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Punch House in Pilsen

Punch House in Pilsen
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  • Punch House in Pilsen

    Post #1 - November 10th, 2013, 9:37 am
    Post #1 - November 10th, 2013, 9:37 am Post #1 - November 10th, 2013, 9:37 am
    Decided to check out the new spot from the Longman & Eagle crew last night before a trip to Chinatown. Pilsen isn't exactly overwhelmed with cocktail focused bars, but you probably need to be a fan of punch, because the other offerings aren't really a focus or a strength. Which makes me wonder how successful they'll be overall--I guess I'm just in the camp of those that don't love punch. Probably will be based on how popular the Farm-to-table (their words, not mine) restaurant upstairs, Dusek, and the events space, Thalia Hall (not yet open) turn out to be. Or maybe I underestimate the staying power of the punch trend. The décor and vibe of the room are great--70's basement chic. Music at a reasonable volume, a long bar with a huge saltwater fish tank as the centerpiece, retro booths and tar paper ceiling. It was pretty much empty when we arrived at about 6:00 and completely packed when we left at 7:30.

    In any case, they encourage sampling of the wares--they even have tiny shot glasses for that purpose--so we tried a couple of the punch offerings before buying. The 8 punch selection is divided between Contemporary and Classic. First up, we sampled the Philadelphia Fish House (Gosling's Black Seal, Landy Cognac, Mathilde Peche, Lemon, Angostura) from the Classic side and the Sanyal (curried Pisco, Darjeeling, Citrus juices, Pineapple, Chili flakes) from the Contemporary side. The Fish House was mostly sweet and fizzy--wasn't what I wanted to start my night out with. The Sanyal was definitely more assertive--Pisco, chili and curry made for an interesting combo--but, again, not something I wanted as an early evening cocktail.

    Instead, we decided to try a couple of the very small list of cocktails (only 4)--the Vieux Carre (Old Overholt Rye, Landy Cognac, Punt E Mes, Benedictine, Angostura, Peychauds) and the Punch House Negroni (Death's Door Gin, Swedish Punsch, Luxardo Bitters). The Negroni was fine--nothing revelatory and the one sip I had of the Vieux Carre right after it was delivered was a bit watery. For the next round, we ordered the Jamaican Old Fashioned (Appleton X/V, Allspice Dram, Cherry and Orange bitters) and the Dusek Punch (Good Bourbon (again, their words, not ours), lemon, raw sugar, dark ale, nutmeg). The Old Fashioned was way too sweet for me (and the predominant flavor was allspice which I didn't care for) but the Dusek Punch was fine. You don't get any sense that the bartender is interested in making anything himself (when asked about the flavor profile of the Old Fashioned, he begrudgingly said he "couulllllddd" make it with bourbon but you could tell he didn't want to) and the very small cocktail list and weak selection of back bar spirits don't really encourage that.

    We didn't try any of the food but they are very determined to separate themselves from the restaurant upstairs (we asked to see a menu and, again, the bartender copped an attitude saying he didn't have one--but he coouuulllllddd go get one from the host upstairs if we really wanted to see it--uh, no thanks!) On the Punch House menu are oysters (4 different individual varieties for $3.00/ea or a chef's choice for $15/half dozen, $30/dozen (!)), a half dozen bar snack type items (pretzel, olives, fritter, blue crab dip, etc.) and a Juicy Lucy burger. There's also a nice looking list of desserts.

    Overall, it was disappointing--the bar at Dusek's is focused on craft beer so that doesn't appear to be a better option and this area really could use a great cocktail spot. Hopefully something else will happen in Pilsen or Punch House will step up their game a bit.

    Punch House (lower level of Thalia Hall)
    1227 W 18th St.
    Chicago, IL 60608
    (312) 526-3851
    punchhousechicago.com
    Last edited by boudreaulicious on November 29th, 2013, 4:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #2 - November 12th, 2013, 5:01 pm
    Post #2 - November 12th, 2013, 5:01 pm Post #2 - November 12th, 2013, 5:01 pm
    This is a tough call for me, since I love the space but pretty much loathe the punch craze/resurgence/whatever. The thing is, I love this space enough, or almost enough, to make up for the focus on punch.
  • Post #3 - March 22nd, 2014, 4:51 pm
    Post #3 - March 22nd, 2014, 4:51 pm Post #3 - March 22nd, 2014, 4:51 pm
    I really like Punch House. If you don't want punch, I'm not sure why bothering going here? They do punch well, with different options to suit different tastes. While I can certainly understand not liking what you ordered, know what you're getting into and don't expect anything different.

    Really unfortunate about the service issues, though. I can absolutely see this happening given my observations of some of the staff, though service on my visits has been good.

