By Shanti Nagarkatti | Community Contributor
Filling a basket or cart with groceries and sundries is a key component of any Target run. Relaxing in the store with a glass of wine does not enter into the experience, until now, with the opening of a new, 24,000-square-foot Target Express at 401 E. Illinois Street.
The small format Target, housed in the space formerly occupied by upscale grocer Fox & Obel, features an edited selection of merchandise shoppers often seek on a quick errand run. The new location is Target’s first store to serve alcohol on site, in a Starbucks. Customers can purchase wine and beer at this Starbucks beginning at 2 p.m. on weekdays (Monday-Friday) and 12 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Alcoholic drinks must be consumed only within the café and may not be taken to any other part of the store. The “Starbucks Evenings” menu features wine and craft beers as well as a selection of small plates, with items like bacon-wrapped dates, truffle mac and cheese, flatbreads, and a cheese plate.
Although this Target is scaled down compared to traditional locations, it is a convenient addition to the neighborhood, serving tourists, workers, and condo and apartment dwellers.
A recent Sunday afternoon saw several guests seated in the café, taking in the sun coming through ample windows and enjoying an unobstructed view of the Chicago River. Exposed-brick walls and open rafter ceilings lend industrial chic character to the space and make visitors forget that they are in a shrunken big-box store.
Target’s in-store bar is part of a growing trend of traditionally “dry” retailers testing the waters of allowing their clientele to imbibe. In Chicago, Mariano’s and Whole Foods serve food and alcohol inside their stores. A Taco Bell Cantina in Wicker Park has wine, beer, and boozy freezes on the menu, while the Mag Mile Nordstrom has added to its second floor Habitant, a casual lounge featuring light fare, wine, and handcrafted cocktails. At the 101-year-old Three Arts Club building in the Gold Coast, a new, swanky Restoration Hardware flagship has set up shop, unveiling six floors of furniture and home décor. The store’s Arts Club Café, on the first-floor atrium, includes a coffee shop, wine bar, and restaurant for thirsty and hungry shoppers. These establishments and the prospect of more new entrants promise to promote an interesting local shopping and sipping scene.
Target Express, 401 East Illinois Street, (312) 894-1764, open 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.