Punch Bowl Social, 1100 Foch St, FW. 817-769-8109. 10am-12am Sun, 3pm-12am Mon-Wed, 3pm-1am Thu, 3pm-2am Fri, 10am-2am Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
The humble punch bowl has a surprisingly deep history that spans continents and centuries. Originally an Arnold Palmer-type cocktail from India called paantsch, punch was eagerly adopted by sailors of the British East India Company in the early 1600s. Their ration of 10 pints of beer per day just wasn’t cutting it. The mariners brought the boozy brew back to England and on to the Americas, where it was dosed with Caribbean rum.
Soon, the drink had taken over the American colonies, where taverns boasted as many punch bowls as benches. Ben Franklin wrote poetry about the sweet citrus concoction, and Paul Revere crafted status-symbol punch bowls made of silver. At the party that followed the signing of the Declaration of Independence, our honorable Founding Fathers drank 76 massive bowls of punch.
A chain from Denver with 19 spots around the country, Punch Bowl Social aims to recreate this rebellious sense of revelry with a devil-may-care combination of shareable cocktails, hipster cuisine, and games galore. Although the West 7th party den feels cavernous, it’s actually far smaller than other Punch Bowl Social locations. The chain’s success is fueled by next-level eat-ertainment, including *takes a breath* mini bowling, foosball, jumbo foosball, karaoke, board games, giant Jenga, giant Scrabble, cornhole, a photobooth, vintage arcade … hell, they probably offer custom folded-up paper triangles so you can play paper football.
The food at PBS is far from just an afterthought to shove in your mouth as you throw darts or scream, “Yahtzee!” Chef Sheamus Feeley consulted on the menu of twist-laden, upscale comfort food. My guests and I plunged into the quiet weeknight dinner with Sriracha peanut fries, a messy mound with garlic mayo, hoisin, and pickled onions. The treat smelled almost better than it tasted, and had it been 2 a.m., I would have eaten the entire bowl by myself.
Can’t pronounce charcuterie? No worries. Here it’s called A Pig, A Duck, and Some Cheese Walk Into a Bar, and it’s impressive, with top-quality prosciutto and a crispy confit duck leg. Artsy name-brand elements like Point Reyes blue cheese and Castelvetrano olives add extra panache. Crab rangoons may not be authentic Asian cuisine (they were invented in California), but they are authentically delicious. PBS turns the deep-fried cheese dumplings into a dip: a cast-iron skillet of melted Monterey Jack surrounded by wonton chips. A little more rock crab and green onions would have pushed the dish over the top.
Cauliflower continues its world takeover in the chopped vegetable salad, a chunky heft of healthy eating. Kale, green beans, charred corn, and avocado ganged up for a robust round of mastication that delighted our veggie-loving table. The croutons were the best part of the salad, but then again, they always are.
We also loved the cocoa-dusted pork carnitas tacos with adobo salsa. A pleasing twist on a common dish with a perfect flavor balance, the tacos were marred only by too-dry corn tortillas and a forgettable side of fruit. Mac ’n’ cheese is a main course at PBS, where it’s baked with poblanos and intensely creamy. The main course was good but not quite great, falling short of peak deliciousness.
Tempted by adult milkshakes but tempered by weeknight bedtimes, we opted for the Almond Joy milkshake, a.k.a. sweet heaven in a mason jar. Thick chocolate-coconut goodness with almonds and coconut shavings dribbled down my chin, but I didn’t care. None of us cared about the other desserts. The key lime pie was as basic as a duck-lipped selfie, and the campfire s’mores tasted burnt. Both were topped with the same vapid marshmallow mush, cold on the pie and warm on the s’mores. I wish I had ordered the chocolate-dipped Rice Krispies treat instead.
Non-drinkers have plenty of mocktails to choose from, and imbibers can enjoy three sizes of punch bowl cocktails: for one person, four people, or eight. We tried the Connoisseur’s Cup, a gin-based lemon tea libation that shouts out to punch’s Indian origin. The elixir went down like a seasick sailor with scurvy.
With creative menus and crazy-good gaming, Punch Bowl Social is a no-brainer destination for a first date or a night out. When adulting gets you down, forget that laundry and go play some ping-pong. Share a punch bowl with friends and try to bowl a strike. Just don’t try to outdrink the Founding Fathers, because you can’t. No one can. That shit is crazy.
Punch Bowl Social
Sriracha peanut fries $11.50
Chopped vegetable salad $11.50
Cocoa dusted carnitas tacos $13.50
Roasted poblano baked mac ’n’ cheese $12.50
Almond Joy milkshake $6.50