    They do make a good old fashioned upstairs at Dusek's,
  • Post #4 - March 23rd, 2014, 2:02 am
    Post #4 - March 23rd, 2014, 2:02 am Post #4 - March 23rd, 2014, 2:02 am
    A few of us went to punch house a month or so ago, and I wish I had thought to post earlier because the names of the drinks we had slipped my memory. Between the four of us I think we ordered one of each punch, and only one of the bunch was dull, but a couple others seemed to like it so maybe it's a matter of taste. The rest of them ranged from very good to great. They were alcohol strong in flavor (in a good way) and effect (I wouldn't have driven home, that's for sure), and when appropriate to the drink, the sourness or bitterness levels were quite strong, which I appreciate. I used to avoid tiki drinks since they can skew sweet or even worse watered down, but I won't be avoiding Punch House. Service was great... laid back atmosphere, friendly talkative staff. No snobbery. In my limited experience at each, I think I'd rate the drinks (at least my favorite ones) here above the ones I've had at three dots. I know it's not a competition, but only mention it because I would have never guessed I'd say that considering how highly regarded three dots is.
    Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.

    -Mark Twain
  • Post #5 - March 23rd, 2014, 7:13 am
    Post #5 - March 23rd, 2014, 7:13 am Post #5 - March 23rd, 2014, 7:13 am
    Glad to hear--that would be an improvement on multiple fronts from my experience. I'm sure they were still fine tuning things--when we were there it was only a few weeks after they opened--and maybe they found some more capable bar staff. I look forward to trying again. Thanks for the updated reports!
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #6 - March 23rd, 2014, 11:00 am
    Post #6 - March 23rd, 2014, 11:00 am Post #6 - March 23rd, 2014, 11:00 am
    I was here for a very pleasant, 2-hour session a couple of weeks ago, before a dinner at Nightwood, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Andy was our bartender and he could not have been kinder. I thought the punches -- and between the 4 of us, we pretty much tried them all -- were excellent across the board. Full and intensely flavored, boozy, refreshing and very distinctive. There wasn't one I wouldn't order again. I'm not saying I could drink like this regularly but a few times a year, it's going to be a perfect fit. Still, I think Punch Basement would have been a better name. :P And that ties in with my only complaint, which is that I was completely out of touch down there in that space. No 4G and no wi-fi. As such, even the simple act of coordinating with friends became a challenge. I don't like being entirely disconnected like that.

    In any event, I look forward to returning and then having dinner at Dusek's, which I've still never tried.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #7 - April 7th, 2014, 4:04 pm
    Post #7 - April 7th, 2014, 4:04 pm Post #7 - April 7th, 2014, 4:04 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:And that ties in with my only complaint, which is that I was completely out of touch down there in that space. No 4G and no wi-fi. As such, even the simple act of coordinating with friends became a challenge. I don't like being entirely disconnected like that.

    I don't know, to me that sounds like a major plus for a bar, almost as good as no televisions. I find it annoying when half the table is gazing into their laps, poking and stroking their small devices. It seems I'm not alone in this. Some clever fellow in Brazil has designed a beer glass that stands upright only when supported by a phone: The Offline Glass. I realize that not every drinker constantly uses their phone and that on rare occasions there's an urgent need to contact someone. It just strikes me that a bar where nobody is staring at a screen, large or small, would be a most pleasant place. I haven't been to Punch House yet but am looking forward to visiting.
  • Post #8 - April 7th, 2014, 5:04 pm
    Post #8 - April 7th, 2014, 5:04 pm Post #8 - April 7th, 2014, 5:04 pm
    Rene G wrote:
    ronnie_suburban wrote:And that ties in with my only complaint, which is that I was completely out of touch down there in that space. No 4G and no wi-fi. As such, even the simple act of coordinating with friends became a challenge. I don't like being entirely disconnected like that.

    I don't know, to me that sounds like a major plus for a bar, almost as good as no televisions. I find it annoying when half the table is gazing into their laps, poking and stroking their small devices. It seems I'm not alone in this. Some clever fellow in Brazil has designed a beer glass that stands upright only when supported by a phone: The Offline Glass. I realize that not every drinker constantly uses their phone and that on rare occasions there's an urgent need to contact someone. It just strikes me that a bar where nobody is staring at a screen, large or small, would be a most pleasant place. I haven't been to Punch House yet but am looking forward to visiting.

