The Run Down

For this guide, we're combining good food, board games, and cupcakes all into one wonderful evening in Lakeview. We start at a family-owned Mexican restaurant that has been serving some of the best mole the city has to offer, we then head down the street to spend the evening with one of the largest collection of board games at our disposal. We end the night at a late-night bakery run by a former contestant on Netflix baking competition show, Sugar Rush.

1. Mole @ Buena Vista

2. Games @ Bonus Round Game Cafe

3. Cupcakes @ Jennivee's Bakery

1. Buena Vista

Our first stop is Buena Vista, a Mexican restaurant that’s in the middle of a long corridor of small businesses, coffee shops, and restaurants in Lakeview. It’s in a neighborhood where restaurants can easily get overlooked as new business constantly rotate in and out.

Buena Vista, however, which has been owned and operated by Benjamin Ramirez and his family for the last 15+ years, has carved out a loyal following, and we’re here to check out what makes this place so beloved by the neighborhood.  

When we call this a family operation, we mean that in every sense. Since they opened in 2004, Ramirez and his wife Maria have worked the kitchen, and their kids, Edwin and Yvette, who were ten and eight when the restaurant first opened, grew up sitting in the kitchen doing homework after school and later worked as dishwashers and servers. Pictured above is the Ramirez family today. Now adults, Edwin and Yvette help run the front of the house and are more active than ever helping run the business side of things. 

Real estate is at a premium in Lakeview and like most restaurants in the area, Buena Vista makes the most out of their space. There’s room for maybe eight tables in the dining room. For the best seat in the restaurant, there’s a cozy window nook that juts out onto the sidewalk and sort of makes you feel like your dining in a snow globe.

Now let’s get to the food. We went with the chef’s recommendation — their mole (pronounced MOH-lay). Mole is a traditional sauce known for its balance of cocoa and chili flavors that you smother over your food. Their pollo en mole (chicken thighs and legs topped with mole) is the type of comfort you want after after a long day. The mole is sweet, savory, and when you mix it all together with the rice and beans, you get an immensely satisfying bite.

If you need anymore convincing, here’s a picture of their taco spread for good measure.

2. Bonus Round Game Cafe

Our next stop is a 10-minute walk to Bonus Round Game Cafe, which makes claim as Chicago’s first full-service game cafe. For just $7 you’ll get access to Bonus Round’s extensive library of board games ranging in difficulty, strategy, and game play style. A few logistics notes to keep in mind.

– Right now they recommend making reservations in advance through the website as the cafe is operating at reduced capacity.

– They are currently open Thursday-Sunday so plan accordingly and check the website for the most updated information.

– The cafe has some light drink and food offerings to help you power through a multi-hour gaming session.

>Here’s how it works. A hostess will get you to your table and a waiter will come by who not only will serve you food and drinks, but will be a game concierge of sorts.

They’ll recommend board games, bring them over to you, explain all the rules, and help resolve disputes as you play. So instead of accusing your friend of cheating, just have the staff come by and be the judge, jury, and executioner on your behalf.

Courtney Lovell, one of the owners of the space, got us setup with two different games. The first was Seikatsu which you play by strategically placing beautifully illustrated tiles into formations on the board. Different patterns of tiles gain you points and the person with the most points at the end of the game wins.

It was a blast to play, but the coolest thing about this whole experience was that we probably would have never given it a shot if Lovell didn’t introduce this to us. Having a game concierge opened us to a whole new world of games besides the normal uber popular games we all love. 

The second game was more physical and reminded us of Jenga but in reverse. It was called Catch the Moon and you play by stacking ladder pieces into a tower with the person who topples the structure losing. An extension to their retail section in the last year means that if your party finds a game they particularly love, then you might be able to take it home with you at the end of the night. Regardless of what type of player you are, there is surely something here for you.

3. Jennivee’s Bakery

Our final stop is Jennivee’s Bakery, a late-night bakery which is just around the corner from Bonus Round Game Cafe. If you watch  Netflix’s Sugar Rush you might recognize the owner Jenni Vee who competed in the first season of the show (S1:E2 if you want to check it out).

The great thing about the place is that this cozy spot is open until 11 pm most evenings meaning you don’t have to rush through your gaming session at Bonus Round Game Cafe to satisfy that sweet tooth craving.

Jenni Vee opened up her bakery in 2016, in part, after hearing news of bakeries refusing to serve wedding cakes to same-sex couples. As a trans-woman, she wanted to create a safe space that was welcoming for everyone while also incorporating her Filipina background into her desserts.

You’ll find American traditional layer cakes and cupcakes but infused with popular Filipino ingredients like ube, a purple yam with a sweet nutty flavor, and pandan, an aromatic leaf with notes of rose, almond, and vanilla. When it’s 10pm and you just dominated a game of Seikatsu, reward yourself with a buko pandan cupcake to end the night.