Featuring bean bag toss, classic cocktails, and a terrarium DJ booth
Bangarang (552 College, at Euclid, bangarangbar.com) is a brand-new sister bar to Track & Field, the two-year-old lawn-games spot that single-handedly took bocce and shuffleboard from retirement-home activities to the surefire makings of a debauched evening for the College Street party crowd.
“We thought it would be this chill spot – have a pint, sit down, play a game of bocce. We thought we would need more seating,” says Nickie Minshall, who opened Track & Field with partner Dustin Keating. (Two former T&F staff members, Jesse Borg and Tasha Potter, round out the Bangarang ownership team.)
“But it wasn’t like that at all. It turned into this crazy party spot where groups of 30 people would be out dancing on the bocce lanes. When we started talking about opening a new place, we thought, ‘What if we went for that vibe that Track & Field ended up having by accident?’”
“Talking to guests at Track, people would say, ‘I wish there were more places like this in Toronto,’” Borg says. “And the more we heard it, the more we were like ‘Huh. We could do that.’”
The perfect spot for a sister bar soon popped up: the former home of The Midtown, where Minshall recalls spending more than one blurry evening in her twenties.
“Track & Field has this sort of basement rec room vibe,” Minshall says. “Here, I think we stumbled on a more sophisticated design. At the end when we cleaned it up, we were like, ‘This is nicer than we expected!’ We’re grown-ups now.” Hey, this one even has windows!
The four of them built the bar themselves, down to the slatted wooden ceiling that hangs over the dance floor, the two giant terrariums stocked with live plants (one of them doubles as a DJ booth), and – oh yeah – the games.
Borg at the sjoelen table.
Bangarang carries over the formula perfected at Track (nostalgia + friendly competition + liberally-applied booze = magic), but with some necessary updates. At Bangarang, the available activities (bocce, shuffleboard and crokinole) are here replaced by 20-foot-long cornhole/beanbag toss courts, plus a few of their favourite semi-obscure tabletop activities: Rebound, Japanese billiards, and sjoelen. (It’s the Dutch answer to shuffleboard say it “shoe-len”).
They picked cornhole for the nostalgia factor, recalling wedding receptions or cottage weekends where the game made an appearance. “Plus, it’s just throwing a thing in a thing! That’s the whole game – which is perfect while you’re drinking a drink,” Minshall says. (A nice, soft thing. By the way, all four of them swear that Track & Field has logged zero bocce ball-related injuries since opening.)
Minshall plays a round of Japanese billiards.
The more obscure ones, meanwhile, were personal favourites of the team. “I played it sjoelen for about three hours at a house party once, and I texted a photo to Nickie and Dustin, like, ‘DUTCH SHUFFLEBOARD – WE HAVE TO GET IT.”
Lamentably, they didn’t have room for the many, many game recommendations they’ve received from Track patrons over the years. “Most of them, we agree with,” Keating says. “Yeah, mini-putt would be dope – but let us know when you find a 30,000 square foot bar.”
Don’t know how to play the games at Bangarang? They’ve got rules posted on a clipboard at each game. You might also just start making up your own rules after a drink or two (we promise nobody’s going to yell at you for it).
Borg says the cocktail program ended up being a bigger deal than anticipated at Track, and they kept that momentum going here. “At Track, we were actually a lot of people’s first experience with classic cocktails, They came for the games, but they’re also at a cocktail bar, and maybe they didn’t know that beforehand,” he says.
“We wanted [to put things on the menu] that would pull people in. The staff are knowledgeable and able to answer any question you have, but [Track & Field] also doesn’t take itself super seriously, like a lot of cocktail bars do.”
The Chic Choc You Don’t Stop (left), Old Kanye and Mezcal Margarita.
Some favourites from the first bar have made it over here, including the Old Kanye, a riff on a classic drink called the Jungle Bird (it’s rum, Campari, and lime juice, with the addition of apricot and a chai syrup). Another holdover is the Porch Crawler, which they describe as “literally just pink lemonade, vodka and beer.”
“That was originally put on the menu at Track as a joke – putting something you get wasted on at your cottage on the menu,” Borg says. “I thought it would only be on there for a couple weeks, but we’ve never taken it off.”
More party math: trashy summer drinks + indoor beanbag toss = endless summer!
A second terrarium, which graces the wall opposite the bar.
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