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Photograph: Courtesy Noah Fecks

At SPIN's new bistro, ping pong is free of charge—but is the food any good?

Emma Orlow
Written by
Emma Orlow

Ping pong bistro. The concept sounds like what a frat would refer to an afternoon of beer pong with some light bites, but the end result is quite different. SPIN, New York's premiere palace for all things ping pong, just opened a new location with its first-ever bistro, a concept that hopes to make whatever you're imagining more elevated; the original New York SPIN resides on 23rd street. The space, which is a "recreational dining experience," opens to the public, officially on April 23rd. Diners who love the best beer halls and sports bars NYC has to offer, might find solace here and others looking for Midtown things to do, will find something as well. 

SPIN 54, as the new location is being referred to, takes its name from the iconic Studio 54 (and the street it's located at). Here, a club-like atmosphere is wallpapered with images of Audrey Hepburn, James Dean, The Beatles and Bob Marley all playing a game of table tennis. Studio 54 references the "ping pong bathtub and disco ball moment" in the bathroom.  Other elements, like chairs meant to replicate the mesh fabric of the net and select dishes served on paddles give a playful feeling to the space.  

The team hopes to pioneer more hobby-dining crossovers (Playing polo with pie? Bowling and baklava? Poker and popcorn? The options are endless). While you wait for your meal, you can enjoy a complimentary game, yep, totally free of charge. There’s even on-site ping pong world champions, experts who will guide you through the game. The concept flips how SPIN usually operates: typically guests come for the game, not for the drinks, but here, a lunch menu is meant to be a standalone dining option for office workers in the area, with the table tennis as an added bonus. At night, the dining area tables will be moved to allow for even more ping pong tables. 

Instead of just fast food usually served in sports arenas, the SPIN 54 team says they hope you'll "eat like a champion," from their "farm-to-table" dishes curated by the formerly three-starred Michelin-rated chef Antoine Westermann of the poultry-centric and famed Le Coq Rico. After Westermann’s vague exit from Le Coq Rico in 2018, it was a surprising spot for him to resurface with his next play. Still, the team makes clear that they're not trying to be held to the standards of a Michelin-starred environment. 

Executed by chef Chad Bowser, the bistro has its own brick oven where flatbreads are handmade on-site (though you wouldn't have been able to guess that upon first bite of an eggplant, bacon and arugula version). A saffron pasta, referred to as a "vegetarian option," is served with chicken broth  (it's listed with it on the menu). We did really enjoy the avocado toast, served with olive tapenade and a fried egg and beautifully plated with watermelon radish as garnish, though it's a sad day when an avocado toast is a menu stand-out. The ocotopus dish with beets and potatoes also felt more elegant than sports social club food. One of the most on-theme options was a sweet potato croquette with turmeric and parsley purée (plated with a purple flower), meant to replicate SPIN’s orange ping pong balls, and we hear the deviled egg is similarly inspired. It was cute!

Although beer is offered, you can also enjoy "The Sixth Burro": tequila, ancho reyes verde, Cointreau, amaro sfumato, maple, lime, peppers and sal de gusano as well as "The Chic Greek" with Botanist gin, Kikori whiskey, aged, aquavit, matcha, lime, Greek yogurt and sea salt, all exciting sports social club fare. The coffee comes from Spain's Cafe Candelas, a favorite amongst top Spanish chefs, and SPIN 54 will be one of the first to bring the beans to New York, with a stellar, massive machine to have espresso drinks. 

The space is a test lab for future activity x food crossovers. Bringing more hobbies to the table is something we can certainly get behind. And with few cool options in the Midtown East location, it seems like a great spot to host an office party or a mid-day spot to blow-off steam. 

SPIN 54 is located at 7 East 54th Street, New York, NY 10022. 

Looking for the best brunch NYC has to offer? We've got you covered. 

Photograph: Courtesy Noah Fecks

Photograph: Courtesy Noah Fecks

Photograph: Courtesy Noah Fecks

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