The next time you and your friends decide to meet for a glass of wine and some snacks, Starbucks wants to be on your list of potential destinations.
The coffee giant, based in Seattle, is rolling out its new "Starbucks Evenings" menu in a handful of Chicago-area locations, right after initial test markets in its home base in the Pacific Northwest. The first Chicago spot at Sheffield Avenue and Diversey Parkway will hold its grand opening Friday. Two other spots in suburban Schaumburg and Burr Ridge opened earlier this summer and about four more evening menu locations are planned for the city by the end of the year.
"Chicago is actually our second market outside of Seattle in the U.S.," explained Rachel Antalek, director of global innovation for Starbucks. "Chicago has kind of a special place in our hearts. It was kind of a logical place to come."
The Italian-inspired menu includes three snack-like "bites," four appetizers, three small plates and two desserts, as well as a wine and beer list. Some of the dishes include a truffle mac and cheese with herbed Parmesan breadcrumbs (for $5.95) and a chocolate fondue with marshmallows, strawberries and cookies for dipping ($6.95).
The wine list--which is different from what you'd get in Portland or Seattle--offers both standard (Chardonnay) as well as more exotic wines (like a sparkling rose Brachetto) ranging from about $7 to $15 a glass.
Four beers, again selected regionally, are on the menu--Stella Artois, an Argus IPA, Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat and Guinness in a can.
As to who Starbucks expects to drop by for a drink or light dinner, Antalek said so far, they've gotten a wide spectrum of customers.
"We definitely have the 'OK, we're hydrating, we're caffeinating, we're having our first beverage kind of on our way to somewhere else'" crowd, she said. "We're [also] seeing, 'Wow I'd really like a glass of wine by myself. I don't have plans with the girlfriends so I'm just going to come to Starbucks because I feel comfortable by myself.'"
With special decor and more homey seating, as well as lower lighting, the first Chicago evening location is intended to have a different vibe. But Antalek said anybody can enjoy the new offerings.
"It depends on the community and it depends on the customer," she said.
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