Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images

Three new outposts actually!

Mike Pomranz
August 02, 2018

When the decision was made, the news sent shockwaves around the fast food world: Taco Bell would be opening its first location that sells alcohol. That very first Taco Bell Cantina, as these boozy outposts are known, first launched in Chicago in 2015. Since then, the Cantina concept has spread to over a dozen states (with most, but all selling alcohol). And soon, Taco Bell Cantina will be making another high-profile expansion: The brand announced its planning to open three new locations in Manhattan.

Granted, it’s not Taco Bell’s first attempts at Cantinas in New York City. Three of these upmarket Bell outposts are already operating in Brooklyn. But as New Yorkers know, making the jump from Brooklyn to Manhattan can be a newsworthy event, and the fact that Taco Bell believes its ready for Manhattan’s high rents is a telling sign. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, these new Cantinas will be located at 500 8th Avenue (just north of Penn Station), 840 8th Avenue (in Midtown) and 224 7th Avenue (in Chelsea).

Beyond simply giving fast food fans a chance to drink booze – which includes everything from alcoholic slushies to the occasional branded beer – while eating Taco Bell (instead of just before!), these Cantina concepts also have other differentiating features from your standard Bell. Cantinas avoid fast food standards like drive-thrus and instead often feature flourishes like an urban design, an open kitchen, and tapas-style sharable menu items.

The company said that it plans to open 300 of these Cantina concepts, or their “Urban” cousins (which are basically Cantinas that don’t serve alcohol) over the next four years. Remarkably, 125 outposts are reportedly in planning for the greater New York City area alone. It’s a lot of new restaurants. It’ll be interesting to see if the buzz Taco Bell was first able to build by promising alcohol can sustain that sort of expansion, anywhere really, but especially in a picky place like Manhattan.