Deep Ellum’s New 26,000-Square-Foot Destination Boasts Three Bars, Three Patios, 219 Employees, 10 Bowling Lanes, Tons Of Other Games & Some Killer Food.
Wallpaper photos by Pete Freedman. All other photos by Jessika Hardy.
Deep Ellum has been going through all sorts of changes of late.
A new high-rise is nearing completion on Elm Street. The oldest continuously operating venue in the neighborhood is about to close its doors for good. Trendy new shops seem to open up on a daily basis.
Added up, these changes are — from a certain set, anyway — are contributing to an atmosphere that one might not exactly describe as “welcoming.” But such is the world that Punch Bowl Social is entering as it stakes its claim on Deep Ellum.
On Saturday, June 29,, the “eatertainment” chain will formally open its 17th location across the country — this one inside of the old Copper Tank Brewery location on Good-Latimer Expressway. Starting that evening, it will publicly welcome all comers (unlike other similarly themed area spots, Punch Bowl Social’s doors bear a disclaimer announcing their venue as a “safe place” that “[values] your color, class, creed, gender and orientation”) to its new, 26,000-square-foot home.
With a total of 219 employees to help work that massive space, Punch Bowl Social aims to be a lot of things all at once.
It has three separate bars, three separate outdoor patio areas and a dedicated dining room to go with various gaming areas across its city block-wide building. Those gaming areas boasts six full-sized bowling alleys along with as four additional “mini-bowling” lanes, all 10 of which come complete with Victorian fox-hunting paintings above their pins. There are also a number of classic arcade games (from the original Pac-Man to Street Fighter II), a pair of private karaoke rooms and a litany of ping-pong tables, foosball tables, board games, lawn games and dart boards everywhere you look.
Its kitchen serves up a wide-ranging menu that boasts shareable dips, salads, tacos, sandwiches, entrees (the chicken-and-waffles is legit) and desserts (we recommend the salted caramel banana pudding). On weekends, it’ll also serve a brunch menu until at least 3 p.m.
The bar, meanwhile, features a variety of local and out-of-market craft beers on tap, plus a fairly extensive cocktail menu that caters to a variety of palates (whiskey drinkers should check out the Two Hats Blues). There are also a number of non-alcoholic craft beverages that can be easily be modified to include alcohol if so desired. And, as one might expect given the name, the bar menu includes a selection of punches that can be served in bowls for solo drinkers or for groups.
For all that pomp and circumstance, though, it’s worth pointing out that Punch Bowl Social isn’t trying to run from the identity of the Deep Ellum neighborhood its entering. Rather, the company seems to be embracing the neighborhood — just as it aims to do with all areas it enters.
“There are five design elements to Punch Bowl,” Punch Bowl Social founder Robert Thompson said during a Wednesday night preview event for his business’ latest location. “Four of [those design elements] are always the same, [but] the fifth one is the most important one, as it always abstracts of local history for the location that we are in. For here, in this location, it was the live music scene.”
Along with the more rustic design elements that have been part of Punch Bowl Social’s branding since its initial Denver location opened in 2012, the Deep Ellum location is full of music-related design nods.
Throughout the space, attendees will see two swaths of custom Deep Ellum-themed wallpaper adorning various walls. While both feature cartoon images of the neon “Deep Ellum” sign and the Traveling Man statue, one boasts more of a punk sheen and caricatures of acts that played the neighborhood in its ’80s heyday (Dead Kennedys, Butthole Surfers and The Misfits); meanwhile, the other design nods to the area’s deep early 1900s blues roots with drawings of the legends who plied their craft along its streets (T-Bone Walker, Leadbelly and Blind Lemon Jefferson).
Other music-referencing design elements include Shinola record players and Leadbelly song lyrics affixed to walls.
Additional neighborhood elements incorporated into the design include hints of the neighborhood’s Central Track (wink, wink) rail history and elm tree light fixtures that refer to how one of the neighborhood’s main drags got its name. Local artist and designer Alli Koch of Alli K Designs also consulted various design aspects of the restaurant, with some of her own artwork featured within its walls.
This weekend’s opening in Deep Ellum is a long time coming for Thompson, who first came to Deep Ellum to scout potential Punch Bowl Social expansion locations five years ago.
“[The neighborhood] wasn’t quite ready yet,” Thompson said, with servers — still getting their sea legs in the new space — buzzed around his space, bringing good and drinks to guests invited to Wednesday’s private sneak peek. “But some momentum picked up down here, and we felt like it was the right time to bring our version of entertainment into Deep Ellum.”
In the end, is Punch Bowl Social just the latest hip party place hoping to excite the Sunday brunch crowd and host corporate events? On some levels, yeah. But, to its credit, those at Wednesday’s early look sure seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Furthermore, the respect the operation is showing to Deep Ellum isn’t to be discounted. All proceeds from Punch Bowl Social’s ticketed grand opening event on Saturday, June 29, will be donated to the Deep Ellum-based Foundation 45 charity, which is dedicated to helping artists, musicians and other creatives find the mental health services they need. (Tickets, which run $20 a pop, can be purchased here.)
Also of note: Dallas isn’t the only North Texas city getting a taste of Punch Bowl Social this summer. On July 27, the brand will open a location in Fort Worth’s West 7th District. But unlike the Dallas location, which is comparable in size to every other location in the chain, the Fort Worth location will be the company’s first “small box” version. Still, checking in at 12,500 square feet, it won’t exactly be tiny.
Similarly large in scale is Punch Bowl Social’s planned Deep Ellum hours of operation.
Following Saturday night’s grand opening, the space will operate from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. during the week, with doors opening earlier for brunch service starting at 9 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Something else to keep in mind: Punch Bowl Social is open to all ages prior to 10 p.m., at which point it becomes a 21-and-up establishment; its security staff will start carding entrants at 9 p.m., and at 10 p.m. will ask any lingering underage revelers to vacate the premises.