The first thing you need to know about Punch Bowl Social is that it’s huge. No, seriously. Whatever size you’re thinking, double it. Standing tall at three full stories made up of 25,000 square feet, this is the kind of place you could get lost in. And that’s almost by design. Small, tucked away hallways lead to lounges with floor to ceiling windows. Round a corner and you might find an old time-y photobooth or a miniature bowling lane. A patio situated on the third floor is almost an afterthought, but its Arlington views and bocce lanes will draw people outside regardless. If you’re meeting friends here, you can’t tell them to meet you at the bar. There are (at least) four of them.
When the space is mostly empty, it’s equal parts overwhelming and exhilarating, but Punch Bowl Social won’t be empty for long. This is a space primed to attract many kinds of people. From your sporty sport dart throwing bros, to your classic arcade fanatics. The Diner is perfect for families, while the Holiday Lodge is the ideal place to have a quiet drink and soak in more of those city views. To combat the large size and multiple stories, Punch Bowl Social’s staff is just as large and aggressively kind. While leaving the restaurant, my photographer and I must have been thanked and told to have a nice night by at least four different people.
Though it features so many distinct spaces, there’s a solid cohesion to the design. The campy circus theme runs through many of the rooms is a nod to Luna Park, an amusement park that operated in Arlington from 1906 to 1915 and was once famous for having four elephants escape. On top of that, you’ll find a mixture of high end and low end design elements. Neon blares from every room, but black marble bars and stuffed leather chairs are a reminder that Punch Bowl Social is a playground for adults.
And speaking of adult things, the drink menu is just as robust. Split up by taste, there are light and refreshing drinks, full flavored drinks and classic cocktails. The beer list features a section lovingly called “Old Man Cans” (that’s where you’ll find your Buds and Coors) and a smaller wine list if you’re looking to down a sparkling rosé while you dominate at foosball. There’s also a shockingly large spirit free drink menu that includes everything from sodas to juices to lemonades and more.
The crown jewel of the cocktail menu is (surprise) their four different punches (including a seasonal option) that can serve up to 6 people. If you can only choose one, we recommend the Connosseur’s Cup, which features dry gin, mint tea, lavender syrup, vermouth and lemon juice. It’s bright and lovely, but the mint kicks it up to another level.
The truth is, we haven’t even covered half of the activities available at Punch Bowl Social. I could spend thousands of words telling you about the private karaoke rooms, the bike phone charger (which requires you to pedal to generate that sweet juice) and the giant, wall sized Scrabble board… But it’ll be more fun if you find them yourself.
Punch Bowl Social is located at 4238 Wilson Blvd Ste. 1180, Arlington, VA 22203