By Brittany Tiplady
Now more than ever it’s important to support and showcase local business. Although we are in the midst of a trying and complicated time, food businesses are still trying to operate within the recommended guidelines the best they can, offering takeout and delivery to feed hungry customers weathering the outbreak. The Raving Gamer in Langley is one of them.
The Raving Gamer is a retail space and board game restaurant, “serving up food and fun in a funky, family-friendly full-service environment.” They have an impressive selection of over 600 table-top games for guests to play, while offering a robust and locally-sourced lunch and dinner menu, including a full-service bar. The bistro is a family affair: Kenneth Nishidate is the co-founder, owner and chef and his daughter Miyoko also helms the kitchen. Kathy Nishidate is the Raving Gamer’s administrator and Ken’s longtime friend Daniel Szukalow is the game master.
I spoke with Ken Nishidate, chef and owner of the Raving Gamer, to learn more about his vision for this unique space.
First things first, during this uncertain time in the COVID-19 outbreak, are you still able to serve customers in any way?
Yes! We are doing take-out curbside and delivery. No in-house dining or game playing, but we still have retail sales for games.
I see that you opened in April 2019! What was your inspiration for opening the Raving Gamer?
Well, you’d better put in there April 1st! That’s an important detail. As for the inspiration, I’ve been a cook for over 30 years. I have a friend of over 15 years who is a game fanatic—he has over a 1,000 games in his home collection. And to put that into perspective, we have about 600 games total in the whole restaurant. He goes to this place in Seattle called Mox Boarding House and he invited me down; they have a restaurant attached to their game and retail space. So [after that visit], we started talking about starting our own idea four years ago.
After some time, I brought the idea back to life, and I [got him] to open this place. We decided to integrate our games and game sales into the restaurant.
Who’s coming into The Raving Gamer? What’s the crowd and demographic?
We have everybody. I can’t nail down a demographic. We have young families and children that want to come in here. Older families with teenage kids and kids in their 20s, we have singles, millennials and we have seniors—all across the board.
We wanted to be a community hub for people to come in, be face-to-face with one another and put away their devices. We’ve certainly achieved that. At least 40 per cent of our business are repeats and in the last week, we had all of our regulars come through and support us.
Would you say your customers come for the games and stay for food?
That’s definitely the case. Usually, they’re searching us out online, looking for board games and they come in and see that we have a full-service restaurant, they are blown away. Then when they have the food they are blown away again. People are definitely surprised.
We support as many local businesses as we can and we try to make as much in-house product as possible. My passion for food and my [passion] for our people and staff really shows in the food.
Speaking of food, your menu looks delicious with lots of options! Are you leading the kitchen?
I’m leading the kitchen, yes. My daughter has also been helping me lead the kitchen and we are transitioning her to the front of house to help there. Over the last year, she’s really helped me with the inspiration and food concept.
A board game guy was searching us out online, came in, ordered and ate, and he said: “wow, your food looks exactly like your pictures.”
What are some of your stars on the menu? What are people loving?
We support a local farmer here, Reverent Acres, and they have Water Buffalo. So our Water Buffalo burger is one of our most popular items.
You have a fully fleshed out bar menu as well. Is that something your customers are really enjoying?
Yes! We have four beers on tap, from Andina Brewing, Field House Brewing, and we recently teamed up with the KPU Brewing Program, so we’re carrying two of their small-batch beers at the moment. We’re also supporting Roots and Wings Distillery in Langley–they have wonderful craft gin and vodka and old fashioned whiskey mixes.
What kind of games can we find at The Raving Gamer?
It’s all tabletop games. There’s a game called “Suspend Family Game” that’s a dexterity game, and another one people love is called “Sagrada” a stained glass board game.
We have a few of the classic games; chessboard and battleship and backgammon. There’s so much in the game world out there, and when people come here they are just blown away. We’ve had people come in just to eat and by the end, they are howling, laughing, having a great time and trying out new games. And then they come back for the whole experience.
What would you like folks to know about your business?
I’d really like to stress that we are a community hub and we are supporting as many local businesses as possible and encourage people to come out and have a great time. I’m trying to distill [our mandate] down to a few words. On our windows we have “great food, fun games, good times,” and that’s really what we do here.
For the time being The Raving Gamer is take-only, operating Wednesday-Sunday 12 PM-7:30. Retail sales for board games are still available. If you’d like to support The Raving Gamer, consider ordering delivery or take-out, purchasing a gift card for future use, or donating to their GoFundMe here.