In this fast-paced world, sometimes the food has to be just as fast in order to get everything in life moving. As we've moved into the 21st century, eaters have changed their diets, habits, and lifestyles, and with it, fast food has given way to the fast-casual concept. With meals being dished out in more pleasing settings, and at a leisurely pace, these buzzy new restaurants have also allowed their customers to get buzzed as well.
While the number of chains that serve alcohol isn't long, the trend of food being paired with beverages such as beer, wine, and cocktails is certainly on the rise. In some cases, the restaurant chain has been saying cheers to beers for decades, and for others, it's just started popping their bottles in recent years. We've poured over all the drink menus and happy hour specials to give you this list of where you can wash down great food with something a bit more adult than a root beer. There's even one location where you can tie the knot at!
Please note, that in order to purchase alcoholic beverages, you must be 21 years of age or older. Also, drink options and availability vary per chain and location, so keep that in mind before visiting. And most importantly, enjoy, but be safe and responsible.
After getting twisted up selling pretzels, Rick and Elise Wetzel wanted to take the Chipotle approach to food making to pizzas. In 2011, they started baking pizzas "Fast-Fire'd" in Southern California with Blaze Pizza, and now reside in a majority of U.S. states, as well as some Canadian provinces. Since its inception, beer and wine have been on the menu, and today a majority of locations carry them, with both draft and bottle options.
In 2020, White Claw Hard Seltzers made their debut at Blaze Pizza locations, and to honor the occasion, for one day only, it even offered pizza made with Mango White Claw in lieu of water. Executive Chef Brad Kent told People Magazine, "Turns out it tastes great. After combining a few of our fresh ingredients, the final recommended topping list offers a balance of spicy and tangy, with a bit of tropical sweetness to balance it out." No
For those who live in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, your local Blaze Pizza not only serves beer but also houses a brewery! Since July of 2023, Blaze customers pizza have also had the option to soak up the suds crafted by Sandy Shore Brewing, which include a saison, a porter, an IPA, a NEIPA, a lager, and a pilsner.
In the fast-casual business, Chipotle has been a shining light that has had competitors scrambling to play catch up, and new restaurant ventures copying its recipe for success in hopes of creating its own. While Chipotle's burritos, bowls, chips, and guac grab all the spotlight, and space in customer's stomachs, its not so secret, but not exactly advertised alcoholic beverage options are perhaps its unsung bonus heroes.
Bottled beers like Corona, Modelo, Dos Equis are obvious choices at the ready at Chipotle locations that serve, as well as local craft beers. Another popular option to imbibe is yet again another obvious drink associated with Mexican food. Chipotle chief marketing adviser Mark Crumpacker said in a statement, "Many people are not aware, but we have served margaritas at Chipotle from the beginning." In 2013, Chipotle upped its marg game by ditching pre-made mixes and replacing them with hand-crafted ones made with either premium Patrón Silver tequila, or standard Sauza tequila at 900 locations. While the chain experimented with a frozen Paloma in 2018, it has been pretty quiet ever since these days on Chipotle and its mixology department.
The magic of Nando's PERi-PERi lies in its name, as the double word backend is a nod to the Portuguese-South African spice that gives its chicken and sides its special kick. First launched in South Africa in 1987, it is now a global chain with a long reach, including in the United States, where it debuted in 2008. Today, eaters in Washington, DC, Illinois, Maryland, Texas, and Virginia can stick a fork into Nando's, and at some locations, make "pour choices" of beer, wine, and cocktails to offset that sweet heat.
Nando's selection of drinks can include bottles of Corona, Sam Adams, Blue Moon, Sagres, and the Portuguese beer Super Bock, cans of Truly hard seltzer, and glasses or even bottles of wines such as Spier Arts Merlot, Spier Arts Sauvignon Blanc, Borges Lello Red, Gatao Vinho Verde, Indaba Mosaic Red, and Indaba Chardonnay. On the cocktail side, the fruity options ripe for ordering are Peach Lemonade Poncha, Rosé Sangria, Red Wine Sangria, Spiked Pineapple Lemonade, and Spiked Orange Mango Lemonade. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled to see if your local Nando's offers a happy hour, which usually runs Monday through Thursday, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Before Pizza Hut was topped with ubiquitous red roofs, its very first location, opened in 1958 by the Carney brothers, was housed in the Wichita, Kansas restaurant B&B Lunchroom, in a space once occupied by a bar. Pizza Hut's pies soon became prized eats by Midwesterners with more and more locations opening, and not long after, besides "pop" as a beverage of choice, the chain was happy to proclaim "NOW! Beer With Your Pizza!" (via The Manhattan Mercury). Wine had also long been an option too, but often when a new Pizza Hut opened and applied for a liquor license, concerns arose that it would be the draw. One Tennessee Pizza Hut manager told the Johnson City Press in 1978, "We're not there to make people drunk," adding, "Beer is an added convenience like milk, coffee, or tea."
