June has seen gaming gastropub Token open its doors on Queen Street in Smithfield. With retro arcade games spread across two floors and a large pub food menu, the place has been operating so successfully that bookings are the only way that customers can guarantee seats.
I spoke to Nick DiMaio, owner of Token and also The R.A.G.E retro gaming shop, to find out about the inspiration for the arcade themed pub, the Kickstarter project to fund their wheelchair accessible lift and the place that gaming has in Irish society.
The R.A.G.E retro gaming store was opened by Nick in 2010, and since then they have had a variety of nights spread across venues in Dublin that combined gaming and pub culture. With these success of these nights, Nick began to think about how they could achieve this regularly in their own venue. After a trip to the States, which served as inspiration, Nick decided if they were to combine gaming with food and beverages that The R.A.G.E. would be the place to do it. “That was back in 2014,” he explained, “and since then it’s been consistently 6-7 days per week trying to get Token open and established.”
When asked about the demand for such a business in Dublin, Nick said: “I think the general Irish public has underestimated how important video games are to people for a very long time. There isn’t a specific age group, income level, or personality type of people who enjoy playing games – it really is people from every walk of life. Again, we experienced this through The R.A.G.E. and it made sense to create the equivalent of what a sports bar is for sports fans, but for gamers.”
The business has received a lot of bookings for staff nights out. Nick feels that an important feature of Token is that you don’t actually need to drink alcohol to have a good time, as there is enough in the premises to keep everyone entertained, drinking or not.
The Kickstarter the group began, whereby people donate money for a project in exchange for discounts or sample products in order to help crowdfund a specific idea, also went down quite well for the group.
Those who pledged got pretty sweet rewards in return at a cheaper price.
The Kickstarter for Token was aimed at making the lift wheelchair accessible in order to help all customers reach both floors of the establishment – Nick had made “A pact with myself that whatever I open next, it has to be fully accessible to anyone and everyone”. Backed by followers and friends of the R.A.G.E, proving the need and demand for a gaming venue of this nature, the Kickstarter was a success and allowed the business to refurbish the lifts.
The menu offers some hilarious names for a wide variety of affordable bar food ranging from hot dogs (pug life), chicken tenders (hot love) to chicken burgers (side chick). The menu also has plenty to offer for vegans and vegetarians.
“Basically we’re using very talented chefs and premium ingredients to create what I would consider to be gourmet fast food at a low price point,” Nick explained. “Everything we serve, aside from our Wagyu beef and American hot sauces, is either made in house, purchased locally (our baker is literally around the corner) and of Irish origin.”
All of the mains in Token are made for two and start at the low price of €7.95, so that customers can try at least three separate dishes without breaking the bank. Of course, just because the food is cheap does not mean that they are low quality. “The head chef, Shane Guilmartin, is really taking the concept of fast food and adding a high-end element,” Nick said. “His level of detail and execution, even when doing 400 covers, doesn’t dip.”
In terms of alcoholic beverages Nick stated that they are currently working on expanding their selection as they are limited until their pub license comes into effect in July, but they still offer beer, wine and non-alcoholic beer. They also plan on introducing milkshakes to their range at a later date.
With 22 staff and over 130 seats available in the venue, Token has a lot to offer the public in a way that has not been seen in Ireland before. Expect a lot of blooping and blipping as customers can play classics such as Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Street Fighter 2 and Tekken, along with 28 other arcade machines, and, as the name suggests, you can buy tokens at the bar to play them.
There is definitely something nostalgic about the idea of spending a relaxing evening playing games this way and, as someone now in their 30’s, at least I can justify my inner nerd with a pint in my hand as well.
For more information on Token, visit www.facebook.com/pg/TokenDublin/.