news about Vernon’s?

The high-end Los Ranchos steakhouse known for its secret passwords and mobster/Prohibition theme has changed its name and its menu.

What was previously known as Vernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse is now Vernon’s Speakeasy and it boasts an expanded menu with some new, lower-priced options that owner Mike Baird hopes will make it a more accessible choice for its fans.

In the past, even the cheapest entrée topped $40; now, there are several options in the $20-30 range.

“The one consistent remark that we’ve gotten from customers is ‘We love you, but we can only come once a year,’ and running a business in Albuquerque (with) customers who can only come once a year is pretty tough,” says Baird, who has owned Vernon’s with wife Kim since 2009.

The steaks remain, of course. Customers can still get the $68 Los Ranchos Star, a 20-ounce, center-cut, bone-in ribeye, for example, or the dry-aged New York strip ($50) and filet mignon ($45).

Vernon's Hidden Valley Steakhouse recently changed its name to Vernon's Speakeasy and introduced an expanded menu with some lower-priced options, such as this tequila-lime chicken.
Vernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse recently changed its name to Vernon’s Speakeasy and introduced an expanded menu with some lower-priced options, such as this tequila-lime chicken.

But, as of this month, they also have alternatives like the tequila-lime chicken served with red bell pepper Israeli couscous ($25) or a pan-roasted pork chop topped with tart cherry/apple compote and port wine reduction and accompanied by mashed potatoes ($29). Vernon’s also introduced a few new entrée salads that range from $12 to $20.

Baird says he wants customers think of Vernon’s – which can seat about 200 when including the private rooms – for more than just those special occasion splurges.

“People got a little bit gun-shy on spending a bunch of money (during the recession), which I can completely understand,” Baird says. “We just needed to adapt to help those people to kind of get back out and enjoy a nice dining experience out.”

Vernon’s is located at 6855 4th NW in Los Ranchos. It is open seven nights a week. Reservations are not required, but strongly suggested. The phone number is 341-0831.

Jasmine doubles up

Emily Chung is doling out more of her curry, Pad Thai and garlic shrimp these days.

The restaurateur recently expanded her Jasmine Thai & Sushi House with a second location at 5701 Gibson SE.

It joins the original restaurant, which has been open near Jefferson and Interstate 25 since 2007.

Chung says the Gibson location will offer exactly the same menu.

It’s open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 268-2020.

If you have retail news to share, contact me at jdyer@abqjournal.com or 823-3864. For more regular updates on Albuquerque shopping and restaurant news, visit my blog at abqjournal.com or follow @abqdyer on Twitter.

 

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