When you think of Punch Bowl Social, the first thing that likely comes to mind is the games. After all, you can play giant Jenga, darts, Bonzini foosball or wall scrabble. You can tackle a marathon game of monopoly, attempt to beat the high scores on any number of arcade games. There are also private karaoke rooms and eight bowling lanes.
But any one of those activities pairs up just great with PBS cocktails and its menu of scratch-made seasonal comfort food focused fare.
On a recent trip to the popular “eatertainment” venue, we had a great time laughing our way through a couple of rounds of bowling (pro tip: save $2 if you bowl before 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday). But we also tried out some of the new items on their spring menu.
It’s tough to beat options like their cauliflower nachos or queso dip; but one might come close with their new crispy brussels sprouts, which were sweet and spicy thanks to a combination of fresh lime juice, sea salt, hoisin sauce and zippy Fresno chilies ($10).
They went just fine with the new Broadway Boulevardier, a fruity, mellow take on the classic made with strawberry infused campari, coconut oil washed bourbon and sweet vermouth; and the light, refreshing quaff I’ll Be Your Ginger Berry featuring gin, hibiscus tea, lemon and ginger beer ($12).
PBS is typically on par with their sandwiches, so their new Punch Bowl Reuben seemed to be a no brainer. It’s piled high with house-made corned beef (which is less salty and assertive than most), Gruyere cheese, sauerkraut and – instead of the usual dressing – a take on sauce gribiche (mayo, egg, mustard, lemon herbs, apple cider vinegar). It’s $17 with a wildly generous serving of fries (I recommend getting a side of comeback sauce for dipping).
Among the hand-helds, there’s also a new plant-based burger option: A Beyond Burger topped with Gruyere, tomato jam, bibb lettuce, red onion and dijonnaise (served with fries, $16), as well as a crispy catfish sandwich topped with kale and Fresno slaw and hot sauce mayo (served with fries, $15).
If tacos are calling your name, you’ll find all the usual PBS suspects, including their cocoa dusted carnitas and garlic shrimp; but they’ve also added Ahi tuna tacos featuring seared rare achiote marinated tuna with crema, onion curtido and cotija cheese ($17).
There’s also a new entree: chicken under a brick, which features half of a roasted chicken pressed with a skillet and served over brown butter hummus with chermoula roasted carrots and fresh herb salad ($20).
We probably should have waited until after we went bowling to enjoy dessert. But the mile high carrot cake ($9) was calling…
From there, we popped upstairs for a couple of rounds of bowling, along with drinks, including the refreshing NA Tropical Coconut Water (coconut water infused with fresh pineapple, cinnamon, hibiscus and star anise, $6) and the crisp, herbal Cordially Yours featuring vodka, citrus pandan tea cordial, lemon, sparkling wine and an absinthe rinse ($12).
I may have lost both games of bowling, but we had such a good time that I’d do it all over again (check out my Instagram reel @LoFredrich for more, including my questionable bowling skills).
Punch Bowl Social is open Wednesday and Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight, Saturday from noon to midnight and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m.
Get the full menu, plus more information about games and pricing at punchbowlsocial.com/milwaukee
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.