    In theory I don't disagree but being there with my wife and having our son out and about somewhere else made me wish I were accessible to him.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #9 - July 6th, 2014, 10:43 am
    Post #9 - July 6th, 2014, 10:43 am Post #9 - July 6th, 2014, 10:43 am
    laikom wrote:They were alcohol strong in flavor (in a good way) and effect...
    emphasis on the latter, although I'm sure the shots we did with our bartender added to the effect of the punches. Mrs Willie & I were quite please with the punches, tried 4 different varieties:
    AMERICAN ORANGE PUNCH - RYE WHISKEY, ORANGE, BAKING SPICES, CURACAO, LEMON, PORTER
    PIMM'S CUP- PIMM'S CUP NO. 1, DEATH'S DOOR GIN, FRESH CUCUMBER, LEMON, GINGER TEA, STRAWBERRIES, MINT
    SUMMER MELON - CANE SPIRITS, MEZCAL, WATERMELON, CORIANDER, CILANTRO
    Can't recall the last one. :wink:
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #10 - November 2nd, 2014, 7:58 am
    Post #10 - November 2nd, 2014, 7:58 am Post #10 - November 2nd, 2014, 7:58 am
    I LIKE THIS PLACE!
    :)

    Granted, I got there early on a Saturday night (they open @ 6pm) and was able to cozy up to
    a circular- upholstered booth- and enjoyed not only remarkable Cocktails as well as remarkable Service-
    (Thank You Natalie !!)- but Dias deLa Meurtes was in full swing- costumed patrons wearing skeleton
    painted faces -and outside on 18th St.-The Patron Saint of Patron
    was dispensing shots while a hip band was performing in the Church's plaza-
    so the vibe was -right there!

    Funny thing about so many "new" hipster spots-
    A) as a Designer/MAKER- I'm always looking about
    in bars & restaurants to see what I would have done- what I would have liked to have MADE, etc...and in so many
    of these sort of spaces (Scofflaw, Whistler,Small Bar,etc) the "style-of-design"...is
    "We-Don't-Need-No-Stinkin-Designer-Up-In-Here".
    Salvation Army/Goodwill/ and Craigslist supplied the majority of the Furnishings- with the exception of an amazing salt-water aquarium- over 100 gallon- behind the bar- a beautiful alternative to a plasma screen TV- showing - bleccchhh.
    B) I generally note- silently (& sadly) to myself- I'm probably-
    the OLDEST person there. Not that being 20 nuttin's a bad thing- or being over 50's sad- just an "observation" on the demographic distribution.
    C) Even though the atmosphere is a dark, intimate basement- w/blackened acoustic tiles attached to the ceiling and a duck-decoy-made-into-a-lamp for lighting at the bar- these sort of places- WORK!
    I really find that sometimes- too much Design & Planning-
    can kill the "vibe" as opposed to creating it.
    This place- The Punch House-and others of the same "ilk"- always strike me as familiar
    and in a nice way-"cozy" :roll: (an adjective that the girlfriend uses with MUCH MORE regularity than me.)

    On to the libations-
    I started out w/ a HOT drink - a Hot Charles Dickens Punch @($8.00) JAMAICAN RUM, FRENCH BRANDY, RARE TEA, SUGAR, LEMON, FIRE- served in a small glass w/ a handle-a punch bowl glass,in fact (dunnnhh!!) that went down well.
    Quite Well. A little sweet for sure- but very "liquor forward" at the same time, l liked the lemon peel, a nice added touch.
    Next- a house made Bavarian Style Pretzel- served w/an amazing spicy and slightly sweet mustard- that I want to have w/ my NEXT Cantonese Style EggRoll-
    the Pretzels cheese filling didnt get in the way- and was a nice" small plate".
    My 2nd drink- not a Punch- was a Vieux Carre-
    WILD TURKEY RYE, LANDY COGNAC, PUNT E MES, BENEDICTINE, ANGOSTURA, PEYCHAUDS,
    a very-very nice cocktail- at Scofflaw price points! Again- lots of distinctive flavors- and also- quite "liquor forward".
    Go here!
    Image
    Diaz de la Muertes en Pilsen by Man_of Steel, on Flickr
    Support this place. (and the hood)
    Pilsen's alive- with so much multi-culturalism- the Artists scene of East Pilsen-
    has truly spread west towards Ashland Avenue-
    and gauging by the number of black-faced Pugs and PitBulls being "walked"
    on the side streets- this part of Chicago- is "it".

    http://punchhousechicago.com/menu/#classic

    1227 W. 18TH STREET
    CHICAGO, IL 60608
    312.526.3851
  • Post #11 - November 24th, 2014, 11:09 am
    Post #11 - November 24th, 2014, 11:09 am Post #11 - November 24th, 2014, 11:09 am
    Here is a new place for your consideration.

    Barrel under the tracks of the Damen Pink Line station.

    The place only serves beer from Chicagoland microbreweries on tap. And all the spirits are from the US. About as local as you can get, I guess.

    I did not realize the sheer number of microbreweries in the Chicagoland area.

    As I no longer consume the said beverages, I cannot give a review. But I do stop almost twice a week to just watch a Bulls game and babble incoherently with the barkeeps about the current state of the world.
    The art of living well and art of dying well are one. ---Epicurus

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