This blog post is sponsored by Hop21 but all opinions are my own.
If you’re new to the Twin Cities, especially to Minneapolis, you’ll quickly realize that we have one hell of a food scene. In 2014 alone, the state hit a record and opened over 90 restaurants!
The food scene is so impressive that we like to coin the phrase “Land of 10,000 Places to Eat and Drink” to replace the original phrase, "Land of 10,000 Lakes.” According to the Minnesota Restaurant Association, in 2016 we had a record of “9,852 eating and drinking place locations in Minnesota.”
So, there you go. We’re damn near there.
It’s safe to say that competition is fierce and restaurants are closing as fast as they’re opening, but we’re always hungry for something new (pun intended). Hop21, Twin Cities’ one and only Table Tennis (Ping Pong) Club and Bar, is a unique 4,500 square feet contemporary-chic venue with 7 ping-pong courts, a full bar, and a go-to spot for many corporate and personal events.
They’re located in downtown Minneapolis on the corner of Washington Avenue and 5th Street, and steps away from US Bank Stadium and Gold Medal Park. Max Vinogradov, Owner of Hop21, opened his business 4 years ago with no intention of creating a food menu.
It [Hop21] was a unique idea of a niche bar that was maybe a little too crazy and unorthodox for Minneapolis, and that’s precisely why I thought it might just work. And I was right! - Max Vinogradov, Owner
Max moved to the United States in 1995, after getting a bachelor degree in mechanical engineering from the college in his hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia. Then, he moved to Minneapolis in 1998 where his first career began in advertising working as a motion graphics designer and a 3D animator for a few years before starting his own business in the same field in 2003.
There was a period of time when he and his friend used to go play ping pong at a local LifeTime, and then they’d go out for beers afterwards. That’s when the idea of opening up a bar with ping pong came to be.
The new lunch menu launched in early August and the response has been positive, especially regarding their top two sellers: the Chicken Salad sandwich and the Pastrami sandwich.
Many of our ingredients come from local sources: Pastrami and sausage come form a butcher shop in St Paul, bread comes from a bakery in NE Mpls, and greens and veggies - from local farmers markets. This is extremely important to us, as we support local small businesses and they support us! - Max Vinogradov, Owner
We asked Vinogradov why he decided to start offering a lunch menu and why he focused it on smorrebrods (traditional Scandinavian open-faced sandwich), and he said that there was a clear demand for it as his customers would often complain about limited lunch options in the area. In addition, he’s always wanted to experiment more with food and what better than starting with a deli-focused menu.
At the bar, we don’t have a full size commercial kitchen, so we had to be creative with our menu. A friend traveling in Europe posted pics of smorrebrods online and it just clicked. That was exactly what we were looking for! -Max Vinogradov, Owner
You can view the full menu here and dine-in/take-out any time Monday through Friday between 11:30am and 1:30pm to try one of these delicious craft-made smorrebrods.
Looking into the future, Vinogradov says that they’re planning to start offering a limited smorrebrod menu on weekend nights. So keep your eye out for that!