Today, Pizza Hut has over 550 restaurants across America that offer beer, wine, and/or alcohol, which includes standbys like vodka, whisky, rum, Crown Royal, Fireball, and many others. In 2017, Pizza Hut kicked off a pilot program adding some of those beverages into the delivery mix, alongside its crusty pizzas.
Stacy Lynn Bourgeois, director of brand marketing, said in a press release, "We know that beer and wine go great with pizza and we're uniquely positioned to deliver these given many of our restaurants already serve beer and wine." Currently, beer is the only alcohol Pizza Hut sells via delivery, and is available through 48 of its stores.
When one thinks of Chicago's culinary musts, deep dish pizza, hot dogs, sausages, and Italian beef sandwiches are a complete Mt. Rushmore of happy indigestion. One Windy City institution, which started life as The Dog House in Villa Park and now goes by Portillo's, is a perfect place to chow down on all the above, minus the pizza part. The chain now has 75 restaurants in 10 states across America, and at most locations, sips of beers can add its own kind of relish to offset the savory richness of its vittles.
Portillo's beer selection includes a small selection of brands that can be found on tap. It has a nationwide partnership with Molson Coors, and Miller Lite and Blue Moon can often be found to fill out a pint. In addition to those more standard names, brews from local breweries round out the menu, like Spotted Cow, Deep Dive IPA, and Sunlight Cream Ale. Best of all, Portillo's serves its beer in a famed chilled schooner glass, which is so popular that it's commonly found out of stock on the company's web store.
Shake Shack began life as a hot dog cart in New York City's Madison Square Park, and in 2004, gained a beautiful shack-like structure, and began its path to flipping the hamburger fast food industry on its head. In the early days, when the buzz was high, and the lines were long, Culinary Development Manager Mark Rosati recalled to Eater, Shake Shack became "a fun gathering spot for people just to kind of come, sit down, have a burger, sit outdoors, enjoy the summertime, and a big part of that is – just because we all come from fine dining backgrounds, was adding really great beers and wines to the list."
In 2008, a dream collaboration came together when Shake Shack tasked Brooklyn Brewery and brewmaster Garrett Oliver to come up with a beer to pair with its burgers. The end result was a pale ale with citrusy grapefruit notes that goes by the mighty name ShackMeister Ale. Mark Rosati noted to Thirsty, "We needed something that could stand out in Madison Square Park among all the other scents." ShackMeister Ale is served at Shake Shacks the world over, and at many U.S. locations, Shack Red, White, and Rose canned wines, made in partnership with Gotham Projects, create their own kind of buzz.
The hamburger somehow keeps getting reinvented, and one of the more modern favorite takes on the classic is the smash burger. Not surprisingly, one of the fast-casual spots most people turn to have one is fittingly called ... Smashburger. The chain was founded in Denver back in 2007, and now has a foothold in 34 states, as well as 7 countries, with over 240 locations. Out of all the corporate locations, 98 of them hold beer and/or and liquor licenses.
Smashburger has long seen the value in serving brews alongside its burgers, even teaming up with local craft breweries for suggested pairings. Chief concept officer Tom Ryan told Nation's Restaurant News, "Beer — is a great match for what we feel like we're doing with Smashburger, which is to innovate the burger." Nowadays, the chain carries MillerCoors products, where the west coast locations serve Coors Light, and on the east coast, Miller Lite gets the call. White Claw, Sam Adams, Guinness, Stella Artois, and Modelo beer flavors, can also be found here and there.
In 2022, Smashburger opened its first location with a full bar, back in its hometown of Denver, and has since added two in New York, and one in Alexandria, Virginia. With bartenders on hand, cocktails such as Blackberry Smash, Smash Rum Punch, Coconut Mule, Aperol Spritz, Smoke & Spice Margarita, and Cucumber Gimlet are ready to be slung and thrown back. There is also a Smashburger with a full bar at the Denver National Airport, with local craft breweries like Tivoli, Dry Dock, Great Divide, Left Hand, Oskar Blues, and Upslope on tap, helping to truly represent the Mile High City.
Starbucks revolutionized coffee drinking in the 21st century and has always kept a diversified menu of beverage options beyond its common grounds. When it comes to alcohol, Starbucks has flirted with bringing it into the fold, first by slapping its name on a liqueur not sold in stores in 2005, and five years later, experimented with an evening program, which originated in its hometown of Seattle. 439 company-owned stores eventually served wine, beer, and other non-conventional Starbucks paired fare, like truffle Mac and cheese and bacon-wrapped dates, but the program said goodnight for good in 2017.
