Hash House A Go Go, a seven-unit casual-dining chain known for its huge portions and over-the-top presentations, had to work extra hard on its beverage menu when founder Andy Beardslee opened the first location in San Diego in 2000: He didn’t have a liquor license.
“So they needed to come up with specialty beverages they could sell without alcohol,” said Jim Rees, the Hash House co-owner and partner who bought from Beardslee the right to open more locations. Rees has since opened four units in Las Vegas, one in Reno, Nev., and most recently, a Chicago location that opened six weeks ago.
Those units have full liquor licenses, but they have maintained the brand's heritage of specialty nonalcoholic beverages with a focus on detail.
“We do a virtually endless selection of coffee and mochas,” Rees said, simply by adding flavored syrups to a double shot of espresso. Then steamed two-percent milk is added for a latte, and chocolate milk is added for a mocha.
The espresso drinks are layered in a clear Lexington glass and then topped with more syrup. The glass is placed on a plate that's garnished with more syrup, and sometimes an added accoutrement “which carries the flavor profile from top to bottom,” Rees said.
For example, the Banana Latte is garnished with a quarter banana, still in the skin, that’s caramelized with a blowtorch and placed on the plate. The Butterscotch Latte is served with a butterscotch candy, and the Cinnamon Roll Latte comes with cinnamon sticks.
Other specialty drinks include the S’mores Mocha, served in a large white coffee cup and topped with caramelized marshmallows and graham crackers, and the Caramel All Over, served cold in a 20-ounce glass and topped with whipped cream and caramel. These specialty drinks cost $6.95, and the regular lattes and mochas are $5.95.
The single most popular drink at Hash House A Go Go is the Kiwi Watermelon Lemonade. For that item, kiwi syrup is squeezed into the bottom of a glass and topped with house-made lemonade and fresh-squeezed watermelon juice. The drink is served with a large watermelon wedge and a big straw for $4.95.
The Kiwi Watermelon Lemonade sells particularly well now that it’s being served in the chain’s new 20-ounce glasses that are built on a slant so that they look like they’re leaning. “It’s so much the visual. When you sell one, you sell 20,” Rees said. “It’s been a great program for us.”
Drinks are so popular at the restaurant that Hash House A Go Go is busy when other restaurants are empty. “One of our busiest times of the day is between 9:30 and noon, when most restaurants have nobody in them,” notes Rees, as customers come in for a leisurely lateor a drink.