Adult children of the world, unite! We finally have a place to hang out with other adults while not actually having to act much like adults. Punch Bowl Social at the edge of St. Louis Park’s West End has 24,000 square feet for folks to nibble, tipple, laugh and play their way well into the wee hours. If Chuck E. Cheese grew a beard, got a couple tatts and developed a taste for craft cocktails and grass-fed burgers, he’d fit right in at Punch Bowl Social. Hell, he’d probably run the place.
The space itself is sprawling, festooned with three bars, an arcade full of billiard tables, bowling alleys, and karaoke rooms, while simultaneously serving up a menu sure to sate the food-iest among us. The latest of eight locations around the country, Punch Bowl is the brainchild of founder and CEO Robert Thompson. Top Chef contestant and judge Hugh Acheson brings serious eat cred to the team while mixologist Patrick Williams is on board to pack some serious hand-crafted adult punches. The decor is equally delicious and snarky without being too self-aware. Walking through the door, your eyes feast first before your stomach gets the chance.
And it will get the chance. In spades. As I learned firsthand on a chilly winter’s night with friends a few weeks back.
Punch Bowl’s menu, in format and flavor, is as eclectic as its decor. And wide open as its space. The scratch kitchen offers up everything from casual crowd-pleasing apps to genteel gastro-diner plates. Brunch, burger night, or birthday party, you’ve got plenty of ways to play at Punch Bowl Social.
Of the ample apps, we marveled at the heft of the black-eyed pea hummus. Rich and creamy, it paired perfectly with the fresh tomatoes, cukes, radishes, and kettle chips that accompany. The cocoa-dusted pork carnitas street tacos were so good, we were happy to learn you can order four or eight, depending on your willingness to share. Let’s be real, order eight. And you’re not sharing.
Everybody is doing a burger and Punch Bowl Social is no different. Their tribute to the now trend-heavy hamburger honors and elevates its simpler, fast food-ier roots. Cue the jingle: “Two grass-fed patties, Comeback sauce, lettuce, cheese…” Bonus points: my burger was cooked a perfect medium; a preference I find all-too-rare of late. The only things better than the burger were the hand-cut, slightly overcooked-for-extra-crunch fries. Yummeh.
The table shared two of the signature gastro-diner plates. These thoughtful dishes heighten traditional favorites. What happens when you confit ribs? Magic. And the confit St. Louis ribs are truly magical. This half-rack of tender belly ribs quite literally melts off the bone; an unctuous party of pork in your mouth. Not to be outdone, the Idaho trout roasted atop succotash and dressed with a lemon salsa verde made me completely rethink my general proscription against ordering fish whenever red meat is an option. The piquant cabbage slaw side is a perfect counterpoint to the richness of the ribs.
Let us not forget the punch nor bowl in Punch Bowl Social. Craft cocktail and mocktail lovers alike have much to make merry over. And that merrymaking can take place over a literal punch bowl. Signature craft punches can be ordered in singles, as well as four or eight serving bowls. The Bachelor’s Bowl is a true stand out, combining bourbon, blackberry elderflower liqueur, pineapple guava tea, lemon juice, and simple syrup. The “preschool” line of mocktails made for a particularly potable dinner pairing. The Chef’s Cup of seltzer, muddled cucumber and lemon with house made cardamom syrup was a personal favorite.
Ever the sign of a successful journey across a new menu, my companions and I longed for a chance to return and attempt a number of other stand out dishes that captured our interest. Along with a chance to belt out a few ABBA hits in the karaoke rooms or bowl a couple of games. Or just people watch. I’m telling you. You’re going to be spending a lot of time at Punch Bowl Social in the next year. Have a blast.
Punch Bowl Social
The Shops at West End
1691 Park Place Blvd., St. Louis Park