"Are you or a loved one experiencing an extreme, possibly life-threatening case of culture shock, or dangerous DTs after an extended journey to the West? Well then bring 'em on down to Cages In Gubei, where they can watch professional woodchopping on HDTVs, hear non-stop '90s Alternative Rock Hits, scarf nachos, smash baseballs, hurl darts, and crush beers. Our facilities offer world-class Western Culture Immersion (WCI) treatment in a 100% confidential setting. We know -- we've been there."
- Imaginary radio commercial for Cages Gubei
Cages is like a Hooters
that traded the sexism for batting cages, a pool table, one of those basketball arcade games, some dart boards, and a bouncy castle for kids. After opening their first
successful batting cage sports bar (a safer idea than it sounds) in Jing'an last year, they've expanded to Gubei, which is, oddly enough, home to a large Japanese and Korean expatriate community, who stereotypically enjoy baseball.
And here we are, in a mostly-empty "Outlet Store", just down the road from a luxury housing compound called Forbes Park, which has fifteen-foot high walls coated in glass shards to deter thieves. The entrance to Cages looks like the setting for a snuff film (maybe one called Cages
?), and that's part of the adventure.
Yes, that's really the front door right now. But upstairs...
Indeed. Quite similar to a Hooters. And with a lot fewer whites than a Hooters, or Cages Jing'an. Not too crowded, but some local families, college students, a few Japanese pool sharks wearing T-shirts on their heads, and young couples on dates were having a genuinely rad time, sharing root beer floats and laughter. But what you really come here for are the batting cages.
They charge 20rmb for 15 balls, which come in speeds of roughly 80kph and 100kph. For 100rmb, they'll throw in an extra 15 balls. It's super laid back. Occasionally an Ayi comes in and picks up all the balls and smiles when you can start batting again. She seems really happy. Actually, all the staff here seem to like their job.
According to their website
, which is super nice, "The batting cages are state of the art using imported materials and machines, including American Iron Mike pitching machines from Master Pitch, the same machines used in many of the top professional facilities in the United States. The batting cage areas are designed with the attitude that a professional grade batting cages should be available in Shanghai." Alright then.
They also have helmets, which most people do not wear, and gloves, which will not prevent your hands from hurting for a few days after -- a preview of carpal tunnel syndrome. At the time of writing, they only have one batting cage, but at 2000sqm, this newer Cages is almost three times bigger than the Jing'an location, so look out for a lot more coming soon.
Let's get into the menu, which describes its fried rice as such: "If we told you what's in it, we'd have to kill you!" That's the vibe here.
First base: Chicken Wangz. The "spicy" wings are not, but the portion size is massive, as are the actual wings. Think those chickens were hanging out with Jose Canseco and some WWE wrestler bros.
Second base : Nachos. Mega-size, but again, kinda lacking in the flavor department. Kinda feels like Taco Tuesdays in the high school cafeteria, which, fifteen years later, is not that cool.
Third base: Root Beer Float. Nostalgic, but for 45rmb, they should upgrade the ice cream from that third-string Nestle business.
Home Run: Beers. Six on draft, a bunch in bottles. Decent selection. You're gonna pay like 60rmb for a pint of IPA and that hurts but at least it's fresh, and cold. Current happy hour is "buy a beer get a free round of batting" but they switch up happy hour deals every month.
Even if you are morally opposed to actually exercising, you could just come here and watch a game. They show all major sports plus a few esoteric ones like this.
Yeah it's really a thing. Like baseball, woodchopping has existed in some form for hundreds of years. The music on the stereo had stopped, so we requested that they put something on; and normally in a Shanghai sports bar, one might expect, oh… Katy Perry, Bieber, K-Pop, or some farmer techno. Not at Cages. The sequence was something like…
SMASHING PUMPKINS - STONE TEMPLE PILOTS - SEVEN MARY THREE - TOOL.
Like, three-four songs by each artist in rapid succession, followed by some tolerable trap / future remixes of Dr. Dre. When was the last time you were listening to "Zero" at a Chinese bar, then saw some dude's girlfriend get blasted in the foot with an 80kph soft pitch? Probably never, that's when.
But the real reason to venture out to Cages Gubei instead of Cages Jing'an, is not even IN the venue, but rather in the [abandoned? not yet opened?] outlet mall that connects to Cages. There's some kind of VIP Gentleman's Club / art gallery there, and right now they have quite the taxidermy exhibition going on.
So, Cages. Bring a date. Bring your friend who just can't adjust to life in China and is probably gonna have a breakdown soon. Bring your colleagues. If your lover is just a little too classy for Perry's, but still on that wavelength, this is where you wanna be. And if they refuse to get in the cage, they're not worth your time. And really, it's worth coming out here on a weekend afternoon, then spending the evening at some fried chicken / BBQ spots in Koreatown and wandering around some areas that don't feel anything like downtown Shanghai. And if by chance you overdosed on Western culture here, you could always stop by New Star Bathhouse
on the way home and get right back to raw China.
Cages Gubei is in a strip mall at 1838 Gubei Lu, near Wuzhong Lu. There closest subway station is not that close -- you're looking at a 30 minute walk from Line 10, Yili Lu station. More info in our full listing.