ROWDIEST BEER AND BOWLING
145 John St., 416-597-2695
A Saturday night in the neon-and-flat-screen-lit Ball Room brings a barrage of retro bowling paraphernalia, inappropriate dancing, nearly naked club girls and C-list star spotting (mostly character actors from Being Erica). Although the beer selection is uninspired (Canadian, Moosehead), it’s still novel to have it delivered right to the lane. The overall mood is somewhat hallucinatory—like that gutter ball dream sequence in The Big Lebowski—especially when the servers tell you how much it costs to rent a lane for an hour (up to $65, plus shoe rental).
690 Euclid Ave., 647-350-4227
While most new bars are busy shoring up their local microbrew cred, this Croatian beer hall, nestled on a side street in Koreatown, happily embraces the Old World with an excellent selection of European brews, like Karlovačko, a popular Pilsner from Croatia that’s a rare sight in Toronto. The small snack menu features a greasy and thoroughly enjoyable pljeskavica, a Balkan-style burger on a spongy white bun.
461 King St. W., 416-599-7746
Entering the lower-level space—through unmarked steel doors down a barely marked King Street alleyway—you feel like you’re infiltrating an illegal Ping Pong ring. Tables are hard to come by (members, who pay $50 a month, often book them), and drinking in a basement while half-heartedly batting the ball is eerily reminiscent of adolescent Saturday nights. But, as they say, it gets better. The bar snacks are remarkably good. Grilled cheese sandwiches are the perfect accompaniment to an Ontario craft brew list that reads like a children’s book: Lawn Chair, Mr. Huff and the Barking Squirrel (all $6.25). After a few of those, you get very good at Ping Pong.