Taco Bell Cantina opens in downtown Cleveland, adding to the new wave of restaurants

Posted at 4:21 PM, Jun 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-14 07:31:02-04

The wait is over for Crunch Wrap Supreme fans who want to eat their favorite dish with a cold beer or frozen alcoholic drink in the heart of Cleveland.

Taco Bell Cantina is opening in downtown, directly across from Public Square at 200 Euclid Avenue. Patrons will not find a drive-thru, but they will find alcoholic beverages and an urban twist on this suburban mainstay.

The grand opening on June 14 at 11:00 a.m. will mark the national food chain's sixth Cantina location in the U.S. It's unusual to see a fast food chain like Taco Bell, which is built on the drive-thru model, appear in urban areas like Cleveland.

"A big portion of our growth is built into what we call these urban inline models where typically, for Taco Bell, you see drive-thrus in suburban areas and we really haven't penetrated the urban markets because it has been a challenge obviously without a drive-thru," said Matt Prince, Brand Engagement Manger for Taco Bell. 

"The majority of our consumers come to our restaurant via drive-thru but I think what we have seen is when you can come to a vibrant city like Cleveland or Wicker Park or Austin, you don't have to rely on drive-thrus when you have other amazing offerings."  Matt Prince, Taco Bell. 

While the Taco Bell Cantina will the feature same menu most regulars are used to, the absence of a drive-thru means the addition of cold draft beer and alcohol-infused slushies called "Twisted Freezes." A tasty addition to the massive menu is the tapas-style section, also known as "Shareables." These include appetizers like nachos, quesadillas and chicken fingers that are meant to be shared and celebrated. (Click NEXT PAGE for grand opening details)

Prince says the offering of alcohol with an open kitchen more than compensates for the lack of a drive-thru. 

"It's such a vibrant downtown. Such a great location and fits perfectly within our growth strategy," Prince said about the decision to build the next Cantina in Cleveland.

Construction started on April 10 and took just over 60 days to complete. Prince said out of the 2,000 Taco Bells scheduled to be built worldwide in the next five years, about 300 or 15 percent of them will be Cantinas.

When customers walk in, they are greeted with symbols of Cleveland pride—from the carved wooden skyline above the seating area to the large sign above the kitchen spelling out "Taco Bell loves Cleveland," partially in emojis.

The kitchen holds pride of place. Decorated with bright purple walls, twisted orange lights and Cleveland-themed decor, it could easily be mistaken for a trendy gallery. 

Grand opening highlights:

  • Get in line early because the first 100 customers will get a limited wine and gold colored Taco Bell t-shirt. Doors open at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, June 14.
  • Hours: Sunday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday 7 a.m. to 3 a.m.
  • A DJ will be spinning tracks to the beat of crunching tacos during the evening of the first week.
  • Get social with it:  A television screen is hung in the dining space, allowing guests to use the hashtag #TacoBellCLE for a chance to share their foodie experience with Cleveland.