The Austin Chronicle

First Look: Punch Bowl Social

By Rod Machen, August 21, 2014, 2:50pm, On the Range

If the Domain is going to continue its quest to become “North Austin’s Downtown,” it’s going to need a variety of shops and businesses. With the opening of, it now has its adult playground, and another restaurant to boot.

Whether it's the Highball or the Goodnight, Austinites have shown they love to play games and drink booze, and a menu of good food doesn’t hurt. Punch Bowl Social aims to be all of these things for North Austinites. Bowling, karaoke, and old-school video games surround a large, circular bar that specializes in “punches,” fruity concoctions that aim to be a step above what your grandma serves at Christmas time.

At a preview event, a sampling of food was served, and it fit within the "gastropub with a diner feel" they advertise. The pressed Cubano was meaty with a crunchy shell. The deviled eggs were topped with bacon jam and had a smokiness akin to barbecue. For dessert, the chocolate cookies stuffed with peanut-butter spread were messy but worth it.

The restaurant itself will be open early for breakfast, with full coffee service and pastries to accompany the diner-centric offerings, included options for kids. The dining room stretches down the side of the building to an open kitchen, with numerous booths and tables sporting lots of rough-hewn wood.

Founder Robert Thompson is no stranger to Austin. He helped start the original incarnation of Buffalo Billiards back in the late 90’s before moving to Colorado. Denver was the site of the first Punch Bowl Social, and Portland, Oregon soon followed. Next up after Austin is downtown Detroit, where some local movers and shakers are trying to revive with reinvestment.

With more apartments and hotels being built by the hour in the Domain, Punch Bowl Social looks like a good bet for those in the neighborhood looking for an evening's diversion. With its large space and varied offerings, it should become a date-night favorite.

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