So this is a combination post about drinks and food… and weirdly, ping pong. Last night, my brother Victor, his girlfriend Ashley and I went to the opening of Susan Sarandon’s SPiN ping pong club.
The great thing about SPiN is that while it’s trying to make something dorky cool again à la Bowlmor Lanes, it does so without trying so hard. It subtly embraces the basement vibe with its lowered, exposed ceilings and tube lights and nods to school gymnasiums with strategically placed bleachers without feeling as gimmicky as all that sounds. Is it possible to be tastefully kitsch?
Ball girls walk around scooping up loose ping pong balls with fish nets and deposit them in the baskets beside each table. “That looks like fun,” my brother remarked. “I would do that job for half an hour.”
It was pretty packed and since it was opening night and a Saturday, there was quite a long line to play. But I actually had a lot of fun drinking dirty martinis while watching from the bleachers. (Incidentally, this is basically what I did at middle school dances but everything is more fun when you’re old enough to drink and not crippled by low self-esteem.)
I started to get hungry and Ashley told me the grilled cheese was supposed to be famously good. After struggling to get the waitress’ attention, I went to the bar to order one. “Do we have grilled cheese sandwiches?” the bartender asked. I assured him they did.
We bantered back and forth after I told him how hungry I was and how I worried they wouldn’t be able to find me once it was cooked. “Where are you sitting?” he asked. I pointed to the bleachers in front of the bar and made him promise it would get to me. He had the misfortune of having the same name as my father, so I told him I’d remember it I didn’t get my sandwich.
Somehow, before my grilled cheese was ready, a ping pong table my brother reserved opened up. (There had been a 2 hour wait. Did that much time pass? I really must have been having fun.) The excitement at getting to play made me forget all about my sandwich or telling Thomas the Bartender that I would be leaving the bleachers.
After playing a few rounds, I went over to the bar and he exclaimed, “You! You weren’t at the bleachers. We tried to find you!” He handed me my sandwich, which was thoughtfully covered with a cloth napkin. Sadly, despite Thomas’ attempts to keep it warm, my ping pong zeal prevented me from eating the grilled cheese in that perfect window when it’s still piping hot and gooey, but it was still very, very good.
The sandwich is composed of sharp cheddar, gruyère and taleggio on sourdough bread. I’m also convinced truffle oil was involved, which I know is made of artificial flavors and chemicals but tastes so good. The sandwich actually reminded me of the truffle egg toast at ‘Inoteca. After a couple martinis, my palate is not the most trustworthy, but nothing could have been more satisfying in that moment.
Before I knew it, a pretty girl came to the table and broke the news to us that our time was up. We were a little sad to go. SPiN may go the way of so many resurrected trends before it, but I had a lot of fun and will definitely go back. Next time I’ll make sure my grilled cheese sandwich finds me.
48 East 23rd Street
Between Park and Madison
New York, New York 10010