If you’re planning the menu for your restaurant and wondering what the best restaurant appetizers are to attract customers, this is the post for you. Appetizers set the tone for the meal and can be a chance to show off your restaurant’s unique character. Plus, the best restaurant appetizers are great for sharing, and will entice your guests to try more items on the menu! Check out our suggestions below.
Best Appetizers for Bars, Pubs and Casual Restaurants
Whether your guests are cozied up to the bar, enjoying a cocktail on a sunny deck, or looking for a casual meal, they’re sure to want some appetizers to pair with their drink or before they dig into their main course. Here are the best restaurant appetizers for bars and casual eateries:
Nachos are always a crowd pleaser. No longer limited to Mexican restaurants, nachos can be served with a variety of toppings and adapted to your restaurant’s unique vibe. Traditional toppings include cheese, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream, and guacamole, but more elaborate versions add on pulled pork, chili, beans, olives, lettuce, and more. You can go even bolder and add unusual ingredients to your nachos, like octopus.
To make nachos, start with tortilla chips. Then, add any meat or beans and your favorite cheese (nacho cheese, cheddar, mozzarella, cotija – you choose!). Put under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Then add your cold toppings, such as salsa, sour cream, guacamole, etc. Serve with fresh scallions or cilantro to take them to the next level!
Chicken wings are an American classic, and one of the best restaurant appetizers to adapt to your restaurant’s cuisine. Traditional Buffalo wings can be found on menus around the country, but chicken wings can be served with an Asian-inspired twist, honey garlic sauce, and baked or fried. If you’re going to serve Buffalo wings at your establishment, don’t forget the celery sticks and blue cheese or ranch dip!
Sliders are another dish that is easy to adapt to your restaurant. These mini burgers can be served plain, with cheese, bacon, onion, lettuce, tomato, and anything else you would put on a hamburger. Or you can mix it up and try different variations, like chicken and biscuit sliders, or bagel breakfast sliders.
We love classic cheeseburger sliders. To make them, use ground beef, cheddar cheese, dinner rolls or Hawaiian sweet rolls, onion, and relish. You can form the mini beef patties and grill individually or press the ground beef into a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Top with cheese when almost cooked, then place in buns and finish off with onion and relish. There you have it, one of the best restaurant appetizers that’s sure to please your guests!
Best Restaurant Appetizers for More Upscale Dining
Whether your restaurant features Mediterranean flavors, French cuisine, seafood, or more, you’ll be able to adapt these elegant appetizer options to your restaurant’s unique characteristics.
Cheese and Charcuterie Boards
Who doesn’t love a cheese or charcuterie board? This fun appetizer is great for sharing, and you can rotate in different meats and cheeses depending on the season or what’s available from your favorite suppliers. Whether your restaurant serves Spanish, French, Italian, or even Middle Eastern cuisine, a cheese and charcuterie board is a terrific way to showcase regional specialties while adding your own twist.
To make a show-stopping cheese and charcuterie board, choose your favorite cheeses and cured meats. Try to offer a variety, and include some familiar offerings (brie, Manchego) alongside unique or less well-known regional specialties. Then add accompaniments such as pickles or olives and crackers or bread and arrange on a board or decorative plate or platter. Your guests are sure to love it!
Crab cakes are a delicious, elegant option to serve as an appetizer at your restaurant. Here, the quality of the ingredients is essential, and you should work with your supplier to find the highest-quality, freshest all-lump crab meat. While the other ingredients may vary depending on which region of the country you’re in or what type of cuisine your restaurant serves, we love using mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, panko breadcrumbs, and just a dash of hot sauce to bind our crab cakes together and give them a great flavor. Then, form into patties and pan fry (or bake). Crab cakes can be served over a salad, with lemon wedges and tartar sauce, or even with fries or cole slaw.
Crostini are another versatile option and make for some of the best restaurant appetizers. They’re also easy to make and offer the possibility of changing up flavors and ingredients with the season or to use whatever ingredients are the freshest. They are also a great way to use up slightly stale bread since the bread will be toasted and crisped in the oven.
Here are our tips for making standout crostini:
-Start with great bread. Baguettes are traditional, but French bread and sourdough are other excellent options. Any elongated, crusty bread will work.
-Slice your bread on the diagonal to create larger crostini with plenty of room for toppings.
-Lightly brush on both sides with olive oil.
-Toast crostini in the oven or throw on the grill to achieve a smoky flavor and appealing grill marks.
-Sprinkle with salt, and then add your toppings. Find some ideas for toppings below.
Dips and Spreads: You can serve the crostini with a dip, or slather on a spread. Some popular dips and spreads include hummus, pimento cheese, whipped feta, avocado pesto, caponata, and baked goat cheese.
Cheese and cured meat: top with your favorite cheese or meat, or a combination.
Vegetables and garlic: roasted brussels sprouts, carrot, cauliflower, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, etc.
Additional toppings: You can add honey, jam, fruit, pickles or pickled vegetables, herbs, pitted olives or tapenade, balsamic glaze, and more to pair with your main toppings.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless. So, get creative and make a version that is unique to your restaurant!
Whether you’re running a bar, casual restaurant, or want to offer your customers a fine dining experience, choosing the best restaurant appetizers for your particular establishment will help set the tone and leave your customers wanting more. Great appetizers are easy to adapt to your cuisine and the season and are fun to share with your fellow diners. We hope our ideas have helped inspire you to get experimenting in the kitchen!