When simply eating becomes too boring, head to one of these Richmond cafés where you can pair your food with fun and games.
Playing darts at ESpot. (PHOTO: CAROLYN B. HELLER)
1. Darts, Bubble Tea and Chef Boyardee
“Want to play?”
The young woman firing darts at an electronic dartboard in the cavernous back room at Richmond’s ESpot (#160-7951 Alderbridge Way) waved to my husband Alan and me.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “You don’t have to be any good.”
Spotted: Foosball and arcade games at ESpot. (PHOTO: CAROLYN B. HELLER)
Hidden at the back of a parking lot off Alderbridge Way, ESpot is paradise for game-players, from novice to experienced. You enter into a room flashing and clanging with arcade games; there’s even an old-school foosball table. In the next room, you can shoot pool, book a private space to play mahjong, or try your hand at electronic darts.
Just some of the gamer fuel on offer at ESpot. (PHOTO: CAROLYN B. HELLER)
We watched the dart players for a few minutes, before heading off in search of sustenance. ESpot staff can whip up several varieties of bubble tea, but in the food department, it’s strictly gamers’ fuel: cups of instant Kraft Dinner, Campbell’s Soup and Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli. Play here, but go elsewhere for dinner.
2. A Cool Kids’ Hangout with Taiwanese Pub Food
The True’s Tea Restaurant. (PHOTO: ALAN ALBERT)
Amid the stylish young people watching Taiwanese music videos, checking their phones, or playing cards at The True’s Tea (#180-8400 Alexandra Rd.), Alan and I felt rather underdressed. One young woman in leather pants wore a broad-brimmed hat framing her perfectly made-up face, and even the more casually attired were sporting on-trend plaid shirts or designer sweats.
As at ESpot, you can play electronic darts here, or book a room to slap down mahjong tiles with your pals. At the bar, illuminated from below with glowing red lights, the bartender mixed up bubble tea after bubble tea—clearly the drink of choice among the hipsters.
Pork Chop with Black Pepper Sauce at True’s Tea. (PHOTO: CAROLYN B. HELLER)
You can park yourself in the red and white chairs and order a whole meal, too, at least if you’re into the Taiwanese equivalent of bar food. Popular dishes include Taiwanese fried chicken nuggets ($6.95), and Pork Chop with Black Pepper Sauce ($10.95, pictured above), deep-fried pork slices with a salty-peppery gravy served with rice, sweet pickled daikon and carrots and roasted peanuts.
Fish Noodle Soup (that comes with pork sausages) at True’s Tea. (PHOTO: CAROLYN B. HELLER)
We also sampled Fish Noodle Soup ($10.95, above), where you choose a broth, several proteins and your preferred type of noodle. We opted for mild and creamy gingko broth, adding slippery rice vermicelli, fish fillets (good), lamb slices (a little gristly), and pork sausages (resembling spiced hot dogs).
It’s not going to win any beauty contests, but the Cabbage with Bacon at True’s Tea was a favourite. (PHOTO: CAROLYN B. HELLER)
Our favorite dish was the simplest: Cabbage with Bacon ($12.95, above), basic stir-fried cabbage with chunks of salty bacon. But bacon aside, at The True’s Tea, it’s more about chilling with your smartly dressed friends than about fine dining.
3. Trending Bubble Waffles and Pokemon Lego
You’ll find The Bubble Tea Shop tucked underneath the Real Canadian Superstore. (PHOTO: CAROLYN B. HELLER)
Rumors of Rubik’s Cubes sent me hunting for The BBT Shop (4651 No. 3 Rd.), a bubble tea and bubble waffle shop underneath the Real Canadian Superstore. Online reports said that each table comes with a Rubik’s Cube to entertain you while you snack.
There’s only one arcade game at The Bubble Tea Shop, but it is Street Fighter 2. (PHOTO: CAROLYN B. HELLER)
Alas, when I asked about the puzzles, the staff person told me I was mistaken, and just one lone arcade game at the back of the café provides entertainment.
But they do make a variety of sweet bubble waffles ($3.75 to $8.95). Originally a Hong Kong street food, these egg-shaped puffs come plain, filled (with Oreos, red beans or cheddar cheese, among others), or topped with fruit, ice cream and other treats.
Mango explosion: The Super Mango Bubble Waffle at The Bubble Tea Shop. (PHOTO: CAROLYN B. HELLER)
A specialty is the Super Mango Bubble Waffle ($8.95), piled high with chunks of mango, whipped cream and a super-sized scoop of mango ice cream drizzled with mango sauce. In this impressive dessert, which easily feeds two or more, the tart fruit balances the sugary waffle and velvety ice cream. It even has its own hashtag: #SuperMango.
Pokemon blocks getting around copyright laws at The Bubble Tea Shop. (PHOTO: CAROLYN B. HELLER)
Several display cases around the café stock cute holiday gifts, like cat face change purses, Super Mario Brothers key chains, and Pokemon building blocks. While waiting for his waffle, a boy of about six in a dapper grey fedora checked out the displays, before rushing back to his table to exclaim, “Mom! I found something really useful! Spiderman socks!”
(PHOTO: CAROLYN B. HELLER)
Maybe if you can’t play games, eating bubble waffles while wearing Spiderman socks is the best kind of Richmond fun.