There used to be this place called La Boulange which was a failed attempt by Starbucks to make an evening concept. After nearly three years of trying to make it work, the location near me—and all locations—closed for good. So what would happen with all the old Starbucks-but-not locations? They’re turning into Starbucks Evenings concepts.
Or, at least, that’s what’s happening to the one near me. Starbucks Evenings is another attempt for the brand to transfer their loyal, “culturally curious,” Norah Jones listening, massive fan base from daytime coffee sippers to nighttime drinkers. Unlike Boulange’s attempted bistro version of Starbucks, Starbucks Evenings is exactly what you think it is: a Starbucks plus booze—and some casual, coded fast food.
The menu is hysterical. For any urbanite who has eaten at a trendy restaurant in the past five years, you will find very many things to groan about and squirm at, finding the copy and presentation to be the most faux-artisanal bullshit to have ever been created in food. It’s as if Wal-Mart attempted to use their brand to leverage themselves as a “pop-up market.”
To highlight this absurdity, let’s rank the buzzwords used from least significant to most egregious. Brace yourself for lots of cringing.
• Skewer / Fondue / Meatball / Pita: These are all the same thing: they’re all some sort of borrowed exotic entree turned into a Chil’s Grill & Bar™ friendly food that parents can pick at and go, “Wow: can you believe we’re eating this? My, oh my.” Like everything on this list, it’s all very Southern Gals Visit NYC.
• Breadcrumb: Appearing twice, this finishing item comes in two varieties on the menu. In one instance, as “panko breadcrumbs” which isn’t that bad. In the other? “Parmesan breadcrumbs” which is a double dipping eye rolling doozy of buzzwords.
• Black: The only wine-list-only buzz item, this is unnecessary yet required as it’s used to describe “black peppercorn” and “black cherry” and “black currant.” These are specific things, yes, but you could argue that their non-black cousins aren’t that different. This is just a means to flex the “LOOK AT HOW THOROUGH WE ARE!!” copy muscle.
• Crisp: The only word that straddles both lists, this appears as both crispy (“wrapped in crispy bacon”) and crisp (“aromatic and crisp”). I’m not really offended by this word, actually. It’s more annoying because it’s obvious.
• Popcorn: Like the skewer / fondue / meatball / pita gang, this is just the manifestation of trendliness. Starbucks, you are not Jose Andres. Stop with this. You are almost ten years behind.
• Glaze: Like crisp, this is used as both deglaze (“deglazed with white wine”) and glaze (“drizzled with balsamic glaze”) and both are active attempts to capture techniques Starbucks is creating in giant commercial kitchens, bought up from Sysco.
• Sausage: The menu is very porky. Sausage is so annoying because it grabs for oddity by being chicken and Italian and chorizo, not just a pork product. Get ready to hear all night from grandma how that chorizo sausage was sooooooo spiiiicccccyyyyyy.
• Truffle: Like.
• Flatbread: This is just fucking pizza. Stop with this. Flatbread is pizza. The worst thing about buzzwords is when they are covers for the obvious. Flatbreads are pizza. Stop.
• Artichoke: This is a food item, yes, and not a buzzword. What makes this the most annoying entry is that it is the most directly Chili’s Grill & Bar™ cast anew with it’s dippy, flatbread friends. The worst part about this is that the artichokes aren’t even allowed to be themselves but are smothered in cheese (creamed with spinach in one dish, layered with Jack cheese in another). Even if you are trying to be healthy or experience artichoke, Starbucks isn’t letting you: you have to fight through hardened milk and deglazing white wine and goat cheese and peppers to do so.
Now we should all be amply prepared for our parents to talk on and on and on about these things. And don’t be mad about it: the city folk brought this upon us. It was given as a gift to Starbucks to vomit onto plates. (And it’s surprising they haven’t done this to us sooner.)