Bar Food Menu Ideas Your Customers Will Love
The bar business is incredibly competitive, and one of the best ways to stand out from the competition is to have a killer menu for people to choose from when they come to your establishment.
In this article, we will give you tons of ideas for optimizing your bar menu with bar and pub food and drinks that your customers will love, keeping them coming back for more time and time again.
Best Bar Appetizers and Bar Snacks
1. Chicken Quesadillas
Chicken quesadillas are a quick and tasty appetizer that offers chopped chicken, cheese, and peppers for your bar snack. Consider putting a Mexican-inspired twist and add some jalapenos in for a spicy bite!
When patrons are in the mood for a burger but couldn’t eat a whole one, or maybe they can’t decide exactly what kind of burger they want, then sliders are the perfect solution. Sliders should use high-quality meat, fresh and soft buns, and cheese that melts in their mouth.
3. Mozzarella Sticks
Mozzarella sticks come breaded with deep-fried cheese-perfect with marinara sauce or ranch dressing.
4. Beer-Battered Onion Rings
Beer-battered onion rings should be crispy and offer a distinct beer flavor- perfect for eating at the bar.
5. Spinach Artichoke
Spinach and artichoke dip contains chunks of artichokes and sautéed spinach with creamy béchamel and chips.
6. Buffalo Wings
Usually deep-fried and spicy, Buffalo sauce-covered chicken wings are the perfect bar appetizer or bar snack. The name ‘Buffalo’ derives from Buffalo in New York, where this delicious flavor combo was invented. Buffalo wings should be meaty with crispy skin combined with an excellent dipping sauce like blue cheese dressing.
7. Chicken Strips
While wings might be the most popular part of a chicken to deep fry, don’t ignore the rest of the bird as all manner of crispy fried chicken remains popular, especially in the deep south. Chicken strips and fingers are probably the best poultry-based alternative to Buffalo wings, though be sure to have plenty of dips and condiments to serve them with.
Nachos with beef, chopped tomatoes, and sour cream are the perfect finger food to go along with a glass of ice-cold beer. While chips and nachos are never going to bring in huge amounts of profit, they do provide a cheap and cheerful snack for bar patrons, especially groups of friends who want to share some finger food without bothering with a bigger snack or meal.
Often found in small bowls along bars, a plentiful supply of peanuts is a good idea for many bars as they can prevent some patrons from leaving to find food as well as increasing their thirst with their saltiness, resulting in increased drink sales!
10. Clam Chowder
Clam chowder soup is great as a starter or as a quick snack all by itself. There are various ways to serve it too, including New England style with cream, or Manhattan style with tomatoes.
11. BBQ Snack Mix
Cheese-flavored crackers, small pretzels, crispy rice cereal squares, and honey-roasted peanuts mix it up with barbecue seasoning and paprika. This wonderful bar snack is perfect for those who want to munch on something while waiting for their entree, and it is certain to get the palette ready for some ice-cold drinks.
12. Homestyle Potato Chips
This is a classic bar snack that customers are sure to love. It's often hard to find great homestyle potato chips so it's a plus if you cook them in the kitchen before serving them. These salty munchies go great with beer and bourbon.
It's so simple but so delicious! Make the popcorn fresh to eat and customers won’t be able to stop themselves from devouring the whole thing in minutes. Like many of the other salty treats enumerated above, popcorn gets the palette craving ice-cold brews. So while the popcorn itself might not have much effect on the profit margin, the ensuing drinks certainly will!
14. French Fries
No bar, sports bar, or pub menu is complete without some crispy french fries. French fries are a favorite with just about any type of bar meal, and you can even mix it up by offering potato wedges! Moreover, you could upgrade the fries to cheese fries with cheddar, gouda, and chives, for a luxuriously indulgent snack.
15. Tortilla Chips and Guacamole
Bars that make good guacamole are often successful bars with loyal customers. People simply love avocado dips, so if your bar can master the recipe, your customers will certainly pay you for it by frequenting your bar whenever they are looking for this delicious snack. Maybe even consider having a promotion for this snack during happy hour!
15. Roasted Veggies
Roasted cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, or other roasted vegetable assortments are a perfect snack for the more health-conscious of bar patrons or those on diets. Not to mention that they simply taste delicious and can appeal to all sorts of customers!
Best Bar Entrees
1. Bacon Cheeseburger
If you’re going to serve mini burger platters for sharing, then be prepared to serve the full bacon cheeseburger too. One of the most enduringly popular American-style burgers is the classic hamburger with melted cheese and smoky bacon.
2. Corn Dogs
What else can you do with hot dogs in ground corn batter but deep fry them on a stick? These are perhaps most popular at carnivals and county fairs, but their enduring popularity makes them a good bet for any establishment looking to serve popular snacks, especially if your bar has an outdoor area.
Of course, if we’re going to start talking about classic American food, then barbeque ribs will have to enter the conversation at some point. Pork or beef is good as long as they are drenched in a smoky barbeque sauce and the meat practically slides off the bone.
The United States has adopted plenty of international cuisine into their snack repertoire of course, with the ever-popular tacos inspired by Mexican food. Just fill the taco with some ground beef, diced tomatoes, and sour cream, then add a little bit of lettuce to make it healthy!
5. Chicken Noodle Soup
Another soup dish that serves as an excellent snack food is the classic chicken noodle. With noodles and vegetables and that tasty chicken flavoring, this is a great alternative soup snack offering to clam chowder.
