Summer is approaching and COVID restrictions are being relaxedand restaurants are among the many types of businesses benefiting from these changes.
A recent visit to Chicago's Punch Bowl Social (310 N. Green St.; punchbowlsocial.com ) for brunch showed that the spot is slowly but steadily getting back into the groove of things.
Occupying 30,000 square feet (and, yes, you read that number correctly), Punch Bowl Social has its unique culinary offeringsbut also is home to all sorts of activities to work off the calories from the food and drinks here. Among the activities are bowling, an arcade, Skee-Ball, foosball, giant Scrabble and Jenga, shuffleboard, pool, board games, virtual reality, ping-pong and even a karaoke room (the better to spare the public from some off-key singers). There's even a stationary bike that doubles as a phone-charging station.
People can take part in these activities on a first-come, first-serve basis. And prices vary: While such items as board games, ping-pong and foosball are free, the karaoke rooms are $45/hour for five to 10 people (which turns out to be just a little per person) and bowling lanes are $16-$18/hour.
Engaging in these activities can work up an appetite, and this venue has a lot to offer on the culinary end as well. Drinks didn't start swimmingly, as my guest ordered a sangria that she said tasted like peanut butter. However, the beermosa she ordered definitely pleased her.
Appetizers are top-notch. The Chip, Chip Hooray has queso dip, salsa rosa and guacamole alongside tortilla chips, and the sides are all indulgent. And speaking of indulgence, the monkey bread deserves a special place in the Sinful Hall of Fame. (My friend echoed this, calling the dish "Satan on a plate"in the best way.) The cinnamon sugar-dusted sweet rolls come with salted caramel and candied pecan; yet, the dish isn't too sweet at all. This might be the most addictive item I've had so far this year.
And how can you hate a place that serves something called the Cake Burger (a melange of pancakes, burger patties, bacon, American cheese and maple syrup)? However, having had the monkey bread, we opted for other items. My friend loved The Knockoff Burgera higher-level Big Mac that comes with "comeback sauce." I took a shine to Eggs in Quarantine, a timely name for a dish that includes poached eggs, some bacon and pork sausage Bolognese, parmesan and a butter-toasted baguette.
However, Punch Bowl Social has a variety of other brunch items, ranging from the A La Bama Chicken Sandwich (with white BBQ sauce) to the Totally Stacked Tostada to the decidedly more healthful Fruit 'N' Fromage.
By the way, dishes can be customized to fit the preferences of vegetarians and vegans.
So be sure to check out Punch Bowl Social. It's a place that's bound to challenge and/or please the sensesin good ways.
NOTE:Regarding COVID-related protocols, Punch Bowl Social has an impressive list of steps it's taking to ensure patrons' safetyalthough I was told that things are also fluid because of the changes in state and federal restrictions. Staff members wear masks (and team members have their temperatures taken at every shift), but there are also hand-sanitizer stations, physical-distancing requirements and QR-code menus.