What’s to Love: Punch Bowl Social is not a local company, and it’s located in the Pioneer Place Mall in downtown Portland. To many Portlanders, this may be two strikes against this national brand. I have to admit, the first time I headed over to scope-out the place for a possible article, I was skeptical. On my two visits to Punch Bowl Social, I observed a super clean space that provides indoor activities for a range of ages, and it’s definitely worth checking-out, especially for families.
Before I get into the activities, which are mostly old-school, I have to mention their food. Over the years of doing this blog, so many places have bragged to me about their food. Having a Naturopath as a wife, frankly, we are constantly disappointed by the food at “family-friendly” establishments. That’s not the case at Punch Bowl Social.
Just preview their menu, and you’ll see they got creative when thinking about food – no Cheetos, corn dogs, fried chicken strips, and soggy fries. I was blown away by their house truffle chips, cilantro chicken wings, bacon caramel popcorn, and incredible deviled eggs. The kids at our party devoured everything. On top of that, they have some excellent choices for drinks – we had the “watermelon lemonade.” I don’t know what they put in their milkshakes, but it’s one of the best I’ve ever had in my life.
The space is HUGE with several different sections featuring bowling and comfortable seating arrangements. The bowling is very unique – the pins are on strings, and the ball return is above ground. It adds an element to the game, especially for young kids. Of course, they offer automatic bumpers and metal ball launchers. Each bowling area is is surrounded by a comfortable and relaxing seating environment.
In addition to bowling, the space offers darts, ping-pong, private Karaoke rooms, shuffle board, retro video games and pinball, Cornhole, and Skee Ball. Wherever you turn, there is something going on. And while it is located in the mall, you would never know it. The space has been totally transformed using what they call a “dirty-modern” style.
Great Deal Alert! This summer, Punch Bowl Social is offering free bowling for kids ages 15 and under. This is their own program, and you do not need to register like many other bowling alleys. When school is out, bring the kids in, Mondays – Fridays from 11am -2pm and kids bowl free for 1 hour, including shoes – first come, first served. All children must be accompanied by an adult.
Caveats: This is probably a non-issue, but the space is “family-friendly” everyday until 10pm. Again, some people may not enjoy heading downtown to the mall for fun, especially on a summer day.
I would avoid busy times with younger kids. While certainly catering to families, 5PM to close brings in a “young professional” crowd from downtown businesses. It might be harder during those times to get a space to bowl, Karaoke, etc. Also, the prices for activities are mainly based on an hourly rate, if you’re being mindful of expenses, you’ll want to watch the time!
Website: Punch Bowl Social Portland
Distance from Portland: Located on the 3rd floor of the Pioneer Place Mall in downtown Portland.
Recommended Ages: All ages. The activities they have support a wide variety of age groups. Teens will enjoy the Karaoke and retro video games. Most kids love bowling, especially in such a cool environment.
Parental Stress Factor: Low stress. It’s a big space, so make sure you keep an eye on your kids. It’s easy for them to wander off into a different section of the place.
Physical Difficulty: Not an issue. The space is accessible via escalator and elevator. All areas inside appeared to be ADA accessible/compliant.
Family Fun Factor: A critical factor here is how your family and/or guests are treated by the venue’s staff. I want to compliment the Portland staff we encountered – they provided exceptional service, and were always available to help us out. I can’t wait to go back again!
Pet Friendly: N/A
Weather Considerations: All indoor activities are great on rainy days and to cool off on hot summer days.
Insider Info: Punch Bowl Social was recently named one of Nation’s Restaurant News ‘Breakout Brands‘ for 2015! It’s the perfect venue, especially on a Sunday morning when they open (not as busy), for a birthday party. We’ve had birthday parties at several different locations, and I would put this in our top three. It was so easy to setup with so many options for the kids. Some kids didn’t like bowling, so they played shuffle board or ping-pong. Everyone LOVED Karaoke. I was surprised, but putting a bunch of kids in a Karaoke room is a lot of fun, because they can just all sing together to their favorite tunes.
If you’re thinking about having your next private event at Punch Bowl Social, work with their private events team. If you’re able to meet their minimum for food and beverages, you can reserve activities such as bowling and a Karaoke room in advance.
Family Tips: A nice family excursion/deal for Father’s Day (2015)! Here is a blurb about their upcoming promotion. It’s a Bullseye with Bacon, Beer & Bowling at Punch Bowl Social (340 SW Morrison St. http://punchbowlsocial.com/). Every dad gets one shot at bowling a strike or hitting a bullseye on the dartboard, and if he succeeds, his breakfast is free. Dad can feast on the Bacon Monkey French Toast or a Bacon Burger and enjoy $5 Bourbon Cocktails, $3 Old Man Cans or a Bacon Bloody Mary with the works. After dad has his fill, check out the private Karaoke rooms for some family singing time. Nobody will be bored with games like Skee Ball, ping-pong, retro arcade games (think four-person Pac Man and Galaga), shuffleboard, Cornhole, and marbles. Call 503-334-0360 or visit Open Table for reservations. Punch Bowl Social opens at 10 am on Sunday, June 21st.
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