Flavour of the month: three new spots that change the game on sports bars
Sports bars in Toronto used to mean soggy nachos, face-painted guys named Big Mickey and eau de bleach mixed with stale cigarettes. Thankfully, a new era of communal fandom has arrived, with the help of three luxe lounges where discerning diehards can enjoy good food, microbrews and giant HD TVs. Here, the best places to catch the game
The Suburban Stadium
WEGZ, 2601 Rutherford Rd., Vaughan, 905-303-9349
The 23,000-square-foot room is like Chuck E. Cheese for grown-ups. With an arcade, two virtual golf simulators, Xbox booths, off-track betting, a digital tickertape spewing sports news, and a soundtrack of classic rock, no sense is left unstimulated. On game nights, groups of hockey fans pound pitchers of Labatt alongside suits stopping in for a cinq à sept on the way home. Goals are blasted over a megaphone and accompanied by a medley of horns and sirens that would make Don Cherry proud.
The unofficial house sport: horse racing, hockey and UFC.
The screen situation: more than 100 TVs.
The beer: the Brewtender is an 80-ounce pitcher for $22.
The food: classic pub grub jacked up on steroids. Nearly 200 towers of greasy-good nachos and 366 pounds of plump chicken wings fly out of the kitchen on a busy night.
I’m Italian, and there are a lot of Italians in the neighbourhood, so there are plenty of hecklers during soccer games. Actually, I’m a heckler.
— Michael Manias, Project Manager
I meet up with my old high school buddies at WEGZ (it’s our unofficial hangout).
— Jason Pittelli, Student Teacher
I’m a huge sports fan, so I’m here five to seven days a week. At the Super Bowl party this year, there were 100 guys on the dance floor with the Bud girls. I’ve never seen anything like it.
— Dean Speranza, Salesman
Interactive Fun House
The Ballroom, 145 John St., 416-597-2695
Suck it, suburbia! Ten-pin finally comes to the downtown core, along with ping-pong, foosball, video gaming and just about every other frat boy pursuit that doesn’t involve MDMA. The multiple opportunities to engage in sport (and simultaneously watch it on TV) make this new clubland fixture less a bar and more a boozy, athletic amusement park full of pie-eyed finance dudes bowling off steam after a tough day on the TSX.
The unofficial house sport: UFC.
The screen situation: 60 TVs covering all available wall space, including giant projection screens over the lanes.
The beer: a respectable if not exciting brew selection (this is a bottle service kind of place).
The food: “deep-fry or die” might well be the menu’s motto. Battered pickles, Pogo sticks and onion rings all taste good
in that everything-fried-in-fat-is-yummy way.
I used to bowl in my youth, 25 years ago. It was the one sport I could play without hurting myself.
— Peter Traynor, Canadian National Stock Exchange business developer
I won the first round of bowling, but then my arm got tired. Those balls are heavy. I’m going to watch golf instead. It’s calming.
— Joelle Woodruff, Marketing Manager
I’m not the kind of guy who would paint my face blue or anything, unless, of course, the Leafs made it to the playoffs.
— Chris Lucifero, Web Developer
The Hockey Haven
Real Sports Bar and Grill, 15 York St., 416-815-7325
MLSE’s 1,000-seat clubhouse is dedicated to the Leafs (albeit unofficially). The sleek decor is more Ocean’s Eleven than Varsity Blues, leaving jersey-wearing fans to inject the appropriate dose of blue and white. The crowd is about 50:50 slick Bay Street boys to classic “I Am Canadian” types, and 90:10 male to female, including the runway-ready servers in shrink-wrapped black unis. Hearing yourself speak is challenging; when the Leafs score, the cheering is so loud, the glasses behind the bar shake.
The unofficial house sport: hockey obviously dominates, but basketball and soccer attract out-the-door lineups, too.
The screen situation: 199, including the Times Square–sized high-def screen above the bar.
The beer: 36 kinds of draft, including six beer blends, like the Darth Maple, which mixes Canadian and Murphy’s Stout.
The food: gussied-up ballpark fare like bacon-wrapped hot dogs and spectacular Thai sweet chili chicken wings.
My girlfriends and I come here when we want to go out and have fun but we don’t feel like getting totally dolled up.
— Sherrie Rains, Model
Montreal is my team, so I stay home when they’re playing the Leafs—I don’t like to mingle with the enemy—but I come here for soccer.
— Mike Ryan, Writer
I was here for the Masters. Mike Weir is my favourite.
— Tom Brodi, Chef
I’m wearing a Leafs jersey now, but I’m really a Red Wings girl. If Detroit is playing, I’ll wear my red jersey. I get harassed by the crazy Toronto fans, but I don’t care.
— Kandace Hill, Student