The latest brainchild of the folks behind The R.A.G.E (Record and Game Exchange), Record Spot and the second hand clothing spot in the George’s street arcade; Token marks its management’s first foray into the famously precarious realm of the service industry. A tentpole of their existing enterprises, especially The R.A.G.E and Record Spot, is the dedication with which they pitch the niche as the approachable.
The sense of inclusivity that has become their hallmark is neatly encapsulated in The R.A.G.E’s regular art competitions. For the duration of the contests, each entry, usually a hand-drawing depicting a beloved video game character, is given pride of place in the shop’s front window. The adorably chaotic scrawls of children sit beside the painstakingly crafted masterworks of long-time devotees to the notion Art can be delivered via the medium of a cartridge. No value judgements. The R.A.G.E understands that those who truly love something are the most eager to share it.
Even with its plainly inclusivist bent, Token is obviously the progeny of obsession. Situated in Smithfield and spread over two floors, the venue houses a slew of blinking, whirring, buzzing and beeping vintage arcade games, a neatly curated selection of pinball cabinets, an extensive beer selection spanning the expected to the exotic and a kitchen producing street food inspired bar/dinner fare that balances somewhere between the kinda fancy (Waygu Beef Sliders) and that sweet spot twixt the revolting and the inspired (Deep fried, Resse’s Peanut Butter Cups wrapped in bacon).
Frankly, it’s a testament to sincere grá that drives those pulling the strings that the novel nature of the business never veers towards contrived. Even with tens of flashing cabinets, there is enough restraint on display to sidestep sensory overload. What could have been a throwaway exercise eliciting wide eyed ‘gee whizzes’ is much more concerned with being a welcoming and usable space for those who desire it, rather than merely fodder for a geo-tagged instagram post.
It’s undoubtedly trite mention the painfully polite idling speed of the Irish population but our bashfully parochial tendencies was at the fore in Token. The assemblage’s softly softly approach erred comfortably more on the side of the endearing than the national embarrassment. The throng, and it was a throng, of customers seemed almost overcome with the fact they were occupying a space the likes of which they had only ever experience through the distorting lens of popular culture. For many, it seemed Token was almost an immersive theatre experience, a Westworld for those who’d rather to step into the Android’s Dungeon ahead of shooting/shagging a glassy-eyed automaton.
It’s immensely heartening to see something genuinely new (at least for Ireland) appear in bar scene that can all too often straddle the identikit. Toke on, I say! Toke on!
Token, 72-74 Queen Street, Smithfield, Dublin 7.
Words: Danny Wilson
Photos: Killian Broderick