Champagne with that cheeseburger? Sparkling wine bars mix the exotic with the everyday

Champagne isn’t just for celebrating.

Bubbly is starring on bar menus as an approachable, everyday sip to accompany comfort foods such as burgers, fries and tater tot waffles.

At the Riddler, a San Francisco-based Champagne bar with a newly opened outpost in New York City, restaurateur Jen Pelka crafted a treat-yourself bucket list that comprises more than 100 different kinds of bubbles available by the glass or bottle.

"I love Champagne, it's my favorite thing to drink," Pelka told FOX Business. "It allows you to elevate every day, or celebrate something special -- it can be a Wednesday night and if you open a bottle of Champagne, it could be a really special occasion."

The Riddler, a Champagne bar with locations in San Francisco and New York City. (Jordan Wise).

Sparkling wines from around the world and Champagne by the glass range in price from $15 to $28; bottles start at $55 and rise as high as $1,800 for rare vintages. Some of the most popular varieties include extra-brut bottles from Emmanuel Brochet and a brut reserve from Billecart Salmon.

The food menu is meant to be both refined and indulgent, with $78 caviar and raw bar bites such as oysters as well as items like the burger with fries tossed in rosemary, perfect for cutting through the acidity of the sparkling wine. Other highlights include a frisée salad served with a poached egg and warm bacon vinaigrette, and the white truffle risotto, made with brown butter and Parmesan.

French Champagne makers say the U.S. market is slowly starting to buy bubbly outside of celebratory occasions such as weddings or holidays.

“Champagne is a common choice throughout France for it is a light, refreshing, crisp drink, and it is served without formality, often in regular, non-stemmed glasses,” said Godefroy Baijot, export director at Champagne Besserat de Bellefo.

"There is still some way to go before champagne will be considered an informal or casual drink, as it is in France, yet that’s definitely the direction in which people are going in the U.S.," he added. "The recent popularity of other sparkling wines – like Moscato d’Asti – has made bubbles more commonplace.”

“The recent popularity of other sparkling wines – like Moscato d’Asti – has made bubbles more commonplace.” 

- Godefroy Baijot, export director at Champagne Besserat de Bellefon, said

Sparkling wine sales including Champagne in the U.S. grew 6.3 percent between 2018 and 2019, up one percentage point from 2017, according to data from Euromonitor International.

Baijot says all champagnes can be paired with food, but some types work better with seafood dishes. Classic brut champagne, he says, would pair best with a basket of fried shellfish, clams, oysters and fries, he advised.

Several champagne bars have sprung up in recent years. Air’s Champagne Parlor opened up in New York’s West Village in 2017, and there’s Flute Champagne Bar, a candlelit lounge with live music.

Chef Sarah Simmons, an early pioneer in the high-low food and drinks trend, opened the now-closed restaurant Birds and Bubbles in 2014, serving up Champagne and fried chicken.

Baijot predicts more restaurants embrace the trend.

“The fact that one finds champagne bars in cities throughout the U.S., which often serve simple snack foods along with the wine, exemplifies the change,” he said.