First Look: Punch Bowl Social

I first heard about Punch Bowl Social when I was working at my last job dealing with restaurant software. At that time they only had about seven locations around the country. Sacramento is now #11 and opens today. I got a sneak peak on Wednesday and learned some interesting things.

The reason that PBS had been on my radar at my last job was that it had a connection with famous Southern chef, Hugh Acheson. He's been on many episodes of Top Chef as a judge. He happens to be PBS' Culinary Partner. The restaurants are also interesting in that they are more than just bar/restaurant, they are activity centers. 

So let's start by going through what you will find at Punch Bowl Social in Sacramento. First to note is its location. It's directly across the main entrance of the Golden 1 Center and attached to the Sawyer Hotel. It is sure to be the place to hang after a game or a concert as it will be staying open until 2 a.m. every night but Sunday. Also noteworthy is that so far only the huge second floor is open with the additional first floor space scheduled to open in about February. I had to wonder why it needed a second floor!

lobster roll

The answer came from the CEO, Robert Thompson, who was in town for the Grand Opening. PBS is headquartered in Denver and he was out with quite a corporate entourage for the press, soft openings, and opening day. He mentioned that while they love facing the arena, they also wanted a streetside (J St) entrance, thus the first floor. They wanted to be able to have some outdoor space, so the patio is off the first floor. Thompson also talked about the partnership with Acheson and how the chef not only helped with their menus, but also with training their kitchens to be able to deal with hustling meals to as many as 500 covers a night.

sriracha fries
Quite a few items were out for us to try. I loved the lobster roll in particular. I also noted the vegetarian nachos, not knowing if adding meat is an option. While I enjoyed the tacos, I did not really try the sriracha fries as they had gotten cold and I can't stand cold fries. One menu item I noticed that we did not get to try was Lobster Bacon Fries. Now those sound delish!

During my conversation with Thompson I commented on how happy I was to see a drink menu that had a wide selection of non-alcoholic options. While they have boozy milkshakes and specialty punches to attract fun drinking, I always look to the mocktails and other specialty sodas or drinks. I tasted a cucumber cocktail that had a cardamom syrup. Very refreshing. Thompson is a non drinker himself, so also likes to have a variety of drinks other than Coca Cola products. 

Got a sweet tooth? Thompson said they don't do their own desserts and choose to enlist local bakeries in each city. It was easy to guess who got the gig for Sacramento - Ettore's. Good choice!

fried chicken

It's the activities that really make Punch Bowl different. You can now go bowling in downtown Sac! There were two sets of bowling alleys - four lanes each - on the second floor. I'm guessing there will probably be at least one set downstairs. 

The thing is, there is SOO much to do. Here's a list of what I saw available:

  • bowling
  • darts
  • karaoke
  • pool
  • foozball
  • shuffleboard
  • cornhole
  • AR/Wii stations
  • board/card games
  • giant Scrabble
  • checkers
  • arcade/pinball
  • skeeball
  • and I'm probably still missing something

Punch Bowl will surely be popular for the pre and post Golden 1 event socializing. You'll probably find me at skeeball or Scrabble. ;-)