Exclusive first look: Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink, opening at the end of October
"This" refers to Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink, the 23,700-square-foot, 900-person-capacity gastro-diner, bowling alley, Ping-Pong hall, marbles arena, java joint, cocktail lounge, video arcade, patio oasis and triple-threat bar that Thompson, who also owns Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar, has spent the past two and a quarter years pulling together. And if all goes according to plan, the high-reaching restaurateur will unveil the new entertainment and eating mecca at the end of the month.
- Anika Zappe named bar manager of Punch Bowl Social, Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar and Argyll
- Big Lots on Broadway to become a big bowling alley and 24/7 diner, courtesy of Argyll's Robert Thompson
When we first broke the news, back in September of 2010, that Thompson had taken over the former Big Lots emporium at First and Broadway, he said that he hoped to open in the fall of 2011, but a project of this magnitude, he also noted, takes time -- and money -- and so while he's just over a year off schedule, he says that he's gone from "Punch Bowl to a punchline to punch-drunk," adding that the wait has also given him time to get every detail right -- and deal with a few unforeseen obstacles. "I couldn't have taken Punch Bowl Social through the asbestos and budget issues without the help of some outstanding local capital partners. They deserve credit for continuing to believe in the project, and their belief will be rewarded once we open."
The space, which includes a mezzanine with its own bar, dining area, a wall devoted to popular video games from the Eighties and Ping-Pong tables, is a lot to take in, beginning with the main floor, where Social Food & Drink -- the diner -- seats 75, plus another 28 at the soapstone bar, long in length and constructed from recycled barn wood.
There's a 2,500-square-foot open kitchen, too, which will be helmed by Sergio Romero, Thompson's longtime chef, who also has a propensity, reveals Thompson, for dropping the F-bomb at every opportunity. "This is the first time that we've had an open kitchen," he admits. It's a new world for us, and we all use the F-bomb," but as a way to curtail the profanity, they're adding a "swear box," and every time a kitchen staffer utters "fuck," they'll be required to drop a fiver in the box; other, more benign swear words will require the staff to donate a dollar. And the money collected, divulges Thompson, will go toward a party fund for the front-of-the-house staff. "I don't know any kitchen guy who thinks it's a good idea to to spend his own money for a party for the waitstaff and bartenders," quips Thompson.
At least the kitchen crew will be immune from anyone overhearing their sailor mouths elsewhere in the brick building, the decor of which Thompson describes as "industrial, Victorian and modern with mountain-lodge elements." And while even Thompson admits that's a mouthful, he and his co-design firm, StudioLemonade, appear to have mastered the theme, whereby each room has its own vibe that sails seamlessly into the next.