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This New Year’s Eve, Pair Fast Food With Bubbly

Champagne and fast food are the perfect pairing to send off 2020

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Two mostly full glasses of Champagne. stockcreations/Shutterstock
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

This post originally appeared in the December 28, 2020 edition of The Move, a place for Eater’s editors to reveal their recommendations and pro dining tips — sometimes thoughtful, sometimes weird, but always someone’s go-to move. Subscribe now.

This year, as I have for many years, I will be having fast food and Champagne on New Year’s Eve. A Shake Shack just opened in my neighborhood, so maybe I’ll get that… but then again, 2018’s Panda Express hit the right note, and I’d be very open to a repeat performance. I don’t know what fast-food options you have in your area, but chances are you’ve got a few. And I highly recommend joining in on my little tradition Thursday night.

In the Before Times, my argument was simple. Restaurants tend to be crowded on New Year’s Eve, and anyway, those special menus are generally overpriced. Ticketed parties are never as fun as they promise. So that gets us home, but, after the work of the holidays, I’m certainly not up for cooking (and cleaning up after) another big meal. Fast-food takeout, on the other hand, is cheap, doesn’t require any advance planning, and is enough outside the rhythm of my typical dinner routine that it still feels like I’m marking the occasion — especially once I add the requisite bubbly.

Champagne — or really any dry-ish, sparkling white wine you want — pairs so, so well with fried food. Like soda, the bubbles cut through the fat that’s inherent in a fast-food meal. I find it works especially well with fast-food fried chicken, whether from a Popeyes combo box, a McDonald’s nugget order, or a clamshell with Panda Express orange chicken. To really lean into the high-low energy I cultivate on New Year’s, I do like to make sure the wine itself is a good bottle. It could be a fizzy pét-nat or crémant, but on New Year’s Eve I prefer sticking to the classics: Veuve Clicquot, or, if I’ve got more money to spend, Perrier-Jouët or Dom Pérignon.

Fast food and Champagne has the same vibe as leaving a crowded party to get something to eat with your real friends. You wouldn’t turn to fancy dinner in that situation, or any place that would make you wait. Even though I’ve personally never snuck wine into a fast-food restaurant, Sideways style, the meal always conjures memories of after-the-afterparty moments from younger, wilder days. Now, I skip the party entirely and stick with the aftermath.

This year, of course, the party isn’t even an option. But at home, with whoever we have in our household or pod, we can still enjoy the best part of the big New Year’s party — the part when it’s over. And isn’t that a fitting end to 2020, anyway?

P.S. In the event you don’t polish off the whole bottle in one evening, some tools to keep that bottle of bubbly sparkling for days.