best cafe in bali

Downtime’s 5th Year! (1 of 2)

Folks have asked us why we opened a board game cafe here in Bali. May 2023 marks the fifth year of operations here at Downtime Cafe. On this occasion we thought it might be nice to take a trip back to nostalgia lane and share some moments along our journey thus far.

A gathering of board game lovers

When we first moved from Jakarta to Bali in 2016 we couldn’t find enough people to play board games with. We started inviting friends, fellow travelers, etc. via social media to join us as we hosted Game Night gatherings every Wednesday evenings. We met at various coffee shops around town, and introduced new players to simple games such Saboteur, Avalon, Bang! The Dice Game, and Port Royal. Thus the Bali Board Games group was born.

The Bali Board Games group met weekly at one of the local coffee shops.

We kept bouncing from one coffee shop to another over the next couple of years. Finding a place that had the right combination of large tables, good lighting, and decent food and drinks is surprisingly harder than you might think. On top of that, lugging heavy bags full of cardboard on scooters (sometimes in the middle of a rainstorm) was taking its toll on our backs.

Needing a place of our own

We began toying around with the idea of setting up our own gaming space. We’ve seen board game cafes work in larger cities like Jakarta and Bangkok. Would the concept work in a small island like Bali though? There was only one way for us to find out.

We found a small shop in an area of Bali called Kerobokan. This part of town may not be as well-known as Canggu, Seminyak, or Kuta. However it has the advantage of being in a central location and is easily accessible from those other areas. The shop was previously a warung or local eatery, and it already had a small kitchen, some rudimentary seating area, and a washroom. We just needed to add a splash of paint, fix a few things, get some furniture, and we were good to go!

Needs a little bit of work, but it’ll do.

The next thing we had to ponder was, we needed a name. We had brainstormed a bunch of names already, and rejected names that had “board” in the title. This was because there were already a lot of surfboard shops in Bali using those kind of names already. Names with “dice” or “game” also didn’t make the cut because we didn’t want to focus too much on board games (more on that later).

We wanted a name that conveyed the concept of chilling, taking some time out of your busy work schedule, hanging out with friends, enjoying good food, having a good time. As in, enjoying a little downtime for yourself.

The first board game cafe in Bali

Downtime is open for business!

Downtime Cafe became the first board game cafe in Bali on Wednesday, 16th of May, 2018. We launched on that day by hosting our usual Wednesday evening Game Night. At long last, Bali Board Games had a permanent home!

For the first time, Bali Wednesday Game Night had a permanent home

Questions still remained. It would be hard enough for a niche operation like a board game cafe to survive even in a large metropolis like Jakarta or Bangkok. What would our chances be in a small resort island like Bali, whose population is not even 1/10th the size?

Judging by our experience and relative difficulty of getting people to come to our game nights, there wasn’t enough of a built-in base in Bali to support a shop focused just on board games. If we were to survive, we had to focus on the food and beverage side our business. The board games aspect would have to take a back seat.

Cafe first, board games second

We chose “international comfort food” as our driving concept. We didn’t want to offer trendy food like Indomie instant noodles or ayam geprek fried chicken, which were ubiquitous and “viral” back then. Rather, we wanted to offer Bali a chance to taste unique, delicious comfort foods from around the world, using locally-sourced ingredients from the island.

Our cornerstone was our triple-cooked Belgian fries, with your choice of homemade dipping sauces. Of course we must have nasi goreng. We developed our own unique variations, such as our bacon fried rice, and our very own Balinese fried rice. Thankfully, reception to our food has been generally very positive.

Downtime Cafe was beginning to grow.

(To be Continued…)