Mana Pool is a board game cafe, not a billiards room or anything to do with swimming as some early customers suspected.
Loaded with around a hundred games you can have access to all day for $5, the name of the place actually refers to the ancient Polynesian word “mana.”
It’s been adopted by the fantasy and gaming communities to refer to energy and life force, and in mythical worlds a mana pool is where you go to eat, drink and replenish your energy.
All contracting don on the business owned by the two Libralesso brothers was done by them with the help of their dad, with design by Barking Frog Creative.
Formerly home to High Park Juicery, the windowless spot has a black ceiling and slate grey walls, but also pops of red and blue with natural finish wood tables by Deadstok Reclaimed.
Shelves closest to the door are stocked with games available for cafe play, while those further back in the corner allow you to take home what you’ve been enjoying, like King of Tokyo ($33.99), Sushi Go Party! ($24.99) or heavy-duty Dead of Winter ($67.99).
Organized into rough categories like party games, two player, light strategy, and cooperative all the way up to heavy strategy, there’s everything from family-friendly Jenga and Monopoly to Catan, Netrunner, Carcassone and Munchkins.
If you’re peckish on the go and in a hurry or just want a light snack to fuel gaming, working or studying there are Japanese snacks from Calbee.
A lobster sandwich ($13.99) can be whipped up if you’re staying a while, a little pricey but far less so than most. Kept simple with Atlantic lobster mixed with seasoning and mayo on top of some mashed avocado in a brioche bun, it’s well-stuffed and not too soggy or mushy.
Beeramisu ($4.99) uses dark Pompous Ass ale from Great Lakes Brewing for its boozy component, and while it’s got a heavy dusting of cocoa there’s a nice coffee flavour.
Coffee is provided by de Mello Palheta ($3.25 for an Americano), and one of the brothers has prior experience from espresso shop Black Cat.
The Mana Up from a list of $6.50 smoothies gets its bluish-slate colour from blue pea leaves, a combination of replenishing licorice, chamomile, and fruit, extra fresh blueberries added right at the end for an extra pop of purple.
The best part about the $5 game play charge is that only $3 goes to Mana Pool itself, and the other $2 goes to Sick Kids. The big-hearted brothers are also happy to make game recommendations or provide explanations and help.