I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Punch Bowl Social – Cleveland a handful of times since its opening in the rejuvenated East Bank of the Flats last September. Each time, I left with fond memories of my experiences enjoying their food and entertainment offerings. The Sunday Funday Hans and I experienced was especially a blast — I’m pretty sure their private karaoke rooms are the best kept secret in town!
So when I heard Chef Hugh Acheson teamed up with the Punch Bowl culinary team this summer to nearly completely revamp their menus, I was surprised but excited for the changes. Acheson, a self-taught chef well known from his role as a judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, reviewed the old menu — which had something for everyone, which meant it had a little too much of everything — to find it was unfocused, leaving diners sometimes confused. With that in mind, the culinary teams from all six Punch Bowl locations flew to Denver to work with Hugh, who infused his southern roots into the new offerings now available around the country.
I was invited last Friday for a preview of Chef Acheson’s new menu with Punch Bowl Social – Cleveland’s General Manager Dennis Fischer and National Culinary Director Chris Cina. As we chatted and they answered my questions about the changes and other happenings at their venue, we dined on a selection of the new, featured items:
Strawberry Rhubarb Fizz with House Made Strawberry Syrup, Fee’s Rhubarb Bitters and Sparking Water
Black Eyed Pea Hummus with tomato, cucumber, radish and kettle chips
Hugh’s Pimiento Cheese with bacon marmalade and pullman toast and
Chips ‘N’ Dips with kettle chips and charred onion crème fraîche
Idaho Trout with black eyed pea succotash, pea shoots and roasted lemon salsa verde
Superfood Grain Bowl with crispy farro, quinoa, kale, radishes, carrots, pickled chiles, shiitake mushrooms, sprouts, miso ginger vinaigrette and a poached egg
Crispy Chicken Biscuit with bread n’ butter pickles, spicy honey & crisp potatoes
- I’ll be making my own home made strawberry simple syrup to recreate their Strawberry Rhubarb Fizz. It is the perfect non-alcoholic beverage for the end of summer.
- I didn’t know that a fried black eyed pea could be such a make or break, but using them as a finishing touch in the Black Eyed Pea Hummus was a great contrast to the smooth texture of the hummus. I also loved the mix of chips and veggies with one of my go-to appetizer orders on any menu.
- In trying Hugh’s Pimiento Cheese, I realized I’ve never had Pimiento cheese before. Where has it been all my life?! The bacon jam a top the cheese spread combined with the thick, hearty bread as a vehicle was Southern perfection.
- If you’re looking for a bit of Cleveland nostalgia, look no further than the Chips ‘N’ Dips. That charred onion crème fraîche is Punch Bowl’s answer to our region’s beloved Lawson’s chip dip — and I will answer that call any time of day.
- Honestly, I would have never ordered the Idaho Trout entree on my own, but I’m so glad they previewed it to me that day. Perfectly prepared, the roasted lemon salsa verde made it shine.
- As I dug into the Superfood Grain Bowl, I proclaimed I could eat that salad for lunch on the regular. Turns out Chef Acheson feels the same — Culinary Director Chris Cina shared that Chef Hugh eats with these types of superfoods in most of his meals. I especially loved the play of the hot and cold ingredients.
- My favorite component of the Crispy Chicken Biscuit had to be the perfectly fried chicken full of a spice blend featuring a slightly leaning Moroccan blend. Don’t worry — this dish doesn’t lose its Southern roots.
LONG STORY SHORT: By the end of our tasting together that afternoon, I found the changes made to the Punch Bowl Social menu to be for the better. The clarity of using Southern cooking as a base allowed for their point-of-view to shine through. The menu is bright and fun, just like the atmosphere and entertainment options, and will leave you remembering your meal long after your visit. You can see some of the influence into the new menu from Chef Acheson’s latest cookbook, A New Turn in the South, which is available for purchase at Punch Bowl. (For practically the exact same price as Amazon, give or take a penny. Literally.) I’d highly suggest checking out the new offerings for yourself and sticking around for a fun activity after!
Thanks again to the Punch Bowl Social’s entire team for their hospitality and a peek into their new offerings. Keep an eye on their social media feeds at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to be in the know about their new menu, upcoming events and specials.
Disclosure: I was invited to attend a new menu tasting at Punch Bowl Social – Cleveland where I received complimentary food and beverage and a copy of A New Turn in the South to take home. My thoughts and opinions are my own.