6. Beef Chili
Another soupy dish worth offering as a bar snack food is the classic chili. Some beef and tomatoes with a few beans in a bowl are all you need for a filling and healthy snack.
7. Sloppy Joe
If you’re not in the mood for soup but fancy yourself some beefy goodness, tuck into a Sloppy Joe ground beef sandwich. The tangy flavoring is mouth-wateringly tasty, though the sandwich can get a bit messy!
8. Reuben Sandwich
For a more refined and manageable sandwich, try the internationally-flavored Reuben featuring Swiss cheese on salt-cured beef with Russian dressing drizzled over German sour cabbage. Eat with rye bread for an exceptionally tasty sandwich snack.
9. Peanut Butter and Jelly
While we’re talking about sandwiches, no list of American bar snacks is complete without the vintage peanut butter and jelly version. The creamy and salty peanut butter complements the fruit jelly perfectly.
10. Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Melted cheese on toasted bread is the stuff of dreams for many a bar-frequenting American. Add a slice or two of tomato for the healthier option, or a bit of bacon for the extra tasty option.
There’s no need to install a massive stone oven to serve up traditional Italian pizza, but the popular flavor combination of bread, cheese and tomato will always have a place among the most popular bar snacks in the United States. Serve as mini pizzas or in slices to best accommodate your bar patrons.
12. Cheese Steaks
This bar staple is a sandwich made of thinly sliced beef — usually frozen chip steak — cooked on a griddle and served on a sliced roll with cheese and either with or without onions. The cheese is typically American cheese, provolone or melted Cheez Whiz. This dish rightly takes its place as a staple of American farm foods.
Best Bar Drinks
1. Old Fashioned
There may be no better test of a bartender's mettle than ordering an Old Fashioned. The recipe is simple:
- 2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 sugar cube or 1 tsp sugar
- Orange twist garnish
Cloyingly sweet margarita mixes have given this drink a bad name. A well-made version is a fresh mix of lime juice and tequila, with a hint of sweetener:
- 2 oz silver tequila
- 1 oz Cointreau
- 1 oz lime juice
- Salt for the rim
The cosmo became almost ubiquitous in the '90s thanks to the TV show Sex and the City, but this spin on the martini remains just as tasty today as when Carrie Bradshaw made it famous.
- 1.5 oz citrus vodka
- 1 oz Cointreau
- .5 oz lime juice
- .25 oz cranberry juice
A favorite of bartenders all over the world, the Negroni is a simple three-ingredient cocktail:
- 1 oz gin
- 1 oz Campari
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
5. Moscow Mule
Popular for good reason, the Moscow Mule is one of the most refreshing things to sip on a hot summer day. Its suggested vessel, a copper mug, also just looks sharp.
- 2 oz vodka
- 4 to 6 oz ginger beer
- .5 oz lime juice
Originating in Cuba, this refreshing rum-based sip is filled with mint and lime—a perfect combination for sipping by the pool or beach.
- 3 mint leaves
- 2 oz white rum
- .75 oz lime juice
- .5 oz simple syrup
7. Craft Beer
The demand for craft beer from small independent breweries continues to grow at an astounding pace. Any successful bar should make sure to have some local craft beer options available for customers looking for a unique taste.
8. Whiskey Sour
Perhaps the most refreshing whiskey cocktail, this is an old reliable favorite.
- 2 oz whiskey
- 1 oz lemon juice
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 egg white (optional)
9. French 75
Created during World War I, the name of this drink was supposedly inspired by the fact that taking a sip of it feels like getting shelled with a French 75mm field gun, a powerful piece of artillery.
- 2 oz gin
- 2 dashes simple syrup
- .5 oz lemon juice
Created sometime in the mid-1800s, the Manhattan is one of the booziest classic drink recipes.
- 2 oz rye whiskey
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Low on alcohol and high on refreshment, the spritz has been a crowd-pleasing favorite aperitivo for more than two centuries. Though it can be made with any amaro or liqueur as a base, by far the best known version is the classic Aperol Spritz:
-Equal parts Aperol
-Equal parts Cinzano Prosecco
-Splash of Soda
12. Pimm’s Cup
The first official Pimm's bar popped up at the 1971 Wimbledon tournament, and now more than 80,000 points of the quintessential British summer cocktail are served to spectators every year. Here's the official recipe courtesy of Pimm's:
- 50 ml (about 1.75 oz) Pimm's No.1
- 150 ml (about 5 oz) lemonade
- Mint, orange, strawberries
- Cucumber to garnish
Presenting Your Menu
Now that we have gone over a bunch of incredible drink and food ideas for your bar menu, we should talk a little about how the presentation of the menu items and pricing can greatly influence the bar experience.
Many bars are moving away from traditional menu boards and paper menus to digital menu boards. Digital menu boards offer far more versatility than traditional menus, and they simply look so much better.
If you want to bring your bar into the modern age, a digital menu board is a great start, and you can get the digital signage functionality required for digital menu boards for free from Loop TV at no cost!
Creating the Perfect Bar Menu
While we have presented a ton of great ideas for food that your customers will love, there is ultimately no better resource of information than your customers themselves.
It’s important for bars and other businesses in the service industry to foster loyal customers and one of the best ways to do this is by getting customers engaged.
So reach out to your customers on social media and ask them what kinds of food and drinks they would like to see on your menu!