Used to be that you couldn't throw a washer and not hit a bar with its own set of outdoor games. But these days, games at bars are harder to come by. Birds have been known to peck away at the beanbags used for cornhole; Hoosier golf balls became wound around low-hanging telephone lines. But there are still a few outposts that offer games for their yard-less patrons — heck, even if you are lucky enough to have a spacious back yard, it gets expensive to outfit. So head to one of these places, order and drink, and let the games begin.
1335 Convention Plaza; 314-241-8226
The game: Volleyball
The vibe: With its lush grass and two sparkling sand volleyball courts, Wave Taco is urban-greenspace-meets-beach-party, but downtown resident and part owner Beau Reinberg prefers to think of Wave Taco as "the lofts' back yard." Sure, volleyball leagues take up time on the courts, but there's open play from 5 to 6 p.m. during the week and 2 to 5 p.m. on Sundays; check www.wave-taco.com for other time restrictions. There are plenty of picnic tables, chairs and loungers, and dogs are welcome. The entirely outdoor bar (think corrugated steel tiki) serves up a limited menu of burritos, nachos and pizza, as well as plenty of beer and mixed drinks.
Why it's better than your back yard: Features grass you don't have to cut yourself and views of the City Museum and the Post-Dispatch offices.
The drink: House margarita.
825 Allen Avenue; 314-241-4772
The games: Ping-Pong, the "ring game"
The vibe: Think of what you loved most from your best childhood friend's basement — Hula-Hoops, bubbles, darts — you'll find them here in nooks all around the patio, which is surrounded by a tall wooden fence decorated with license plates and tin beer signs. That the Shanti likes to refer to itself as the "alternative sports bar in Soulard" should come as no surprise. The Ping-Pong table in the courtyard is thoughtfully covered with a 10-foot-by-20-foot canopy, but the most addictive game out there is the "ring game." Apparently developed during a boozy camping trip, this maddening game consists of a ring attached to a thread and a hook attached to the wall. Swing the ring onto the hook and you've won. Easy enough, right? Wrong. Better crack another beer — you'll be staying awhile.
Why it's better than your back yard: It's reliably stocked with interesting people and games. And you don't have to clean up after either one of them.
The drink: PBR.
Friendly's Sports Bar
3503 Roger Place; 314-771-2040
The games: Washers, air hockey, foosball
The vibe: Bar Olympics headquarters. Besides the aforementioned outdoor games, there are tons more inside in case of inclement weather, including pool, Skee-ball, darts, shuffleboard, pinball, the claw game, a boxing game, assorted video games and more. The three washer pits outside are enclosed by a green wooden fence bedecked with beer signs, and there's plenty of room for outdoor seating. At night, you can swivel some of the 32 total indoor televisions around so they face outside — that way, you can throw some washers while keeping up with the game. Genius!
Why it's better than your back yard: Um, see above. Plus, the air-hockey game glows in the dark!
The drink: Anything that comes in a bucket. Owner Denny Domachowski offers domestic and imported beers and even small bottles of wine.
Milo's Bocce Garden
5201 Wilson Avenue; 314-776-0468 The game: Bocce
The vibe: Old-school neighborhood corner tavern. Let the debate be settled: The name of the game is pronounced the East-coast way: "bow-chee," with a long O. The place has been around in some form for more than 100 years; the bocce courts, made of crushed limestone, were installed in 1989. The courts host a lot of league action, but are generally open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. If you'd like to see how it's really done, come by to watch American Legion Post 15 (Rollo Calcaterra) play on Wednesdays, beginning at 7:30 p.m. And on Saturdays during the spring and summer wedding seasons, you might catch a newlywed couple who grew up in the neighborhood stop by for pictures and a quick game. If the courts are free, ask for a rules sheet from behind the bar for a quick primer and get rolling. Outside, there's a spacious patio with some two dozen tables and the neat, wood-framed courts along with a neon sign that proclaims Milo's the "Sports Center of the Hill."
Why it's better than your back yard: Milo's has square footage and character to spare, along with some of the nicest staff in town.
The drink: Big sellers here include Bud Light and Select, as well as beers from O'Fallon and Schlafly breweries. And by all means, buy a cigar.
1017 Lemay Ferry Road; 314-638-0511
The games: Cornhole, washers, Hoosier golf (a.k.a., ladder golf, Lemay golf)
The vibe: Eccentric, throwback bar, decked out with classic whiskey-barrel bar tables, the odd pair of boxing gloves, pictures of the city's old and new stadiums, and a bevy of stuffed birds — including two bald eagles — that have roosted atop the back bar since the early 1950s. Outside, the blacktop lot, barbecue pit and a smattering of tables with umbrellas are enclosed by a tidy white fence.
Why it's better than your back yard: Better ambiance, bird watching.
The drink: Mickey Lograsso's most popular drinks are A-B products. Get them in buckets to maximize game time.