Power Up Bar (Toronto)


I don’t know why, but I felt the need to warn Christopher Venutolo, owner of Power Up Bar, that the last console I owned was a Super Nintendo. He immediately puts me at ease, explaining that Power Up Bar is all about socializing: everything is out in the open (you can even play while sitting at the bar) and they don’t have headsets to encourage people to actually interact with each other.

Immediately, his statements of playing together brings back childhood memories. Every Saturday, I’d go over to my cousin’s house and between causing mischief and running Camp Caribou in her backyard, we’d stop and play Double Dragon, Super Mario, or Zelda – depending on our mood. The games had pixelated graphics and there was little to no storyline, but what made them fun was playing with someone, being able to cheer or throw your hands up in frustration together.

Venutolo has had this idea for eleven years! What if people can just come into a bar, enjoy quality drinks and food, but then get to play video games (something they may do at home alone) as well? Why play by yourself when you can challenge your neighbor to Mario Kart, or compete at something more obscure like Runbow (from Canada’s 13AM Games) where I became the Color Master?

Unlike some lounges where it resembles a meat market and people are standoffish, at Power Up Bar patrons arrive with open minds. Even I met someone new that evening, playing a couple rounds of Runbow together and exchanging wings – chicken and duck wings that is.

And their food is good – decently sized plates that can easily be shared. The aforementioned chicken wings ($14) are lightly coated in a salt and pepper dredge before being deep fried until crispy. Something that’s a little messier (have a wet nap ready) are the duck confit wings ($18) – tender and flavourful covered in a sticky rosemary orange honey glaze. These are decadent and satisfying, my favourite dish of the evening.


The mini bacon cheese burgers ($15) are sure to be a crowd favourite, the sliders’ patties thick and juicy slathered with melted cheddar, bacon, and horseradish mayonnaise; arugula and a pickle adding a touch of crunch and freshness.


While the crispy bocconcini and rosemary risotto balls ($14) could stand to be hotter (the cool tomato sauce really chills it), the mild cheese inside remains molten and gooey (a great contrast against the crispy crunch). With a tad more salt or parmesan cheese mixed into the risotto itself, these would have been fantastic.


When there’s big sporting events, such as the finals of the World Series, Power Up Bar will be showing the games amongst their various screens. During these nights you’ll want to score a seat at the bar where you can watch the game and still grab a controller and play amongst the other television sets. Playing MLB Baseball while watching the Jays win? What a great combination.


If you have a group of five or more people, they also have a second room with booths that are generally first-come first-serve. Each one is set up with a Wii, Playstation and a large screen so you can battle your friends and neighbouring booths on any of those two consoles.


For me, my favourite area is the huge screen to the right of the bar. A place generally opened to everyone (or can be reserved for very large groups), it’s for those who like to move rather than smash buttons. With plenty of songs, Just Dance is a great option to let loose and party, especially with the help of some liquid encouragement.


After a few cocktails ($9 each until end of October and $12 thereafter), I felt ready to showcase my moves. Not being a fan of overly sweet drinks, mixologist Jess explains that they’re careful to create balanced cocktails. She was right, despite the descriptions incorporating strong spirits, there were no harsh flavours – rather you get a taste of something and then it’s replaced by another.

The Dark Sign, a concoction of made with Old Mount gay rum, Averna and Chartreuse sounds and looks like it’d be bitter, but is sweetened with raspberry syrup and ends with an interesting hickory smoked bitter. Even the Maker’s Mark bourbon in the Snake Eater is neutralized but a crème de cocoa and a splash of Ancho Reye adding a light spiciness in the background.

As pink as they come is the Fan Boy, the hue from a muddled watermelon cube mixed with Boodles gin; a drink that’s sweeter on account of the Aperol and Campari, but balanced with lemon and topped with creamy egg white.


Cosplayer Holly Wolf and notable YTV personality DJ Phil, will be attending Power Up Bar on October 15 for the Unplugged Expo after party. I’m more interested to visit on Friday to Monday of the Halloween weekend to see who else will be dressing up – what a perfect excuse for people to bust out their best Marvel or Sailor Moon costume.

Just imagine the fun you’ll have watching Superman dance to Soulja Boy and if anyone’s going to be Ariel from the Little Mermaid, here’s a dare for you – try Just Dance’s Under the Sea.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10
Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 38 Wellington Street East

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Power Up Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato