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updated: 6/29/2012 6:53 AM

Schaumburg Starbucks first to offer alcohol, nibbles

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  • Chad DeMarre and Dake Hubbard of Chicago and Steve Jakubczak of Rolling Meadows salute Starbucks new evening menu at The Streets of Woodfield shop on Thursday.

      Chad DeMarre and Dake Hubbard of Chicago and Steve Jakubczak of Rolling Meadows salute Starbucks new evening menu at The Streets of Woodfield shop on Thursday.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

By Deborah Pankey
Daily Herald Food Editor

Steve Jakuczak stops in Starbucks at The Streets of Woodfield every morning for his grande Italian in a vente cup.

Yet Thursday evening found the 39-year-old Rolling Meadows man back at the bustling coffee house with an Argus Pegasus IPA in his hand as he chatted up a co-worker.

Nearby, 22-year-old Ben Smith of Schaumburg sipped a Brachette Rosť Regale and sampled a caramelized onion crostini while his friend enjoyed a passion fruit iced tea.

At Starbucks?

Yes, at Starbucks.

The Schaumburg shop is the first of five in the suburbs and Chicago to debut the coffee chain's new "Evenings" menu that features wine, beer and light bites. The Starbucks at the Burr Ridge Village center is expected to unveil the same evening menu next week; three Chicago stores will offer the menu by the year's end. Los Angeles and Atlanta are next on the list. Until now, only shops in Seattle and Portland, Ore., had the expanded menu.

Rachel Antalek, director of concepts for the Seattle-based company, said Chicago-area based focus groups helped Starbucks refine the idea and it made sense to debut the concept in a store that already had a bigger footprint and a cozy atmosphere.

"We wanted to create an environment where people can sit and relax and chat and can connect with each other," Antalek said. "This is not a restaurant; it still feels casual ... like a Starbucks."

A mom still clad in yoga pants grabbing a few extra moments of me time should feel just as comfortable as a twenty-something retail clerk enjoying after-work wine and nibbles with friends.

Just like when you order a morning latte and a scone or an afternoon ice tea and panini, you order a glass of any of the nine eclectic wines or the four imported and craft four beers at the counter. Wine comes not in a paper cup with a plastic lid, but in real crystal capped, tapas-style, with a small bowl of spicy pepitas. Small plates, like rosemary and brown sugar cashews, blue Brie and toasted walnut cranberry bread, artichoke and goat cheese flatbread and chocolate fondue, also are ordered at the counter.

"These are light bites, but certainly you could cobble together a meal," Antalek said.

Everyone who looks under 40 will be carded, she added.

The liquor license also means all alcohol must be consumed on site or within the renovated patio area (there's actually more outdoor seating than there was two weeks ago) and all Starbucks employees are 21 or older and have bartending licenses.

So how has the concept been received?

"I"m here a lot now already, but I never thought I would be drinking wine at Starbucks, which I love," Smith said.

Said Jakubczak, "I'll stop here and have a drink before I go have some drinks because it's close to the office. It's not the place for debauchery."

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