Tasty gourmet bar snacks

Bar Snacks Don’t Need To Be Difficult — Quick ‘n’ Easy Treats with Signature Flair are Low-Cost, High-Profit Winners.

The F&B world appears to be moving towards artisanal/hand-crafted everything. And for the bar it helps to have a few quick and easy bar snacks that can be prepared in a snap but still manage to deliver signature flair — all while impressing guests without killing your bottom line.

So it helps to have some fast items at the bar that don’t sacrifice quality. And learn from the restaurant teams- try to pair your bar snacks with higher margin drinks to boost performance, and challenge the serving team to sell the snacks and suggested drinks to those who don’t appear to know what they wish to have.

But what makes bar snack ideas go from boring to brilliant, and daunting to doable? Some chefs say it’s best to stick with easy and delicious items — popcorn, raw veggies, potato chips, nuts, edamame — that can be made and signature-ized in minutes, and that use regular items either in your bar or kitchen area, so no extra stocks.

For example, make a meal from edamame by tossing the meaty soybeans with sesame oil, garlic and soy sauce. Served warm, this Garlic Edamame pairs well with Japanese beer, sake or  an Asian Vodka cocktail of vodka, fresh mint, shiso and lime juice.

Or build snacks on  high-quality pre-made or pre-prepped platforms.   Why not farm out some of the food preparation to out-sourced kitchens- you supply the recipe and they deliver the raw materials ready to be heated. For example what about creating your own proprietary recipe for “pigs in a blanket”- pork sausages dipped in special sauce and wrapped in bread dough- not sausage rolls, no bland sausages and pastry, make the sausage meet yourself with extra spices and yes yous bread dough for extra flavour and less fat. Make them off-site, have them delivered chilled and simply bake fresh when ordered. For the late night bar menu why not reuse some of the restaurant raw materials. One of the pictures shows how you can add some pizzazz by surrounding your tomtato sauce with a ring of mustard squirts for extra zing, and a great (high value) presentation.

Pigs in blanket with special tomato mustard from http://www.crumblycookie.net

Get your chef to rethink how to arrange the meal in a simpler manner to serve as a bar snack- finger service is better than using a knfe and fork.

Popcorn is a popular snack, but many shie away from having something this simple on the bar snack menus- don’t, just reimaging it as gourmet popcorn.  For example Salt & Vinegar popcorn add a tasty tang, toss fresh-popped corn in brown butter, salt and vinegar-powder (we've featured this earlier on this site). Pair with a Pale Ale. Or have BLT Popcorn with a sprinkling of finely chopped rendered bacon lardons, finely chopped dried tomatoes and some finely shredded sliced lettuce with lots of celery salt. Or Truffle Popcorn; fresh popped corn drizzled with white and dark chocolate, a touch of cayenne pepper and a seasoning of truffle salt to mix with a sweet cocktail.

You can vary popcorn flavours daily (maybe even serve as complimentary for bar guests) depending start with hot cayenne to complex Cajun to smoked salts, to freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh-cracked black pepper, sea salt and a drizzle of flavoured oil. 

Mix up your corn with popped rice cereal, wasabi peas, cashews, pretzel pieces and bagel chips, tossed with granulated onion and garlic, Worcestershire and soy sauces and butter.

What about gourmet nuts are another inexpensive snack that satisfies the hungry consumer? Roast peanuts, almonds and pistachio nuts in a brown sugar, rosemary, cayenne, salt and butter mixture to make Spiced Nuts.  Or Spicy Almonds - spice the pre-roasted nuts toss with smoked paprika/cayenne/fennel spice blend with olive oil, roast them for about 10 minutes.

Breads are a versatile addition to any bar snack menu. What about Warm Pretzel Trio – arrange your local bakery to create large soft par-baked pretzels and finish baking them onsite and serve with three creamy dips: Cheddar and Beer Fondue, Tomato Fondue (sweet plum tomatoes, cream, basil, olive oil, onion and parmesan cheese) and Honey-Mustard Butter. Pair this with a wheat beer.

Also toasted pitas; with house-made muhammara (spiced dipping blend of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, chilli paste, pepper jelly and pomegranate molasses), or home made zataar and olive oil.

An inspirational dip can make a meal out of a humble chip, pita or breadstick; such as  blue-cheese béchamel sauce fresh blue cheese crumbled over the top and a few shakes of Tabasco sauce.

Or maybe a little more innovation such as  wonton wrappers, cut into strips and seasoned. Or tortillas cut into wedges and deep fried as chips to form the base for Nachos using an existing topping from a main or appetizer you currently serve in the restaurant creates a great snack at the bar that requires no extra labour, skill or stocks. Creative cross-utilization of gourmet ingredients to make gourmet nachos: tortilla chips topped with pork ragout (from spaghetti on the menu), special cheese (from somewhere else on the menu), tomato and a fried egg. Or something from history re-imagined such as deep-fried Spam slices crunchy-fried, simply cuts low-sodium Spam into French-fry-sized spears, dredge them in self-rising flour and deep fries until crispy and serve with a spicy tomato ketchup blend (again your spaghetti sauce plus chilli and Thai Sweet Chili aioli if you have this on the menu.

Obviously, gourmet bar food has many iterations, from nachos to French fries, nut mixes to popcorn, but it doesn’t have to be difficult, and it certainly doesn’t have to be boring. By adding some easy treats to your menu, you’ll keep guests happy and keep them longer and turn bar sides into a strong margin contributor.


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Dean Loh