48 The NaTioNal CuliNary review • Sep Tember/oCTober 2018
aT The bar let’s play
nationally. Williams has also been testing some new mezcal-based drinks to go with the
Mexican-inspired menu. The El Macho, for one, has muddled cucumber, reposado tequila,
housemade cardamom syrup and fresh lime juice, while the new San Diego location (opened
in June) features a mezcal-based drink with premium banana liqueur—or canned chickpea
liquid for a vegan-based froth—nutmeg and zested lime peel. A new punch has mezcal with
grenadine, lavender syrup, fresh lemon juice, and pomegranate tea and seeds.
SPiN’s most popular cocktail is also mezcal-based, with pineapple and lime and
finished with a Himalayan black lava salt rim, as well as the seasonal variety of Moscow
mules with ginger beer bases.
At Flight Club in Chicago, veteran mixologist/bar consultant Peter Vestinos has
curated a diverse cocktail menu designed to fit the wide audience base. “Ultimately
what I focused on was the Victorian fairground imagery, the idea of oddities and
wonders from around the world being collected and then placed on display,” he says.
That morphed into a cocktail menu featuring exotic botanicals as well as botanical
beers, ciders and other blends. The Iguana cocktail, for example, blends various
Jamaican rums with ginger, hibiscus liqueur, allspice, gingerbread/rooibos tea and lime,
while The Royal Lion has gunpowder green tea infused with gin, English breakfast
tea, thyme, East India sherry and lemon. There’s also cardoon thistle amaro, artichoke
liqueur and fennel liqueur in the cocktails, some of which come crowned with playful
tattoo art-like decorations on the surface.
Gone are the days of the quintessential bowling club menus—those greasy-spoon
items more of a second or third thought beyond the games and the beer. The food
at these modern social gaming spots—with their high-standard crowds—has to be
delicious, sophisticated and, of course, camera-ready.
What’s unique about most of these spots is that the food and drink gets served in
every area of the space. That means plenty of platters and handheld items to support
snacking, sharing and gaming at the same time, even if there may be a full-entree
menu, and sometimes, a separate full-service restaurant.
Punch Bowl Social just announced a complete menu overhaul (about 80% of the
items will change) based on research of what’s selling and what’s not. Thompson
traveled with celebrity chef/consulting partner Hugh Acheson to Mexico City this
summer to study and research new ideas.
above, leFT: The Taurus at Flight Club.
above, riGh T: The el macho—muddled cucumber, reposado tequila, housemade cardamom syrup and fresh
lime juice—at punch bowl Social.
A look at gaming bars
around the country
acebounce, a British-based ping-pong chain that
opened its first U.S. location in Chicago in 2016,
features a more-formal dining room downstairs
and a bar-focused menu upstairs where the
ping-pong tables are located. The menus, curated
by Chicago chef Rick Gresh, include everything
from grilled chicken thigh kebabs to wood-fired
pizzas and red quinoa tacos to cacio e pepe mac
‘n’ cheese paired with a craft cocktail program
developed by Peter Vestinos. The Wonderball
table uses art projection mapping to make one of
the ping-pong games into a giant computer game
with multiple players. Parent company Social
Entertainment Ventures also operates Flight Club,
a concept based on darts, and Puttshack, a high-tech mini golf experience.
16-bit bar + arcade in Cleveland, Columbus and
Cincinnati, Ohio, features plenty of retro ’80s
imagery along with old-school cocktails such as
the Kevin Bacon (bourbon + ginger ale + real
bacon jerky) and the Cheech Marin (tequila +
lime + agave nectar + orange zest). No food
here, but the games are free if you drink. Sister
concept Pins Mechanical Company in Columbus
offers eight lanes of old-school duckpin bowling
in addition to a wide selection of pinball, plus
foosball, ping-pong and giant Jenga.
Topgolf bridges the gap between the traditional
driving range and a favorite neighborhood hangout
with more than 40 locations in the U.S. and the
U.k. combined. Patrons can hone their golf skills
(indoors or out) while enjoying upscale comfort
food (chicken + waffle sliders, jumbo pretzel
board) and brunch items, as well as seasonally
inspired cocktails (Mai Colada, frose) and craft
beer in multiple bars, a full-service restaurant, a
rooftop terrace and a private meeting/event space.
h Street Country Club is a multistory bar in
Washington, D.C., with a rooftop deck and an
indoor nine-hole mini golf course, along with
giant Jenga, shuffleboard and a Skee-Ball league.
With bars on each level, patrons can skip long
waits to enjoy various margaritas and creative
cocktails paired with tacos and other Mexican-inspired favorites, as well as a semi-Mexican-inspired brunch.
The newly opened vigilante Gaming in Austin,
Texas, features a menu with no dishes requiring
knife and fork (e.g., handheld sliders, sake
bombs) so guests can eat and drink as they play
a variety of board games, each catalogued in an
barcade, with seven locations in four Eastern
states, combines an extensive craft and draft beer
list with classic arcade cabinets.
Located in San Francisco, San Diego and
Sacramento, California, Coin-op Game room
offers game-themed cocktails, local beers, truffle
tots, burgers, chicken sandwiches, housemade
doughnut balls and more (Neapolitan pizzas at the
San Francisco location) with a lineup of 50 arcade
machines from the ’80s and ’90s.