Tacolicious, 09.26.2016


One of the best things about restaurants with Mexican food is, as a matter of course, they usually have more non-alcoholic options than many other restaurants. You’ve got your grain drinks like Horchata and Atole and you have your fruit drinks like Agua Fresca and Limonada. (All of which will get posts of their own!) Not to mention Mexican Coca-Cola and Jarritos.

The extremely successful Tacolicious chain of restaurants steps those normal Mexican restaurant options up a notch or two by adding a brace of creative non-alcoholic refreshers to their menu.

Started at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market in 2009, they now have 3 very popular locations in San Francisco, one in Palo Alto, and one in San Jose, making them, perhaps, one of the most influential purveyors of non-alcoholic beverages in the Bay Area.

Tacolicious’ founder, Joe Hargrave was kind enough to respond to my questions about the humorously named subsection of their menu dedicated to non-alcoholic libations.

1) Recently, it seems more common for restaurants to leave their non-alcoholic options off the menu entirely, and have them as verbal options. What prompted you to feature non-alcoholic drinks on the Tacolicious menu?

“We know plenty of folks who choose not to consume alcohol for one reason or another and we feel strongly that a beverage program needs to be inclusive and not just give teetotalers the usual, pedestrian choice of iced tea or lemonade. Call them mocktails or just call them delicious drinks, but offering up mixed non-alcoholic beverages gives everyone—including kids—some more creative choices. “

2) As an, ahem, actual Recovering Bartender, in several senses of the phrase, I really like the humor in the subheading of the menu section you use for non alcoholic drinks, “Drivers, Kids, and Recovering Bartenders”. Who came up with that subheading and what sort of feedback do you get, positive or negative?

“I came up with it. It’s important not to take ourselves too seriously. Humor is a huge part of Tacolicious’s culture. “
3) Do you think having non-alcoholic drinks on the menu at Tacolicious increases their sales?
“Yes. Tons of people appreciate the fact that we’re looking out for them as much as the folks looking to imbibe a full-blown cocktail.”
4) What is a ball park figure for the percentage of non-alcoholic vs alcoholic drinks at your restaurants?
“We offer the Mia, Silas, and Moss on our regular menu (all named after our three kids), as well as housemade horchata and seasonal, housemade agua frescas. Of course the percentage of cocktails, beer and wine is higher than the NA, but we hope that we’re giving people enough options to satiate their desire for something non-alcoholic yet fun to drink. (And btw, you can always ask for our cocktails to be made without alcohol. The paloma is delicious without the tequila.)”

The Crafty Fox, 10.14.2016

Mrs Flannestad and I were not feeling particularly social, so we decided to try somewhere we hadn’t visited before. Well, and we were also both craving Fish & Chips, an item, which, at least executed well, is not particularly common in the SF Bay Area.

The Crafty Fox seemed like an interesting choice, and, indeed, it does appear to be quite popular with the well dressed tech set for an after work drink. Tables filtered in, had a round, and filtered back out.

However, not feeling social, does not mean that the reluctant teetotaler is off the job!

You will be pleased to know, at The Crafty Fox, I did ask the bartender, “What are your non-alcoholic options?” To which he replied, “We have Root Beer on draft, Mexican Coca-Cola, and Fizzy Water.”

Is the Root Beer, perhaps, Devil’s Canyon Root Beer? My favorite of all Root Beers?

Why, yes, yes it is!


The Cavalier, 10.11.2016

Apparently, The Cavalier is another restaurant that feels that the listing of any non-alcoholic options on their dinner menu is a waste of space.

So, I won’t waste much space on them.

(To be fair, they do list “Fresh Juices and Refreshers” on their Lunch, Brunch, and Breakfast menus. Not sure why they fall out of consideration for the dinner menu.)


An interesting phenomena of recent years has been the bar with really tasty food.

When we first moved to San Francisco, circa the early 90s, the restaurant and cocktail worlds were pretty separate.

You could get awesome food in many restaurants, but rarely in those same restaurants could you get good cocktails. Actually, often you couldn’t get ANY cocktails at all. Wine was King in upscale dining. And while you could get good cocktails in bars, rarely could you get food much more advanced than fries and an adequate burger.

I hate to single out one person and one restaurant, but I think when the Slanted Door added cocktails and allowed Thad Vogler to bring his vision of upscale cocktails in upscale dining locations to that restaurant, and every other restaurant he worked in after, it was the shot heard ’round the world, at least in the Bay Area.

Suddenly, you could get a good drink that wasn’t wine in a fancy restaurant.

More recently that idea has been turned on its head by bars like Alembic, Trick Dog, Old Bus, and Tosca Cafe, some of which have been making the Chronicle annual Best Restaurants list. Suddenly, you can get not just an OK burger in a BAR, but REALLY good food.

However, having REALLY good food in a bar means that people who wouldn’t ordinarily be going out to bars to drink/drank/drunk with their friends, like, say, ME, have a reason to visit those selfsame bars.

And while I know Trick Dog has always made a point of having non-alcoholic options, (thanks to fellow traveler Josh Harris,) Tosca Cafe shows that this isn’t always the case at this arguably new form of bar/restaurant.

IF you are going to the trouble to have food which might attract a larger audience than your average bar, THEN perhaps you should also provide some beverage menu options for those of us who might not otherwise be attracted to hang out in your bar.