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By
Matthew Krimmel

Best Bar and Restaurant Appetizers Origins and Variations

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An appetizer is a small dish consumed before a meal or the main course of a meal. It's a practical way to stimulate a person's appetite before dining, and it can boost how much bars make. It's usually a small dish--just a few bites--to allow enough room for eating the entrée later in the meal. It can also be a starter on a restaurant or bar menu.

Appetizers are served both hot and cold. Restaurants serve them at the table as part of the meal, or servers distribute them before seating guests at a wedding or cocktail party. Many bars will include them on their menu for "happy hour" specials to partner with beer, wine, and liquor-including types of rum. Some menus at high-end restaurants will include specific wine pairings for appetizers, such as wine pairing with salmon and turkey wine pairing options. 

The best appetizers stand on their own as a small snack or support the entrée. Many fine dining restaurants include an appetizer or hors d'oeuvre. The cost to open a bar often includes the cost of keeping a stock of these small dish options.

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Appetizer Etymology

The word for an appetizer in the French language is "hors d'oeuvre," which means "outside the work." Its intended linguistic meaning is "not part of the ordinary set of courses in a meal."

The spelling in French takes the same form for singular and plural. In English, hors d'oeuvres is the plural spelling.

Appetizer Origins and Variations

Appetizer Origins

There is some debate about whether the custom of appetizers began in China or Russia. Some historians believe they started in China and moved into Russia through Steppes.

After long journeys, Russian travelers often ate fish, meat, and caviar snacks. Appetizers spread from Russia to Scandinavia, France, Italy, Persia, and the Balkan lands. As a result, many new national customs came into existence.

Appetizer Variations

In Sweden, a "smorgasbord" is a buffet-style meal served with various hot and cold dishes. In Russia, this custom became "zakuska," meaning "something to bite after." People eat from an assortment of cold snacks after taking a shot of vodka.

Antipasto is the traditional first course of an Italian meal. The usual ingredients of Italian antipasto include olives, mushrooms, anchovies, cured and pickled meats, various cheeses, and vegetables in oil and vinegar.

Best Bar Appetizers

Classic bar food is the perfect companion to enjoying a few cold drinks. People often arrive at a bar directly after work, meaning they don't have time to eat dinner. They're eager to drink with friends or colleagues but don't want to consume alcohol on an empty stomach.

Appetizers are a great way to attract them to your bar. Include some tasty appetizers in your bar promotion ideas to increase sales for both food and beverages. Every bar menu should include a list of appetizers to pair with a drink for a reasonable price.

Here is a list of seven popular bar appetizers that are great with alcohol:

  • Chicken quesadillas are a quick and tasty appetizer that offers chopped chicken, cheese, and peppers for your bar snack.
  • Sliders should use high-quality meat, fresh and soft buns, and cheese that melts in your mouth.
  • Mozzarella sticks come breaded with deep-fried cheese-perfect with marinara sauce or ranch dressing.
  • Beer-battered onion rings should be crispy and offer a distinct beer flavor- perfect for eating at the bar.
  • Spinach and artichoke dip contains chunks of artichokes and sautéed spinach with creamy béchamel and chips.
  • Buffalo wings should be meaty with crispy skin combined with an excellent dipping sauce.
  • Nachos with beef, chopped tomatoes, and sour cream are the perfect side to a glass of ice-cold beer.

Best Restaurant Appetizers

Any food item served before the main course is technically an appetizer. However, the phrase specifically defines individual items (fitting the a la carte meaning of a menu) such as fruit or cheese.

If the period between the arrival of guests and the main course is long, appetizers could also sustain guests during the waiting period. Some of these dishes even cross into the aphrodisiac meaning theme, especially if they're being served around Valentine's Day.

Here is a list of ten popular appetizers or hors d'oeuvres:

  • Bruschetta is an antipasto from Italy made of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and coated with olive oil and salt.
  • Canapés consist of a small piece of bread, cracker, or puff pastry wrapped with savory food.
  • Caviar is food made from salt-cured roe from wild sturgeon in the Black or Caspian Sea.
  • Deviled eggs are hard-boiled eggs that have been shelved, cut in half, and filled with egg yolk mixed with mayonnaise or mustard.
  • Dumplings are pieces of dough wrapped around a filling. They also may be made from the dough without filling.
  • Fried mushrooms are deep-fried mushrooms dipped in batter.
  • Pigs in blankets are tiny sausages wrapped in dough and served with mustard or aioli dipping sauce.
  • A smoked egg is a food that involves the smoking of eggs and fish eggs.
  • Spanakopita is a Greek savory spinach pie, often containing cheese.
  • Tongue toast is an open sandwich made from scrambled eggs and sautéed beef tongue, seasoned with black pepper and onions.
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Offering Appetizers to Customers

When choosing appetizers to offer your customers, think about your restaurant's theme and which appetizers are appropriate for your menu. Your executive chef and sous chef should have skills and ideas for which appetizers would work best.

If you own or manage a fine dining restaurant, appetizers might be the first part of your guests' full-course meal. If you own a Mexican restaurant and want to offer Cinco de Mayo restaurant specials, consider serving Mexican food appetizers.

Consider which appetizers are the best snacks while your customers enjoy a drink at your bar. They probably don't want to spend too much money on appetizers since they will be ordering a few drinks from the bartender.

If you choose great appetizers for your restaurant or bar, and track sales with the right restaurant KPI, then customers will keep coming back. You can include them in your restaurant SEO strategy to improve your restaurant's visibility.

Whether they're part of a full-course meal or an evening with friends at the bar, a tasty appetizer can enhance a guest's experience. And it can help make sure they won't dine and dash.

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