I just got off the phone with Charles Lodge, owner of Uptown’s Chiang Mai Thai, and got the scoop on his new Thai place called Ginger Hop, which will be opening in the old Times spot in Northeast, across from Nye’s.
Here’s the low-down: It’s going to be pan-Asian, inexpensive (with most entrees priced from $8 to $12), will feature a big craft-beer list (not unlike the one at St. Paul’s Muddy Pig), has licensing to do live performances, and a couple different secluded spots for private dining or parties.
Interestingly, Ginger Hop isn’t so much a second restaurant for Lodge as it is a first restaurant for the greater Chiang Mai team. Lodge will be one of four partners with his wife Katie Leitch, Chiang Mai’s numbers guru, Jake Polt, Chiang Mai’s General Manager (since about three months after they opened), and Jon Provenzano, Chiang Mai’s longtime bartender and wine-list whiz-kid. Why should you care about this team thing? Because Chiang Mai’s strength has always been its service, the general vibe, and the hooch—especially Provenzano’s bizarre, high-wire scores of some of the hardest-to-get wines in the country. The news that Ginger Hop will be led by the service team of Chiang Mai—with an ownership stake—seems a very good thing indeed; restaurants with great service are really the restaurants we need more of today.
The food sounds pretty interesting: Red curry, green curry, pho, banh mi sandwiches, but also Western-looking foods like a fried walleye sandwich with wasabi tartar sauce, and a Reuben sandwich made with kim chi, the spicy Korean sauerkraut, instead of traditional Western sauerkraut.
“Kim chi Reuben?” I repeated, as I talked to Lodge. “That sounds awful.”
“It’s awesome!” he objected. “Don’t judge it! You have to try it. We didn’t use a heavy shrimp-paste one, we got this fresh kim chi that’s made right in Cedar Riverside. Seriously. It’s great.”
Well, you be the decider. And you might be able to decide awfully soon: Lodge tells me the restaurant’s final (knock-on-wood!) inspection is scheduled for this Thursday, with an eye on a mid-September opening.
Once Ginger Hop is safely open, the team’s attention will turn to the former Jitters space (the basement bar and coffee-shop which also was part of the Times). The new Jitters will be called Honey and will be a lounge and small-plate restaurant with groovy nightclub music played at levels low enough for people to have easy conversations. Sounds good to me.
As I wrapped up our conversation, I asked Lodge if there’s anything else he wanted me to tell the people.
“Tell them to come to Chiang Mai! Think of finding the door as a free Easter-Egg hunt thrown in with every visit.”
Ouch. So yes, the Calhoun Square construction continues, as it will, seemingly, forever. But I like the Chiang Mai fighting spirit: What better way to fight construction than with more construction?
201 E Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
Chiang Mai Thai
3001 Hennepin Ave. # 109E