Tag Archives: Toronto

Is it game over for pinball fun in Parkdale?

I was just about to do a post this morning about my trip to The Pinball Cafe earlier this month, when I read a rather ominous-sounding article at blogTO regarding the future of the trendy Parkdale establishment. Apparently, the owners are in the middle of an effort to be awarded a zoning variance as the cafe is currently operating in violation of  General Zoning By-Law No. 438-86. The by-law prohibits “places of amusement” in the Parkdale area from having more than two pinball machines on its premises. While it certainly is worth questioning the wisdom behind starting this process after opening your business, I do wish owner Jason Hazzard success in his effort to keep the cafe open. I had a chance to visit The Pinball Cafe with my girlfriend shortly after it opened earlier this month (see post below), and it’s certainly not the kind of place I imagine the by-law was meant to protect the community from when it was originally promulgated. No drugs, gambling, or violence. Not even any alcohol. Hmm, maybe that’s what Toronto wants to save Parkdale from. Anyways, here’s the link to the article, and please read the post below about my trip the The Pinball cafe, if you’re interested in going there yourself. Thanks.


Old-school fun

It’s Sunday morning.  You’ve finally had a good night’s sleep after a long, hard week.  Great! So, how do you enjoy your afternoon? You could go shopping.  You could go to a museum.  “I know. How about a nice cafe?” your girlfriend suggests.  “Ah, ha!  I know the perfect place” you tell her.  “The Pinball Cafe“.

After hearing so much about Toronto’s trendy new cafe, I wondered if it actually offers an experience that goes beyond mere novelty.  In an already crowded, and ever-growing market of themed cafes, restaurants, and nightclubs, can this one grab your attention and, more importantly, keep you coming back for more?  Armed with one lovely girlfriend, and a desire to have some fun, I set off for Queen Street West to find out.

First Impression

Arriving at around 1:00 pm, my girlfriend Yumi and I were pleased to see that the cafe was busy.  When you visit a newly-opened small business you often find you’re the only customer around .  I don’t know about you, but in those situations I tend to feel added pressure to be supportive, and end up being overly generous with my pocket book, regardless of the quality of my experience. Think Jerry Seinfeld and Babu…minus the creative suggestions. Well, there was no need to worry this time around, as the cafe was lively, filled with the clinging sounds of 8 vintage pinball machines. The customers were mostly young lads, and single men, and so the place had a decidedly nerdy feel to it.  No problem.  We hadn’t come to socialize with pretentious hipsters.  We were there to soak up the geeky atmosphere, and have fun. Our first order of business however, was to get some food and drinks.

A menu for all ages

The Pinball Cafe, being a place for all ages to enjoy, has a menu which is sans alcohol. With all the sweet, sugary options available though, it’s not as though the place is free of addictive choices to indulge in.  From milkshakes, to muffins, to twinkies and sodas, you can certainly get your sugar fix there.  And if you do want something a wee bit healthier, there are sandwiches and veggies as well. That wasn’t part of our plan that day however.  Yumi and I chose two of their delicious Big Mochas, a tasty cheese scone and two retro chocolates.  I don’t remember the cost of everything, but I’m pretty sure they were priced reasonably enough.  Regardless, we enjoyed it all.  I hardly ever eat junk food these days, but it was nice to try some snacks from the past.  It was especially exciting for Yumi, as she had never seen any of this in Japan.

Let the games begin!

After eating our chocolates, we moved to the back of the cafe where the walls are lined with 8 vintage pinball machines. They may be old, but they all looked in pristine condition. More importantly, they operated without a hitch.  Since one of the customers was less than generous with his use of Black Knight we weren’t able to try all of the machines, but that hardly spoiled our fun (even though it did look to be the most enjoyable game. Hence, why Mr. Selfish never left the machine).  I think we ended up trying four machines in all. Aside from AC DC, which by the way is insanely difficult, all the games play for a quarter.  AC DC is something like a $1 to play. There’s even an Asteroid machine, and we gave that a try.  That was  really hard as well.  Actually, come to think of it, after a fabulous start with Comet, it was all down hill from there. I definitely don’t have “the touch” when it comes to pinball machines.  Don’t even get me started on slot machines. Good lord!  Over the course of the next hour business really picked up, and it became difficult to try anymore of the games.  As we had plans to visit a museum that day, that was our cue to leave.

The verdict

All in all ,we had a good time.  I wish we would have been able to try a few more of the games, especially Black Knight (curse you Pinball Nerd!), but we felt like we got a good taste of what The Pinball Cafe has to offer. In the end, it was exactly what I though it would be going in.  Although it’s not a place I’m desperate to visit again right away, I’m definitely happy to know there is one more place out there were I can go and just have fun like the the big kid I am.  Sure, it’s certainly geeky, but who says you’re not a big geek? Join the club my friends.

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The Pinball Cafe is located at 1662 Queen Street West, Toronto.