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An interior view of a spacious venue with brightly colored murals on the walls. A lounge area features pastel teal and pink couches and ottomans. Part of a green and maroon shuffleboard court is visible.
A view of a shuffleboard court, lounge area, and part of the main bar and dining area at PKL, now open in South Boston.

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An Enormous South Boston Venue Pairs Pickleball With Enviable Bar Snacks

Food and drinks aren’t afterthoughts at PKL, now open at the Iron Works development and stuffed with pickleball and shuffleboard courts, cornhole, and more

At PKL, Boston’s newest (and only) pickleball venue, newbies and veterans of the badminton-like sport can have a great time running around and hitting balls, or lounging with a cocktail, or relaxing over slower-paced games of shuffleboard and cornhole — or a combination of all of these. It’s an added bonus, then, that a talented Boston chef is overseeing the food menu and showcasing the best of local sourcing, elevating bar snacks to a new level.

A venue this fun could probably get away with microwaved mozzarella sticks, but happily the team has decided to complement the games with fantastic food, including plentiful vegetarian options and dishes that feel a lot lighter than typical bar fare. Who wants to get competitive over a pickleball match minutes after downing pounds of fried food?

A small silver tray sits on the edge of a wooden table over a cracked concrete floor and holds a pile of charred chicken wings with a small cup of a white dipping sauce.
PKL brines its wings for 12 hours; they’re available “naked” or with a sweet chile or Buffalo sauce. The chicken is sourced from local butcher shop Savenor’s, as are the rest of PKL’s meats and poultry. “The most important thing about chicken is that it should have flavor on its own and then accoutrements, not ‘what’s that thing underneath this sauce?’” says chef Christopher Walker.
Overhead view of colorful carrots on a bed of white sauce with bright dots of red chile oil. The plate is on a white marble table over a light blue background.
PKL’s roasted carrot dish, one of several vegetarian options on the menu, showcases heirloom carrots with citrus yogurt, basil, fresh scallions and chives, and chile oil made with roasted almonds, chile flakes, and garlic. “When you go out, sometimes you have a bar setting where you don’t have a vegetarian-forward dish,” says Walker. “This one will please the vegetarian and the carnivore.”

“There are people who would use this place as their actual workout, but they do want to stay and enjoy something, so we don’t want it to be all greasy, heavy food,” says PKL cofounder Brian Weller, who comes from the fitness world. (He and PKL cofounder Dustin Martin previously introduced Boston to the worldwide boutique fitness studio chain Barry’s.) Similarly, Weller notes that PKL offers a selection of nonalcoholic and low-alcohol cocktails in addition to its boozier drinks, providing some options to those who want a festive night out minus the intoxication.

The menu is made to be shared, packed with snacks like wagyu pigs in a blanket, pretzel bites, wings, and nachos. All meats are sourced from iconic local butcher shop Savenor’s, where PKL chef Christopher Walker is general manager.

White marble four-tops with light blue chairs are in a dining area in front of a bar, which sits in front of a black wall with large blue and pink paint splatters.
The main bar and dining area at PKL.
Two small pickleball paddles have a hot pink and light blue color scheme and feature historical nude statues with strategically placed pickleball paddles.
Pickleball paddles at PKL.

It’s meant to be “essentially an upscale version of bar food,” says Walker. “You get dishes that are unique, but you also get things that are relatable.”

Take the cheesesteak, for example. “I grew up on steak and cheeses in the Dudley [Square] area, this place called Stash’s,” says Walker. “This is a play on that. How do you bring something that’s known throughout Boston but a little bit different, tasty, and shareable?” He amps up the PKL cheesesteak with a chipotle aioli, a house-made cheese sauce, sauteed peppers and onions, pickled onions, and chives. “It’s a good dish if you’re playing pickleball and you’re like, ‘Alright, I want something I can eat quick but with a little bit of substance,’” says Walker.

A man in blue jeans and a blue button down shirt stands, smiling, in front of a bar. Behind him, the wall is painted black, with a bright pink paint splatter mural.
Chef Christopher Walker.

In addition to his work at Savenor’s — where he has worked hard to boost the prepared foods section, among other improvements — Walker has honed his skills at a variety of restaurants in Greater Boston and beyond, focusing particularly on butchery and charcuterie. He was on the opening team at the now-closed West Bridge in Kendall Square, for example, a spot that won acclaim for its France-meets-New-England cuisine. He ran the charcuterie program there, making pates, rillettes, accoutrements like jams and mustards, and more. Later, he worked at Barbara Lynch’s Butcher Shop in the South End, making items like sausages and terrines, eventually taking on a busy dual role as lead butcher and sous chef.

That’s just a fraction of Walker’s resume; he’s been at this for quite a while. “I started cooking with my parents at the young age of about six,” says Walker. “I decided I wanted to be a chef when I was 10; by 12, I picked my culinary school, Johnson & Wales; and I went there when I turned 18.”

Charred bits of cauliflower sit on a white plate with dollops of whiteish-red sauce, fresh basil, chives, and pink rings of pickled onion.
PKL’s roasted cauliflower, another vegetarian dish, comes with two sauces. One includes roasted tomatoes, roasted onions, and fresh basil, pureed, and the other is the same plus a bit of sour cream and Fresno chiles. (The second sauce can be omitted to make the dish vegan.) The pink pickled onion garnish is a nod to PKL’s branding.
A fancy-looking cheesesteak is topped with fresh chives and pink rings of pickled onion. It sits on an elegant white marble table with a foamy pale yellow cocktail in the background.
PKL’s cheesesteak (details above). In the background, the Megan Thee Stallion cocktail (“baddies only,” says the menu) includes reposado tequila, coconut, pineapple, and zingaberaceae syrup. Several of PKL’s cocktails — which all have fun pop culture themes — are available in large-format servings for four to five people.

Whether you’re going for the food and drink or the workout, or a little bit of everything, PKL is up and running, with 22,000 square feet of space — two bars and dining areas, five pickleball courts with lounge areas that fit 10 people each, a separate lounge tucked away from the action, two shuffleboard courts, and a cornhole area. Find it at the Iron Works development in South Boston, which is also home to Castle Island Brewing Co. (and its in-house bar-style pizzeria, Bardo’s), Tatte Bakery, a forthcoming expansion of Cambridge’s Shy Bird restaurant, and more.

PKL joins a local scene eager for venues that mix sports and fun. Greater Boston’s already home to a fancy dart-throwing bar, a few ax-throwing bars, upscale ping-pong, and more, but PKL is really the first of its kind around here. There are some pickleball courts around town, but this is the only dedicated venue that comes with an irresistible menu of bar snacks with a twist.

An indoor pickleball court with cornhole and some high-top tables. A mural in the background features a chimpanzee in an astronaut suit floating through space.
PKL’s walls are decorated with eye-catching murals by Boston-based artist Blind Fox, whose work also graces the walls at local restaurants and venues such as Mariel, Lolita, and Spin.
An indoor pickleball court. The two visible walls behind it have murals, one of which is a UFO flying through space. The other says Bad Decisions Make Better Stories.

PKL (64 C Street, South Boston) is currently open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, with the kitchen open until 10 p.m. daily. Find information on the venue’s website about reservation rates for pickleball and shuffleboard, as well as dining reservations (no pickleball required). The bar areas and lounge are first come, first served.

PKL

64 C Street, Boston, MA 02127 Visit Website
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