In 2010, the company launched a premium brand of coffee called Starbucks Reserve, and four years later, opened Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Seattle, a brick-and-mortar location where tastings, innovations, and even alcohol freely flowed. Since then, Chicago, New York, Milan, Shanghai, and Tokyo have joined the Emerald City as homes to Starbucks Reserves. Pull up a seat at the Reserve's Italian aperitivo-inspired Arriviamo Bar, and you'll instantly know you aren't perched at your mother's Starbucks. Liz Muller, chief design officer and senior vice president of Starbucks, told QSR, "Opening a bar with beautiful wine and drinks is one thing, but we're taking what we know best, coffee and tea, and using that to elevate everything." The Reserve's bar is where baristas are turned bartenders, doling out beer and wine, and curated cocktails like Espresso Martinis, a Whiskey Cloud, a Cold Brew Spice Rum, a Sparkling Sakura Allure, a Brandy Corrego, and Black & White Manhattan.
Taco Bell Cantina
Taco Bell truly believes to "live más," and in 2015, took that motto to a whole new level when it opened its first two locations of its Taco Bell Cantina, in San Francisco and Chicago. The Cantinas wanted to leave the Taco Bell drive-thru model in the rearview mirror as it took on a more modern approach to appeal to millennials, complete with an open kitchen, digitization, and for the first time ever, booze. Why the turn to get tipsy? Meredith Sandland, chief development officer at Taco Bell, told QSR back then, "The consumer interest is there," adding, "It's part of the experience of dining in an urban environment -- customers expect to get alcohol with their meals."
Today, in over a dozen states, 50 Taco Bell Cantinas, with even more on the horizon, are changing the idea of what Taco Bell is and what it can be, one sip at a time. Those sips vary by location but can include domestic, imported, and craft canned, bottled and draft beers, wines, sangria, and its signature Twisted Freezes, infused with rum, tequila, gin, vodka, whiskey, and cinnamon whiskey. One of the more unique Taco Bell Cantinas rolls the dice 24 hours a day in Las Vegas, with a wall of freezes, a VIP room and lounge, a DJ booth, and of course, a wedding chapel. For $777.00, you and your beloved, and up to 25 guests, enjoy a 30-minute ceremony, decked out with a sauce packet garter and bow tie, "Just Married" T-shirts, a Cinnabon Delight cake, a Taco Party Pack, and champagne flutes.
Felix Stehling knew a thing or two about opening successful restaurants and bars in San Antonio, and when he opened the doors to the first Taco Cabana in 1978, it was no surprise that the patio cafe would also include alcoholic drinks to wash down its Tex-Mex food. Taco Cabana now has close to 150 locations, spread all over Texas, and a handful in neighboring New Mexico, and most allow its grub to be paired with margaritas and beers. The margarita flavors include lime, mango, mangonada, strawberry, strawberry mango, and watermelon, and the beers include bottles of Bud Light, Miller Lite, Dos Equis, and Texas' own Shiner Bock. Some drinks are even available to order to go, and for those cocktails that are, its signature non-alcoholic mixes come with a bottle of tequila, vodka, or rum, so you can play mixologist at home.
In 2023, Taco Cabana is marking its 45th year of existence by reintroducing a popular bar that had disappeared because of the pandemic — a salsa bar. In addition to that great news, it is serving up special limited edition drinks to celebrate, including The 45th Margarita, and the 45th Vodkarita, which is made with Tito's Handmade Vodka. Both are available party friendly, full to hold, yard option.
Torchy's Tacos was born out of an Austin, Texas food truck and with "damn good tacos" satisfying endless "Taco Junkies," the chain has opened over 90 locations in 14 states as far west as Arizona and as far east as Florida. Torchy's Tacos has always prided itself on its freshness, with Heidi Noel, managing partner of Torchy's Tacos, telling Westchase District, "everything at Torchy's — from our tacos to sauces to margaritas — is completely scratch-made and made-to-order. You won't find that hands-on, curated experience at most other restaurants!"
Not every location of Torchy's Tacos has a full bar, but if you find yourself in one with alcoholic beverages, the options are aplenty. The margarita options are House Frozen or on the rocks, Sangria Swirl Frozen or rocks, Top Shelf Patrón, Keepin' It 100, Torchy's Tini, Camarena Cooldown, and The Peg Leg, which is the House Frozen with a Coronita beer bottle included in on the fun. Beyond margs, there is a curated collection of cocktails like a Paloma, Sucker Punch, Cherry Limeade, a Red Bull-infused Watermelon Ranch Water, Fireball whiskeyed Spark Plug, and a sangria made from an in-house recipe. Beer and wine options are also available but vary by location. In some lucky select markets, weekday happy hour runs from 3pm-6pm, and "weekend cures" specials are available all day, and include sangria, Bloody Mary's, mimosas, and tequila sunrise.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.