Taco Bell's Urban Store Plans and Latest Menu Items

Latest news about Taco Bell are proving the brand’s tagline, ‘Think Outside The Bun,’ still fuels corporate’s decisions. The Tex-Mex QSR chain is breaking its mold by shaking off drive-thrus and adding alcohol to their future locations, in their latest push to expand into urban areas.

According to “Business Insider,” the company that brought to you the Naked Chicken Chips and, most recently, the Naked Egg Taco, had been testing its Taco Bell Cantina concept in seven locations and was slated to open four more by the end of 2017.

Now, they are expecting to open 300 to 350 “cantina-style” stores by 2022.

According to “Food & Wine,” the brand is “zeroing in on big cities like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Boston, and New York (including a plan to open at least 50 locations around the city’s five boroughs.” Each store will be somewhat unique with designs aligning with the local city culture, while featuring digital menu boards and open kitchens.

Taco Bell is known to push the envelope with its menu offerings. Take, for instance, the forbidden bowl and burrito, featuring forbidden rice, being tested in their Irvine location. According to “Thrillist,” a spokesperson told them “No other [fast food restaurant] has tested a black rice product like this." Claiming to be the first to test a dish with a grain product only eaten by royalty in ancient China, hence the name— ‘forbidden.’

That’s why it comes at no surprise that the chain will finally offer boozy drinks like beer, wine, sangria and Twisted Freezes with tequila, rum or vodka at their new urban, cantina-style stores. 

In their Las Vegas flagship location, for example, Spring Valley visitors continue to post pictures with their favorite spiked slush.

I came to Vegas just to get a bacardi baja blast

A post shared by Ava Lavalle (@avalavalle) on

I think I speak for everyone when I say: It was time, T-Bell! It was time...

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By Courtney Walsh, West Coast Editor

Every reputable restaurant beverage program has its fair share of Champagne options. Thought of as a festive option and a must-have for any celebration, wines from the Champagne region have become iconic simply for the festive joy they bring. Over recent years, Champagne has even become a brand in and of itself and just mentioning the region evokes a feeling of lighthearted sophistication.

However, while a number of restaurant wine lists may feature a wide variety of fantastic offerings, for many consumers, the higher price points can make drinking Champagne on a regular basis unattainable. As such, a growing percentage of sommeliers and beverage directors have started introducing other sparkling wines that can fulfill their customers' search for bubbles, while at a fraction of the cost. 

Below, we explore three excellent bubbly options that will liven up any wine list or bar program.

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That persistent passion eventually paid off. Passion, plus an unusual knack for attracting the right people at the right time, asking the right questions, and an uncanny ability to collaborate and delegate, catapulted McNeilly into the role of ‘accidental impresario,’ founder of Mark Ryan Winery, and a juggernaut in the Washington state wine industry.

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Contemplating how to shake up your winter bar menu, and put a new twist on old standards? For sommeliers, stirring up a wine bar menu poses a different challenge. It’s not simply a matter of taste, but of terroir. How do you offer a world of wines without losing your audience, or your focus?

Here, FoodableTV talks to 2015 Washington State ‘Sommelier of the Year’ Chris Horn, Wine Director for Purple Cafe and Wine Bar in Seattle and Bellevue, about his secrets to crafting a successful seasonal wine list.

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By Courtney Walsh, West Coast Editor

2015 was quite a busy year for the wine industry. From restaurants introducing Coravin wine programs, wine keg systemsdigital wine lists, or foregoing menus all together, the year was marked by sommeliers and restaurant beverage directors pushing the limits and experimenting with unusual varieties, regions, food pairings and service styles. 

This exploration was not just restricted to traditional wine by the glass offerings, with bar managers incorporating wine into their restaurant cocktail programs and the craft beer industry taking some inspiration from the wine industry as well. Even chefs got into the mix, experimenting with crafting their own wine to best suit their cuisine. 

Now, more than a week into 2016, three wine industry experts share their predictions for the year ahead.

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By Courtney Walsh, West Coast Editor

Released in 2011 with the aim of allowing consumers the ability to sample their special wine bottles without breaking the cork's seal or disrupting the wine's aging process, the Coravin instantly became the must-have wine gadget for the serious collector and wine enthusiast. Yet the Coravin has surprisingly also become an essential tool for restaurant wine directors, revolutionizing the way these restaurants organize and run their wine lists. Here, we evaluate the Coravin's benefits (and possible setbacks) for restaurants considering utilizing the device in their own beverage programs.

How it Works

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By L.M. Archer, Foodable Contributor

For Seattleites, food and wine pairing has never proved easier, due in part to Washington’s thriving wine industry. According to the Washington State Wine Commission, Washington State ranks second in premium wine production nationwide. Many of the state’s eight hundred and fifty-plus wineries anchor in suburban Woodinville, or rural Walla Walla. Over thirty wineries, however, choose to operate in greater Seattle.

For Emerald City consumers, these urban wineries offer artisan wines at affordable prices, convenience, and a smaller carbon foot print than those across the bridge or mountain pass. Most of these downtown wineries belong to Seattle Urban Wineries, a group dedicated to promoting their wines through events like ‘second Saturday’ tastings, and an annual Valentine’s Day wine and chocolate pairing. 

Few urban wineries own their own estates, opting instead to source their grapes from the finest Washington vineyards to craft food-friendly wines of impeccable quality, most at price points well under $40 a bottle. 

Here, seven of Seattle’s burgeoning urban wineries share their secrets to success:

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Within the food and beverage industry bubble, it is easy to forget that only 5% of Champagne that is imported into the United States is Grower Champagne. Their popularity within Sommelier culture is almost deafening, and with good reason. In addition to the overall satisfaction of championing these smaller Récoltant-Manipulant grower/producers, their terroir-driven, unique-to-vintage styles will often make even the most serious wine professional all misty-eyed. 

The holy grail of Champagne import portfolios is without question Terry Theise Imports. Since he began importing Grower Champagne into the United States in 1997, the market share has tripled. Never short on opinions, Theise will rail against the manufactured nature of big house Champagne and in the same breath tell you that just because it is Grower Champagne doesn’t automatically mean it is good. This is an interesting dichotomy, yet one that would easily hold true for other wine growing regions across the globe.

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