WHERE: 201 Hennepin Ave. E.
Northeast Minneapolis boasts more than a few classy eateries, but the recently-opened Ginger Hop might be one of the most unique. Ginger Hop blends a host of different Asian influences, from Korean to Thai, with American classics like burgers and walleye to create dishes that are warm in their familiarity, but exotic in taste.
If you were to stumble into Ginger Hop, you might not immediately realize it’s a Pan-Asian restaurant. The first thing that will fool you is the bar in front, which looks like something out of 1950s Americana. It’s a long hallway lined with a checkered floor, looking both antique and elegant with fans shaped like stegosaurus plates swaying in mechanical unison from the ceiling. The restaurant’s East meets Northeast philosophy isn’t too apparent in the décor, but that’s not to say “Ginger Hop” is lacking stylistically. The layout is modest and minimalist, and the healthy amount of space makes for a serene atmosphere.
Once the menu opens, the Pan-Asian influences become evident. The nosh section offers more than a few toothsome appetizers, among them smoked duck pot stickers advertised as “decadence in a wrapper” (they are) and deep-fried calamari with a side of spicy aioli. The real king of the appetizers is the cream cheese wontons served with chili sauce. These fried wonder triangles are deep-fried to a perfect crunch and filled with the lusciously whipped cream cheese. Sorry, Shuang Cheng , these wontons might be the best in town.
The hybridization of East and West becomes even more prominent in the main courses. The sandwich board features the Mr. Fu-Mansky Burger, which the menu describes as an Asian-flavored burger with ground pork and beef, served with cabbage and carrot slaw. There’s also the Korean-American “Kimchi” Kulakofsky (named so, as the menu explains, because Wikipedia cites the inventor of the Reuben sandwich as one Reuben Kulakofsky ), a standard Reuben that gets some zing with the addition of kimchi and Sriracha mayo. Both are delectable twists on American classics.
The guys at Ginger Hop even like to reinvent pseudo-Asiatic dishes like General Tso’s by adding a healthy dose of peppery Tsingtao beer sauce. The transformed General Tsing’s is a dish of tangy chicken served on top of jasmine rice and broccoli, coated with the spicy beer sauce. It’s not atomic bomb hot, but it’s certainly spicy enough to induce the sniffles.
Those on a quest for noodles can take refuge with the Pad Lao, a Thai/Laotian plate loaded with rice noodles fried with egg, garlic, purple cabbage, green onion, bean sprouts, cilantro, lime and peanuts. These combined ingredients make for a flavor-packed dish that stimulates all the taste buds simultaneously, providing a meal that’s almost too filling.
All of Ginger Hop’s meals are reasonably priced at around $10 — a steal for such huge portions.