The Punch Bowl Social grand opening:
Raise your hand if you crave bona fide cordial interaction. Now, imagine a lively, welcoming and innovative location in which you can enjoy such interaction, and eat noteworthy food, and drink ingeniously mixed beverages, and play a wide range of good-clean-fun games. This is what Punch Bowl Social delivers, and they are celebrating their grand opening at The Gateway this Saturday, September 21st from 7:00pm-10:00pm.
The Salt Lake City location
The Salt Lake City location is the organization’s latest establishment, having previously opened 18 others in cities across the country. The Punch Bowl Social concept picks elements from ways in which communities traditionally intermingle and blends those elements into a contemporary design space that supports authentic social interaction. In addition to promoting playful, in-real-life socializing, Punch Bowl Social also serves a variety of both familiar and foodie-forward menu items, plus dozens of drink choices including craft cocktails, hand-mixed sodas, juices and shakes. The sum total creation is what Founder and CEO Robert Thompson describes as the “quintessential food, beverage and entertainment experience.”
Each Punch Bowl Social location shares core design elements, such as a 360-degree bar, or a more intimate casual space dubbed the Holiday Room; and the design team collectively relies on four central themes that are evident in all locations: mountain lodge, mid-century modern, Victorian and industrial. The team then chooses some local area attribute and expresses through the design themes their unique interpretation of that attribute. “We’re all designers at heart,” Robert explains, “and we need a muse to guide the design.” What the team tapped in to in the previous Barnes & Noble Gateway space was the city’s Olympic Games connection, and also the state’s history of mining. Exercising creative license, the team generally connected the Olympic Games to ancient Greece, added design elements representative of the mining industry, and the end result is a dynamic and original interior. They also gave a tip of the hat to ski culture as well as represented the locally-known flamingo, Pink Floyd, on the private karaoke room wallpaper. Some of the design statements are more evident, and some more subtle, such as the hanging bowling alley lights that mimic the shape of a constellation. The overall layout, too, is consciously designed to compartmentalize social interaction, thus creating a feeling of intimacy not experienced in open-space plans.
Dining spaces are both traditional and non-traditional. In the 21-and-over establishment, guests can mingle, drink in hand, and either eat at a four-top, a high top, or while playing a game of darts. Other game opportunities include 80’s arcade games, six lanes of bowling, foosball and a giant, wall-hung Scrabble board. “Traditional dining is not as exciting,” notes Robert. “Here, people can have a full, multi-course meal in a way that they haven’t before experienced.”
The attention to design detail is mimicked in Punch Bowl Social’s culinary offerings. Chief Culinary Officer Sheamus Feeley and his team provide on-site training for new chefs and kitchen staff. Regarding the menu, Sheamus says that they “look through a few different lenses.” Ingredients are intentionally sourced for quality, all menu items are made from scratch, and the food list reflects a range of both familiar fare with an uncommon twist, as well as more modern restaurant food trends. For example, brine-soaked fried chicken tops a malted waffle covered in chipotle-citrus maple syrup and dotted with fresh strawberries. Familiar, with a twist.
In-house food production also means that the kitchen is busy making up to 12 daily batches of hand-rolled and cut buttermilk biscuits that complement each dining table. They make up to 10 gallons of strawberry jam a week, as well as turn out complex appetizers, sauces and side dishes.
Elaborate beverages and entertainment
Patrick Williams is Punch Bowl Social’s National Beverage Director and mixologist extraordinaire. Commanding the 360-degree bar, he and his team train new-location staff. Surrounded by bottles of many-hued liquids, he skillfully mixes both craft cocktails and, what he calls, “built and mixed without” non-alcoholic drinks. The goal, he says, is to “create a cocktail experience taste that is something akin to a culinary experience” in which each sip provides the opportunity for appreciating the drink’s creative complexity, yet the overall experience is friendly. “We want to talk to our guests about what they like and what we can make for them, and we want the experience to be non-intimidating,” he adds. Patrick ensures that Punch Bowl Social’s bars are stocked with unique mixers and flavors, and some drink ingredients, such as the matcha tea syrup, are made in-house. Because of the state’s liquor laws, Patrick was delightfully challenged to create three Utah-specific single-serving punches, all of which are on the drink menu.
Responding to a catalyst that already exists
Robert professes to having watched Salt Lake City over the years and noticed how, and in what ways, the city has progressively changed. “With the more recent modifications to the state’s liquor laws, I perceived that enough strides had been taken for us to be able to open a location here,” he notes. “We’re not imposing any particular kind of change on the city, but rather responding to a catalyst that already exists.” And Robert is also keen on the Gateway’s new food, beverage and entertainment complex approach. “We saw a warm open door, and decided to enter. This is a great city,” he adds, “and we are happy to be here.”
Tickets for Punch Bowl Social’s Saturday, Sept. 21st Grand Opening can be purchased HERE or at https://www.punchbowlsocial.com/location/salt-lake-city
100% of ticket proceeds will support Encircle.
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