When it comes to large-scale restaurants that combine food with entertainment, Chicago has never lacked for options. From the early days of Chuck E. Cheese, Hard Rock Café, Planet Hollywood (RIP) and Rainforest Café to more recent choices like arcade bar Headquarters Beercade, dart bar Flight Club; and ping pong bars Ace Bounce and Spin, patrons have been able to combine their dining with gamesmanship. Chicago’s most recent entry into the “eatertainment” world is Punch Bowl Social (310 N. Green Street).
Punch Bowl Social opened its first location in Denver in 2010. The company has now opened 15 locations nationwide, with plans of continued expansion. The large-scale restaurants are generally more than 20,000 sq ft and provide the American supersized experience of food, fun and alcohol in one convenient location.
Founder Robert Thompson’s vision was to bring better food and cocktails to a food and games space that has traditionally been more focused on entertainment, which is often the more profitable side of the business. To that end, Punch Bowl Social has partnered with Hugh Acheson. Acheson is a multiple James Beard Foundation award-nominee known for his southern style cuisine, a Top Chef judge, owner of several restaurants and has been honored as Best New Chef by Food & Wine Magazine. He was hired to oversee a complete overhaul of the Punch Bowl Social menu. Acheson combines modern cooking techniques with traditional Southern flavor. Some of the menu offerings that we sampled:
- Lobster Bacon Fries: house cut fries, fresh poached lobster, sour cream, garlic mayo, ‘tender belly’ bacon, green onions, cheddar cheese and chives;
- Chips ‘N’ Dip: kettle chips and house-made French onion dip;
- Hugh’s Pimiento Cheese: ‘tender belly’ bacon marmalade and Pullman toast;
- Superfood Grain Bowl: crispy farro, quinoa, kale, radishes, sprouts, roasted carrots, pickled chiles, shiitake mushrooms, poached egg, miso ginger vinaigrette;
- The Knockoff Burger: two grass-fed hormone-free beef patties, American cheese, Comeback sauce, pickled onion, shredded lettuce and sesame seed bun;
- OMFG GF Southern Fried Chicken: buttermilk brine, hormone/antibiotic free chicken, organic brown rice flour, Cholula butter, tomato jalapeno salad, mint vinaigrette.
- Golden Chicken Pot Pie: grilled hormone/antibiotic free chicken, tasso ham, roasted carrots, celery, shiitake mushrooms, English peas, mustard cream, fresh thyme & parsley and golden puff pastry.
Punch Bowl Social’s drink menu features several punch options, as well as adult milkshakes. They also have a full bar, as well as beer and wine options. The drinks we tried included:
- The Watermelon Polo Bowl: El Jimador Reposado Tequila, Teakoe’s Watermelon Spearmint Tea, McClary Bro’s Watermelon Shrub, House-made Strawberry Syrup and fresh lime juice.
- Lord Stanley’s Cup: Bacardi 8, RumHaven Coconut Rum, Teakoe’s White Pear Fuji Apple Tea, pineapple fennel seed shrub and fresh lemon juice.
- Pillow Talk: Woodford Reserve Bourbon, lavender syrup, fresh lemon juice, Scrappy’s Lavender Bitters and sage.
- Milk-xologist #2: St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur, Branca Menta Liqueur, vanilla soft serve and whipped cream.
- B.B. Alexander: banana infused Brandy, salted caramel, banana, vanilla soft serve and whipped cream.
The food and drinks are good enough that my second visit to Punch Bowl Social did not include any games. However, the games are the real star of Punch Bowl Social. These are some of the games offered:
- Arcade games
- Virtual Reality
- Giant Jenga, giant Scrabble
- Bimini ring game
Punch Bowl Social is here for the Instagram crowd too featuring a photo booth and a phone charging station in the form of a bicycle. A wall of colorful faux clothes dryers and a mid-century Barbie pink refrigerator provide backgrounds for that perfect snap. The design has been described as “dirty modern,” a mishmash of abandoned mountain lodge and industrial design with touches of Victorian and mid-century modern. Whimsical touches include wallpaper with Biggie Smalls in the karaoke room.
Punch Bowl Social brings booze, a high-caliber restaurant menu and old school gaming to the West Loop.
Should I go? Yes. The food is good, the drinks are great and the games are fun. Plus, it’s all under one roof which will be perfect for the winter months ahead. Grab some friends and go!
Punch Bowl Social, 310 N. Green Street, 312-809-9551