I was talking to a teenager the other day who, at the tender age of 16, was bemoaning the passing of his childhood when he could just play and have fun and there weren’t so many responsibilities. “Ha, just wait!” I felt like saying. “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” I didn’t want to crush his spirit entirely by telling him how many responsibilities of adulthood will push not only one’s sense of fun but time for fun out the window. This got me thinking how important it is for adults to continue to play, be silly, put drudgeries aside and find some fun in life! Ironically, the next day, I visited Punch Bowl Social and, like angels singing down from the heavens, found the perfect place to play (and eat really well).
Big fun. That’s what Punch Bowl Social is all about. Well, actually, first, it’s about good food and drink, then big fun, according to Matt Boutwell, general manager of Punch Bowl Social in Denver. We found that a little surprising, only because a lot of the space Punch Bowl occupies in a former Big Lots store on South Broadway, is devoted to having fun – bowling, playing darts, arcade games, ping pong, corn hole and karaoke. Food would seem to be secondary with so many other things to draw people in. But Robert Thompson is behind Punch Bowl Social. He was also the owner of the defunct Argyll Whisky Beer Gastropub whose food we loved. So why would he slack off on the food and beverage program just because there are games to be played?
Let’s talk fun, first. Punch Bowl Social is family-friendly until 10pm when it becomes 21 and up, only. So feel free to bring the kids along (for food too), to enjoy the wide variety of games including a plush bowling area, some retro arcade games and the newest addition, private karaoke rooms. Upstairs, there are two rooms with a large-screen TV, comfy seating and thousands of songs at your fingertips. Each room fits up to 10 people comfortably and full beverage and food service are available in there. This is a brilliant idea because, well, not everyone’s voice should be heard over loud speaker, throughout a bar. Some things are better left behind a closed door. The rooms are available to rent by the hour. Think kids’ birthday party, graduation, double date, or just night out with the guys or gals.
Speaking of special occasions, various parts (well, even the whole place) of Punch Bowl Social can be rented out with food and beverage packages. My particular favorite is the gathering area just off the main bar with a ginormous, white fireplace and lots of comfortable seating groupings and two private bowling lanes!
With all the fun to be had, don’t let food be an afterthought because it certainly isn’t to the staff. Punch Bowl Social is open for brunch and dinner on the weekends, and lunch and dinner, weekdays. Punch Bowl makes a real effort to do scratch cooking and source locally whenever possible. We were happy to enjoy a spicy pickle spear from The Real Dill, dip our fries in Elevation Ketchup and get bacon on our PBS Burger from Tender Belly. Keepin’ it local. Keepin’ it real. We appreciated that.
We visited Punch Bowl Social for brunch and started our feasting with housemade biscuits served with housemade jam. Butter came too but was too hard to spread on so we skipped it. The Blintz ($7) was elegant and sweet and would make a fine brunch dessert or a light, sweet brunch item on its own. The Frittata ($10) is a petite thing but is plenty hearty because it is packed with sweet potato, kale, leek, smoked gouda and mushrooms, served with a nice tossed salad with a tarragon vinaigrette. The flavors were delicious. Our only complaint was that the sweet potato cubes were slightly underdone, some chunks closer to uncooked than semi-firm.
PBS is known for their Chicken & Waffles ($15) with chipotle pecan maple syrup, strawberries and candied walnuts! At this point, we were a little too full to take that on, having seen heaping plates of it being served around us. Instead, we decided to share another PBS favorite, the PBS Burger ($14) with smoked gouda, tender belly bacon, southern mustard sauce and tobacco onions served with fries. We ordered it medium and were glad we did, with juiciness, lots of flavor but nothing bloody running all over the place. I hate that! But I loved that burger! Be sure to bring the kids for a wide variety of healthy, kid-friendly options.
Sadly, we didn’t even try a punch bowl, the restaurant’s namesake, served in an actual Punch Bowl (Grandma would be so proud). Next time! What fun it will be to share a bowl, some delicious food, try some games and just play! Eat, drink and be a kid again.