Most of us try to spend the least amount of time possible in airports. But this weekend’s opening of Punch Bowl Social Stapleton—the second Colorado location of Robert Thompson’s eat-ertainment juggernaut—is going to have us pointing our car toward the airport over and over again… the defunct Stapleton International Airport, that is.

Punch Bowl was built at the base of the airport’s former air traffic control tower. In fact, the restaurant/bar/house of fun took over the first two floors of the building attached to the tower (the third floor will house Punch Bowl’s headquarters) and expanded it by about 6,000 square feet. “As a designer, we always try to respect the environment we’re developing in,” says Thompson, Punch Bowl’s founder and CEO. “When the project was brought to us, we knew that it was not just an opportunity but also a big responsibility. We wanted to design within the history and the structure.” Details like using suitcases as decor and incorporating the original “Denver” sign from the airport are welcoming nods to the site’s history. The whole process took about three years.

The wait was worth it. Punch Bowl Social Stapleton’s 32,000-square-feet is brimming with bright colors and mid-century touches—as well as six bowling lanes, ping-pong, two private karaoke rooms, and shuffleboard. What’s more: Almost half of the venue is dedicated to outdoor dining, drinking, and lounging space, including two regulation-size bocce courts, fire pits, stadium seating, and a waterless, 18-inch-deep “swimming pool.” “There are literally fake pontoons that you can sit in and eat and drink,” Thompson says. “You can sit around the edge and dip your toes in the water that’s not there and enjoy your cocktail.” (After learning about all the hoops he’d need to jump through to put in a real pool, Thompson and his team opted for an imaginary version.)

The Southern-leaning comfort food menu, by culinary partner Hugh Acheson and executive chef Brad Conroy, remains fairly unchanged—with 10 Punch Bowl locations, Thompson wants to keep the brand aligned—but it does feature a few aviation-themed additions: an “in-flight snack” of chile-lime fried peanuts; a “pre-flight check” breakfast and lunch special that gets diners any breakfast entrée, salad, or sandwich (except the lobster roll) plus a single-serving cocktail for $15 (available Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.); and an Aviation cocktail made with Breckenridge Distillery gin.

Punch Bowl opens for full service starting with brunch at 8 a.m. on Sunday, November 19. (Technically, you can stop by around 9 p.m. on Saturday, after the sold-out grand opening party winds down.) The venue will be closed for Thanksgiving.

3120 N. Uinta St., 720-500-3788

Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at