That’s right: It’s officially no longer depressing to eat dinner — or get tipsy — at Starbucks.
Before Starbucks’ official announcement, we sampled the new menu at the chain’s trendy Williamsburg location in Brooklyn, which begins offering the Evenings fare on Wednesday after 4 p.m.
Our verdict in a sentence? We might get back on OK Cupid just to orchestrate a million first dates here, because the wine and beer selection, as well as the decadent, weirdly low-calorie small plates, are on point — and the vibe is perfectly casual.
Let’s start with the food. The success of Starbucks’ new small plates menu lies in its simplicity. Starbucks isn’t trying to be the next best tapas innovator; they’re simply making all the straightforward (and satisfying) foods you’d want to pick at while sipping a glass of wine or a pint of beer — dishes like truffle mac ‘n’ cheese, spinach artichoke dip with pita chips, bacon-wrapped dates, artichoke & goat cheese flatbread — and they’re executing them exceptionally well.
With plates ranging from $4.95 (truffle popcorn) to $6.95 (chicken sausage & mushroom flatbread), the price points are reasonable, too, and all the dishes are under 500 calories (quite joyous news to hear after devouring a whole pot of the oozy mac). The sweet and crispy bacon-wrapped dates — which also happen to be stuffed with spicy chorizo sausage and drizzled with balsamic glaze — were standouts, as was the decadent artichoke & goat cheese flatbread, which disappeared almost instantly.
The beer and wine offerings were equally accessible, though slightly pricey for such a casual environment, with glasses of reds and whites ranging from $8 to $15. But the selection here is carefully and intelligently curated. The bubbly and bright Mionetto prosecco, for example, makes the perfect post-work glass of wine, made even more perfect by the little bowl of seasoned pepitas (sunflower seeds) perched in a mini-bowl on top of the glass. That’s right: Every glass of wine and beer is served with a little bowl of pepitas on top. And nothing in this world gets us more excited than free snacks.
We can see ourselves coming here with friends or (as mentioned) dates, but the best part is we can see ourselves coming here alone, accompanied by a book or a magazine, and sipping a glass of prosecco, nibbling on pepitas and popping bacon-wrapped dates back like shots at a bachelorette party. The environment, while more spacious and artsy than your average Starbucks, is casual enough that solo dining — even in yoga pants — is completely acceptable.
The Evenings menu, is already offered in 75 locations in Seattle, Portland, California, Chicago and Atlanta.
—Maria Yagoda, @mariayagoda