Punch Bowl Social founder and CEO Robert Thompson made a monumental announcement this week with the addition of James Beard Award-winning chef Hugh Acheson. With Acheson on board comes a new menu at all locations and a philosophy of simple, well-executed food. In addition to the standard menu, Acheson will help chefs at all locations create green- and blue-plate specials based on seasonality and sustainability.
While Punch Bowl Social has seen rapid national expansion since it opened four years ago, Acheson’s contribution to the team fine-tunes the food aspect of the ‘eatertainment’ concept. “They’ve really solidified design and great bars and the gaming and the number of reasons you could come here,” said Acheson. “But the disparate part was the food… It was a really big menu and it just needed a little bit of focus.”
Acheson brings Southern food to the tables at Punch Bowl, but in a lighter, more approachable way for all to enjoy. “People eat very differently than they did 10 years ago, so I need to cater to someone who eats really healthy and also someone who wants a really great cheeseburger—and everybody in between,” he said. That ideology is evident when you may be chomping crispy chicken biscuit ($10) with bread & butter pickles, spicy honey, crisp potatoes and fried chicken sandwiched between two soft, buttery biscuits while the person next to you is scooping up spoonfuls of quinoa, crispy farro and a medley of vegetables from the superfood grain bowl ($12).
A new menu of Southern food certainly isn’t culinarily groundbreaking by any means, but the mentality Acheson has for Punch Bowl is what sets this particular menu apart from the rest of the crowd. “The simplest food is the hardest to execute, so we do a good job, actively try to figure out why it works and everyday you seek to do better.
You won’t see Acheson manning the burners during your next visit to the restaurant—but that’s not his role in the company. “I’m kind of like a baseball manager my job is to put the team on the field and have them execute the job,” said Acheson. “We got all of the chefs from all of the locations and all the GMs here and really explain what we’re trying to do and get them on the same page.”
The new menus at Punch Bowl Social roll out today with a forthcoming overhaul of the bar program to match the food.
All photography by Lucy Beaugard.