Everything You Need to Know About Chicago's New Ping Pong Social Club, Restaurant, and Bar
New restaurants and bars are a constant occurrence in Chicago. What isn’t so constant is a ping pong club, restaurant and bar co-founded by one half of Thelma & Louise. Billed as a ping pong social club, SPiN comes to Chicago by way of Susan Sarandon, who helped open other locations in New York City, Toronto, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Along with CEO Pieter Vanerman, Sarandon supports an overarching ping pong philosophy that uses the sport as a community-building destination. Throughout the 16,000 square foot space, the largest SPiN yet, it’s an ethos echoed in communal dining tables, casual social play, ping pong lessons, stadium seating and lots more.
The playful energy and ambience at SPiN makes it immediately palpable that this is a place like nothing else in River North. Sure you can eat farm-to-table fare and sip cocktails on every block downtown, but where else can you do so while gripping a ping pong paddle and impressing onlookers with your hand-eye coordination? For the ping pong enthusiast, SPiN offers a multitude of options, including casual play, leagues, annual memberships and lessons with pros like Lukasz Fita, Mat Waltz, George Vaughn and Barbara Wei, all of whom are like the Bobby Fishers of table tennis.
SPiN’s Chicago outpost is a bi-level space designed by Rockwell Group, with two full bars, three private lounges, an outdoor gaming area, communal dining tables, 20 ping pong tables and a center court with stadium-style seating. While the community-oriented approach makes for an open floor plan, if you’d rather not have an audience, mesh copper curtains can be drawn to make a more personal gaming experience. Graffiti walls emblazoned by local artists lend some colorful Chicago flair, while a smattering of antique speakers and contemporary-chic couches curate a comfortable, lounge-like atmosphere. Overall, the space feels like a glorified ping pong club in someone’s lavish basement, albeit one where Academy Award-winning actresses occasionally show up.
Ariel Bagadiong serves as chef, serving up a menu of modern Midwestern fare utilizing ingredients primarily sourced from local farms and purveyors. It’s comfort food you can feel good about, not only because you’ll be burning off the calories at the ping pong tables, but because it’s all sustainably sourced. Dishes include beef rib mole with pumpkin brittle and cornmeal bread, charcuterie platters and Hawaiian flatbreads with pineapple, ragout, mortadella, aged cheddar, caramelized onions, pickled peppers and mozzarella.
To drink, Benjamin Newby put together a beverage menu filled with local beers and drinks like the Sarandon-inspired, mezcal-based Salt Lick Susan. Dark Matter Coffee is the coffee of choice, available during the day at the second-floor coffee shop, where customers are encouraged to linger and bring their laptops.
Another cool aspect of SPiN is its altruistic incentives. Not only is the social club all about community-building amidst ping pong junkies, but it also strives to give back by supporting urban youth centers and local schools. They do so via table donations, financial contributions, programming and mentorship. Tables are already being donated to Jacob Beidler Elementary in East Garfield Park and Dulles School of Excellence in Englewood. Additionally, SPiN has partnered with the Chicago Parks Foundation to bring activities and gaming to city parks this summer.