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Taco Bell Opens an Automat in Times Square

Plus, 7 Grain Army is hosting a bake sale ahead of its full opening next month — and more intel

A clubby counter-service restaurant with a handful of stools, tables, chairs, and tile floors appears in purple lighting due to overhead lights Taco Bell [Official]

Canned White Claw and Crunchwrap Supremes are on the menu at the new Taco Bell flagship in Times Square

Taco Bell appears to be moving forward with its New York expansion plans this week, as the company opens the doors of its newest cantina restaurant in Times Square. The location has been in the works since before the pandemic, but its opening plans have been as quiet as the tourist-barren streets in the neighborhood. The New York Post now has a first look inside the space.

The new location, a sprawling flagship of the company’s boozy cantina restaurant concept, appears to be cashing in on the rise of the automat and is almost completely automated with little human interaction. Customers place their orders at a line of kiosks in the restaurant and Crunchwrap Supremes emerge in a series of locked cubbies on the opposite wall. A lone Taco Bell employee is stationed at its front counter taking orders from the restaurant’s alcohol menu, which includes beer on tap, boozy frozen drinks, and canned White Claw hard seltzers.

The Midtown restaurant is all part of Taco Bell’s bigger plans for the five boroughs, which — at least before the pandemic — included opening 50 cantina locations by 2022. The company appears to have scaled back that goal since the coronavirus pandemic, but only slightly: The newest location is the brand’s 20th cantina in New York state, and there are plans to open another 25 restaurants before the end of the year, the Post reports.

In other news

— David Kinch, the chef behind California’s three-Michelin-starred Manresa, is bringing an outpost of his acclaimed restaurant to New York City this month. Kinch will be operating out of Intersect by Lexus, the Meatpacking District cafe and restaurant, beginning on April 30, according to a restaurant spokesperson.

— 7 Grain Army, the long-awaited sophomore project from Scratchbread chef Matthew Tilden, is hosting a bake sale ahead of its full opening next month. The preview menu includes gluten-free pastries, bread, and — yes — Tilden’s beloved Anson Mills grits from the original location. Pre-order for pick-up on April 20.

— Breads Bakery is the latest restaurant to make the pivot to pandemic pizza. Beginning on April 20, chef Wylie Dufresne will be selling a couple of pies and a scrambled egg calzone from the bakery’s Union Square location. Available for pickup Tuesdays through Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. by ordering ahead of time.

— More restaurant perks this week for vaccinated New Yorkers: Customers who show their vaccine cards at MáLà Project in the East Village and Midtown will receive a free appetizer from now through June. Takeout and dine-in only.

— Battered by a year of coronavirus and a surge in anti-Asian hate crimes locally, small businesses in Brooklyn’s Chinatown are fighting to “slowly edge back to life.”

— Newly opened Cutlets Sandwich Co. teamed up with Rubirosa in Little Italy to make this this vodka chicken parm sandwich, available until April 25.

— Gothamist finds “top tier” Korean fried chicken at Chick Chick on the Upper West Side.

— Three food businesses vie for liquor licenses in the East Village this week.

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