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Imagine a rec room, then add fancy drinks

Bar of the Week: Bar Convivium
by: KATIE HARTLEY, Bartender Kaete Billipp (left) serves Tim Baker during happy hour at Bar Convivium in Northwest Portland. Bar Convivium offers a variety of entertaining games including shuffleboard, pool and plenty of board games.

Oh, the games people play - there's Scrabble, Boggle, Chinese checkers, pinball and, of course, shuffleboard.

The new Bar Convivium is dedicated to games, especially those most likely to inspire a touch of nostalgia. Classic board games are scattered invitingly across the bar's tabletops, and even if you choose not to play, they set the tone. This bar wants to be your rec room.

Like a typical rec room, Convivium is in a basement. It's hidden under Pearl Ace Hardware, on the corner of Northwest 16th Avenue and Hoyt Street. If you're walking by on the sidewalk, the bar's windows are at your feet. From inside, you can look up and out, and daylight shines in during the early evening.

It's hard to look cool when you're playing Yahtzee, and the feeling here is definitely come-as-you-are. That mood may stimulate your thirst for a basic, working-class beer.

Cocktails here, however, are carefully mixed, with respect for the classics. Something called a Zombi is fruity but balanced and not too sweet. Ditto for a Rum Runner. And if you're in the mood for something a little fancy, try a house invention called the Roxy Drop.

There was a time in the smoky old days of Portland taverns when shuffleboard was a really big deal. Bar shuffleboard is played on a long, narrow table. Pucks are pushed by hand, and glide along a satisfyingly smooth wooden surface. It's a fun enough game for beginners but requires quite a bit of time, and many beers, to master.

The shuffleboard is free at Convivium. So is the pool, although the pool table, tucked into its own cozy 'vault,' may remind you a bit too much of the table at your Uncle Frank's - that is to say, you may find the walls impeding the backward thrust of your cue.

Food is limited to bar snacks - a burger, baked brie and crackers, a vegetarian hot dog.

Despite its central location, Convivium can be difficult to reach. It's located on a one-way street, the south-flowing 16th Avenue, and it's cut off from the Pearl District by Interstate 405.

But once you get there, parking isn't too tight, and after 6 p.m. you can park in the parking lot of the hardware store upstairs.

- Anne Marie DiStefano

535 N.W. 16th Ave., 503-243-7399, 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Monday-Thursday, 5 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday