Skip to main content

The bar’s future is here and it’s… in a container?

Where's the watering hole headed? This container bar in Boston is a good example

The future of the bar as we know it is in Bean Town. It’s the container bar at Yellow Door Taqueria, a model establishment that’s managed to take the pandemic in stride. And it’s shaping the way bars are headed going forward.

The bar opened this summer in Boston’s South End. The menu includes specialty cocktails, a family of Margaritas, and even shots of mezcal. But it’s the nature of the bar itself, set in a shiny red container on a sprawling patio, that’s part of a bigger food and drinks trend.

Yellow Door Taqueria bar in Boston.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

“It was a creative and fun way to improve the experience of our guests that prefer to dine outside, that isn’t permanent or extremely expensive to execute,” says Colleen Hagerty, co-owner of Yellow Door Taqueria. “COVID protocols will forever be embedded in our current and future standard operations. The introduction of a container bar brings an indoor dining experience outside where many post-pandemic guests prefer to dine.”

Per the city’s regulations, the bar will stay open until December, treating guests to al fresco sipping, grub, and to-go cocktails. It’ll reopen again next year after the offseason (the restaurant will remain open, of course). The food menu is taco-heavy, inspired by the cuisines of California and Mexico. It’s the kind of food and drinks you want to eat outside, if you can, as it’s evocative of a sun-parched street in Mexico City.

What makes it the sign of the times? In short, nailing all of the little things that restaurants have had to do in order to stay relevant during the pandemic. That includes a welcoming outdoor dining space, creative workarounds (a container bar, instead of an expensive buildout), forward thinking, building a strong staff, and, of course, to-go items. “Takeout is the new normal and we would much prefer our guests to have the opportunity to purchase our craft beverages to help keep those sales in house,” Hagerty says. “Takeout was and is a lifeline in navigating the pandemic.”

It’s no wonder the bar has been a success, with well-crafted drinks and an environment that’s at once fun and friendly. Restaurants all over the nation have adapted in similar fashion, putting loans to work by way of innovative patio areas, alleyways, rooftops, and more. Yellow Door has not only endured the last few years, but shuffled gracefully with it, embracing a dining crowd that’s forever changed.

Chips and dip from Yellow Door Taqueria.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

So what advice would Yellow Door offer to other restaurants trying to get by? “Invest in your front-of-house and back-of-house teams and elements of the business that will make you successful long term. You truly need to think three years out as so many new restaurants fail within that time frame,” Hagerty says.

She’s been to auctions lately where expensive equipment from failed restaurant enterprises are sold, like $1,000 bar stools and $10,000 coffee makers. “The $1,000 stool isn’t going to make poorly executed menu items taste better or improve poor guest service,” she says. “A $40 martini glass won’t fix a poorly made drink by an untrained bartender.”

These days, we’re craving the restaurant experience, perhaps more than ever. That experience is a combination of factors, some old (great cuisine and service), some born from the pandemic (al fresco options, social distancing). We’ve lost a lot of great ones since 2020, but many of the best are navigating forward smartly. Patrons have it pretty good at the moment and that’s got us pretty excited about eating and imbibing in the future.

“Restaurants reopening after the height of COVID brought so much happiness and joy to people that lost pieces of themselves to the quarantine stage of the pandemic,” Hagerty says. “Sharing meals together is many people’s love language. Date nights, birthdays, family members flying in to visit—the first question is always ‘where should we eat?’ Restaurants give cities their energy and there was a real loneliness without them during COVID.”

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
Move over, espresso martini — This whiskey-based coffee cocktail is so much better
Espresso martini alternatives: Meet the revolver cocktail

If you’re a fan of coffee-based cocktails, you probably get your caffeine fix from an Espresso Martini or a classic Irish Coffee. And while these drinks are all well and good, there’s another coffee-based cocktail you need to add to your boozy, energetic rotation. It’s called the Revolver, and instead of vodka or Irish whiskey, it gets its alcohol base from the use of good ‘ol American bourbon whiskey (or rye whiskey if you need a little extra, peppery spice in your life).

The simple, elegant, caffeinated cocktail is made with whiskey (bourbon or rye whiskey). Coffee liqueur, orange bitters, and, for a little flair, a flamed orange peel. Not only is it flavorful with a nice mixture of whiskey sweetness (or spice if you decide to go the rye whiskey route), citrus, and bold, robust coffee, but it’s also surprisingly easy to make.

Read more
7 fan-favorite budget whiskey bottles, ranked
7 budget whiskey bottles ranked

Whiskey is a great spirit to get into. Whether you’re buying to collect or to sip right now, you have your pick of Single malt Scotch whisky (only the U.S. and Ireland use the ‘e’ in whiskey), rye whiskey, bourbon, Japanese whisky, Irish whiskey, Canadian whisky, and whisk(e)ys from all corners of the globe. The best part? While there are tons of over-the-top, offensively expensive bottles, countless budget bottles are just waiting to be discovered.

Add to that, many well-known, fan-favorite budget whiskey bottles belong on your home bar cart or tucked away in your liquor cabinet — great sipping whiskeys, versatile mixing whiskeys, and everything in between. There’s something for every palate when it comes to budget bottles.

Read more
Why glasses made for bourbon actually matter
Here's why whiskey glasses matter

If you’re just a casual bourbon drinker, you might pour your favorite whiskey into a rocks glass with some crushed ice and call it good. We’re not here to say that your technique is bad. Everyone enjoys their bourbon differently, and we aren’t the judgmental type. But a master distiller or seasoned whiskey taster might say that by drinking your bourbon like this, you’re not getting remotely as much out of it as you could.

If you enjoy sipping bourbon, you should probably invest in at least one whiskey glass. And we’re not talking about the same glass you use to sip your Old Fashioneds. We're talking about a glass that was specifically created to be used for tasting whisky. A great whiskey glass will enhance the aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel of your favorite bourbon. Wouldn’t you want to enjoy all the aromas and flavors your favorite expression has to offer?

Read more