Page 2 of 2 Previous
My friend sighed. "Just what this town needs," he said. "Another Thai restaurant."
I know, right? They're proliferating faster than branches of CVS. Which is why it's a relief to see that the enterprising foursome behind Ginger Hop -- Jake Polt, Jon Provenzano, Charles Lodge and Katey Leitch, all of whom have amassed plenty of Thai dining experience at Sawatdee and Chiang Mai Thai -- have gone the pan-Asian route at their new northeast Minneapolis restaurant and bar.
Polt, who runs the kitchen, has fashioned a menu of familiar-sounding dishes without making them sound dull, liberally mixing across borders and, occasionally, hemispheres. Instead of being a painfully earnest attempt at authenticity, Ginger Hop's menu (its clever graphics are the work of the Kruskopf Coontz agency in Minneapolis) appears to be about having fun and tasting good while keeping prices manageable; it's tough to find an item over $10.
Sure, there are a few curries, a handful of single-spear satays (each paired with a different, flavorful dipping sauce), spring rolls filled with shrimp and herbs, smoked duck pot stickers, chicken lettuce wraps and fried rice, but there are also dishes with beer undertones (one example: a sandwich stuffed with beer-battered walleye) plus playful quirks along the lines of a Reuben made with kimchee rather than sauerkraut, a salmon burger jazzed with wasabi and Sriacha and a daily fruit crisp.
Remember the Times Bar & Cafe? The Minneapolis design firm of Smart Associates has barely touched the Times' doozy of a drinking hall ("We would have been driven out of town if we'd changed it too much," said Polt with a laugh), devoting the lion's share of its makeover magic to the formerly dowdy dining room, now modernized with warm colors, handsome furnishings and a semiprivate seating area carved out of what had been a stage.
Roughly two-thirds of the by-the-bottle wines are $25 or less, the extensive beer list balances Asian imports with Midwestern labels and the cocktail roster includes concoctions such as the St. Anthony Sling, an "East meets Northeast" blend of Polish blackberry brandy, gin and pineapple juice. Look for Honey, a lower-level lounge (in the former Jitters) focusing on craft cocktails and a small-plate menu by sous chef Jamie Bollman; it's set to open in December.