District Trivia at Public Tenley – Worth Your Wednesday

Public Tenley Sign

Last Wednesday I finally worked up the courage to recruit some friends for the weekly District Trivia night at Public Tenley. It had been years since I had played pub trivia, and part of my trepidation was rooted in a waning body of relevant pop culture knowledge and a fear that perhaps I wasn’t half as smart as I once thought I was.

Now, I’m under no illusion that quiz nights are any kind of test of intelligence. They’re more an assessment of how many arcane facts one can store in one’s noggin. But no one wants to make a poor showing or lose to that one team comprised of players who have had one too many pitchers of beer, but somehow manage to get a ridiculous number of questions correct. So I assembled a crack team of friends who are not only wicked smart but also wonderfully fun to hang out with over a drink.

Fortunately, that mix of smart and fun is perfectly suited to District Trivia. The quiz series doesn’t take itself too seriously, even with a potentially serious cash prize on the line – top teams have a chance to vie for $1,000, and nightly winners receive a gift card that helps cover their tab for the evening. There are very few rules – no Internet searching for answers, no shouting answers, and always listen to the host. The last one is the hardest to follow, mainly because the sound system at Public Tenley doesn’t always carry.

Ben, Public Tenley’s host, is a veteran of District Trivia. He got his hosting gig after being a regular player for more than a year. He’s a bit subdued, but don’t let him fool you. There is a dry humor lurking beneath the surface that you might catch if you’re paying attention.

The quiz consists of five rounds of 10 questions each, plus a bonus question. Much like a daily double on Jeopardy you can wager between zero and 10 points on the bonus question. Get it right, you win extra points. Get it wrong, you lose the points.

Questions become successively difficult during each round. You’ll encounter a mix of math, science, literature, history, sports, and pop culture questions – basically a Trivial Pursuit card of categories. Some of the questions are obscure, some disarmingly obvious, and some just ridiculously specific. (Do you know in how many countries being an atheist is punishable by death? Well good for you. We sure didn’t.)

Between each round of questions teams can win up to 20 points by completing puzzle, picture, fill in the blank, and music worksheets. My favorite from this past week was the picture worksheet with famous witches of television and film. Players had to name the associated TV show or movie. I’m not ashamed to admit I was solidly in my wheelhouse with this one, though my teammates might have been embarrassed for me. The music round was a bit more difficult with short clips of songs played over the sound system that players had to identify along with the artist that performed them. Half our team gave up and had another beer during this one.

Overall, we made a reasonable showing for our first foray into District Trivia, though well behind the winners who outscored everyone by at least 100 points. More importantly, we had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs and will be back to compete again. The only change we might make is to dinner beforehand.

We arrived a bit early to catch up and have a bite before District Trivia kicked off. However, the service was slow and our waiter continually forgot our order. My burger, ordered medium rare, arrived with a gray, overcooked patty with too much of whatever herb was in the meat mixture. My friend’s cheesesteak was rated “sub-par,” dry, and lacking in beef. And as a Carolina gal, I take issue with a menu that classifies a BBQ burger as Carolina style when the sauce is sweet. If it’s not vinegar based, it’s not Carolina barbecue. On the plus side, the fries were quite tasty.

But let’s face it. You don’t really go to Public Tenley for the food, right? You go because it’s a good sports bar with a fun, friendly atmosphere. It’s great for sports watching with ample screens and without being dark and dreary like so many sports bars. And it’s a good place to hang out with some friends over a beer.

So bring your friends – whether for trivia or sports watching, keep your expectations about the food in check, and you’ll have a great time.

District Trivia begins at 8:00 p.m. each Wednesday. Tables start filling up about 20 minutes before start time, so plan to arrive a bit early to reserve your spot.

For those who are serious trivia players, District Trivia has a weekly podcast that provides hints to some of the trickier questions. They also offer a Hint of the Week on the website, but darned if I can figure out what the hints mean.