Technically, yes, you could do everything Punch Bowl Social has to offer in one outing. You could play Skee-Ball, mash buttons at the arcade machines, bowl, swing one-legged soccer stubs on the big ol’ Italian foos table, play a card game called POOP, and finish with a scratch on the eight-ball. It’s not impossible to hit every one, but chances are it’ll get heated at some point on the way.
I made the mistake of trying this with one Stephanie Hanson. Stephanie runs Delta’s Sky Magazine (probably not runs, but … yeah, probably runs), and throws the most deadly 11-pound ball in St. Louis Park’s history. She and I made it our mission to play everything open at Punch Bowl Wednesday night, but she ambushed me in the bowling alley.
“I haven’t held a bowling ball in two years,” she said. “I’m going to be taaarrible.”
Less than 30 minutes later, she’d thrown her second consecutive strike and finished with what she swears is her highest score ever.
Inside the Soc are eight bowling lanes, two pool tables (of which there are not nearly enough ’round these parts), two boxcar-like private karaoke lounges, an eight-man Italian foosball table, a few arcade games and a Skee-ball machine. Oh, and darts. Oh, and a giant Scrabble board wall with magnetic tiles.
“Eatertainment,” they call it. More is being finished up, too, and should be ready to go Saturday night at Punch Bowl’s grand opening party.
As you can imagine, it’s a big and busy floorplan. If you enter from the parking garage, see, you take a left into the isolated bar/dining room area. Walk straight past that into a larger bar, the one you’d likely step to between activities. It’s from that bar you see almost everything: six public bowling lanes; an axe-wielding, cheese-eating deer man overseeing two private lanes; karaoke rooms with large sliding metal doors that look vaguely prison cell-like from the outside; and the Holiday Lodge, where you can expect to see a podcast getting recorded every so often (wink emoji).
“I tried hard!” Stephanie announced after the Skee-ball game. That isn’t untrue, but I won handily (240-150). During the game, her drink was taken away and disposed of on accident. When you lose, you lose hard sometimes.
This is location number eight for Punch Bowl Social, a project that began in 2012 out in Denver. Their mission is to bring all of this, with food and drink programs designed to stand on their own. Patrick Williams heads up the cocktail ops, and isn’t content having his drinks as just afterthought sips during turns. One cocktail, The Two Hats Blues, was thoroughly researched by your humble author: Knob Creek rye, benedictine, and allspice. In an environment described to me as “Paul Bunyan meets Don Draper,” this drink finds the center of the Venn diagram.
Hugh Acheson heads up the menu on the food side; and, when I say he’s a celebrity chef, I don’t say that because he’s been screamed at on television. It’s the opposite, actually. He has judged and hosted a number of competitive cook shows, and racked up six James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef Southeast, but don’t take their word for it. I ate nearly a half-rack worth of rib samples, and they’re some of the best you can get outside of a straight-up rib joint. Go on, get one saucy hand and throw Skee-ball with the other. I’m sure no one will mind.
The bologna sandwich, too. Just trust me. The bologna sandwich.
In Punch Bowl’s NBA JAM game, Shaquille O’Neal’s body covers up nearly half of the screen. It’s a shame I kept running him off of it. I was put against the Sacramento Kings and BOOM SHAKA-LAKA-lost. Badly. The Kings had frickin’ Spud Webb, too. On the screen, he was roughly the size of O’Neal’s kneecap. Dude can scoot, though.
“Short people rule!” said Stephanie, who treated her non-involvement in my NBA JAM shitshow as a victory. She talked about a friend, who is 6-foot-5 and cannot dunk a basketball. This utterly baffles me, even though I know for damn sure a 6-foot-5 version of myself could also not dunk a basketball.
You can find more information on Punch Bowl Social on their website, and order tickets therein. The Grand Opening is set to begin at 7 p.m. Saturday, with proceeds from the $10 tickets benefiting No Kid Hungry.
Come as friends. Stay as enemies. Leave as friends. Maybe.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this piece had stated Punch Bowl was located in the space previously occupied by Toby Keith’s cruddy bro-bar. Punch Bowl is located in what I’m being told is a “virgin space,” which is pretty much the exact opposite of what Toby Keith’s was. Apologies for the error.