SPiN Toronto has quietly opened on King West , bringing the game of ping pong out from rec rooms across the nation. When I first spoke to Ryan Fisher about his plans to open a Toronto version of the New York club back in February , the concept was still very much in its infancy. But walking into the 12,000-square-foot space--complete with 12 ping pong tables, two rooms, two bars, and a full food menu and cocktail list--it's clear that ping pong has finally entered the realm of 'cool.'
Indeed, the conventionally unathletic will surely find solace at SPiN. It's a place where the football tackle has no advantage over the bespectacled beat poet; where, in Ryan's words, "A Queen West artist can play against a King West banker."
"I had a table at my place back when I lived in Liberty Village ," Ryan says as we lean against one of SPiN's salmon-coloured bars. "And this is what my friends and I would do on Friday or Saturday nights. Here, we're playing the same music; we're drinking the same beer."
Ryan was inspired to open SPiN Toronto after visiting the club in New York and hitting it off with owners Andrew Gordon, Jonathan Bricklin, and Franck Raharinosy (as well as actress Susan Susan Sarandon, who also helped launch the original SPiN.) "The guys in New York," Ryan says, "they're the real pioneers. When I saw in living colour just how you could bring different groups together, I knew I had to get on it. Toronto's ready."
SPiN does seem to provide active relief from static nights at the bar, and the DJ booths and promise of live music ("by people who are willing not to be the focal point of the night," Ryan says) render the space far from that of campground/rec room likeness. Granted, there are hints of that sort of vibe--the picnic tables, the wall seating, the rum, tequila, and gin punch bowls ($39)--but they have been implemented deliberately to preserve a bit of that old school ping pong vibe.
But at SPiN, of course, it's not just your mom's brownies and whatever beer is in the mini fridge. The cocktail list includes specialties such as the Lemon Lychee (sake, lychee liqueur, white cranberry: $8) and the SPiN Barrel Aged Negroni (Bombay gin, campari, martini rossi rouge: $11); the menu includes eats such as sloppy joe's ($12), fish tacos ($9), and fondue ($10), and there's even Guinness, sweet potato, or cheddar ice cream available as part of SPiN's specialty sundaes ($7). The beer list is also fairly extensive and impressive, with several Hop City brews--such as Barking Squirrel and Lawn Chair--on tap.
In the coming weeks, Ryan plans to introduce private ping pong instruction for those looking for a little help with their backhands, as well as league play, tournaments, and the odd projection of a Leafs or Raptors game when the season get underway. Regular play for non-members is $28 per hour ($20 before 5 p.m.) and glow-in-the-dark ping pong should be coming soon (black lights already installed), lest we subject ourselves to more pleasureless nights of cosmic bowling.
But the best part about SPiN is its ball-distribution method hands-down, whereby players are given a basket of balls for play and staff move around to collect the wayward shots. No unnecessary bending and sweet potato ice cream? SPiN certainly blows that old basement table out of the water.