Party food bars are all the rage, and it seems like everyone is trying to one up everyone else with how “creative” their food bars can get. I was considering writing a funny post about a really ridiculous food bar, but you know what? I couldn’t find one that didn’t actually exist! Now, party food bars can be really fun. Who has ever turned up their nose at a nacho bar? No one! But, dear readers, I think it’s time we acknowledge that most people heading to a party aren’t thinking, “Gee, I really hope I have to make my own food when I get there!” There is one caveat to this, of course. If you actually are heading to a party specifically to make your own food – you know I love a good food competition, for example – then all these ideas are great! Otherwise, stick to nachos.
Party Food Bars you can Skip
1. Bloody Mary Bar
I know what you’re thinking. But Beth! Who wouldn’t want to have a Bloody Mary at one of those fun brunch parties you rave about? Well, let’s think about this. How many of your friends claim they know how to make a delicious Bloody Mary? Two, probably, and one of them’s lying and the other one used to be a bartender. Ex-bartender friend is really going to hate it when he/she has to make Bloody Marys all day because you thought this would be a fun idea.
What to Do Instead
If you must serve Bloody Marys, do it yourself. Make up a mix that isn’t too spicy and provide some extra hot sauce, celery, and olives. Don’t make them guess how much tomato juice they need, and please don’t leave horseradish sitting around. No one knows what to do with that. If you aren’t set on Bloody Marys, I would suggest a champagne bar. No, it’s not a “mimosa” bar if you’re putting out champagne, orange juice, and cranberry juice. Cranberry and champagne is a poinsettia. Just saying.
2. Grilled Cheese/Pizza Bar
Grilled cheese and pizza bars have one major problem. They have to be cooked. If you’re going to create one of these party food bars (or something similar), you’re telling your guests not only do they have to decide what cheese and topping combinations might be delicious, they also have to wait around and cook it themselves. Or, even worse, you have to stand around cooking them all yourself. I guess that’s fine, if you want someone else to tell you how the party went. Of course, this is one of those that would be fun if the only purpose of the party was to cook, but otherwise it’s a hard pass.
What to Do Instead
Ever seen those cute mini grilled cheeses? Cook those. They’re delicious and everyone oohs and aahs at them. If you want to serve pizza, save yourself some time and just order pizza. There’s no need to stress yourself out over something that most people will eat from Little Caesar’s without a second thought. If the point is to let people feel creative, try a hot dog bar. If you have the equipment, a pasta bar might be fun, although I’d probably skip that one too just because of the cleanup. The point is the food already needs to be cooked. They can do toppings. With grilled cheese and pizza, that’s not an option.
3. Salad Bar
What are you, a Sizzler? Don’t waste your time on this. It’s not a time saver by any means; all those fruits and vegetables don’t cut and wash themselves, you know. Think you’re going to impress your vegetarian/vegan friends? You’re not. I was a vegetarian for three years, and never in that time did I walk into a party and say, “You know what this place needs? More salad.” There’s a million other things to serve vegetarians. It’s not that salad isn’t good for you, or even that it isn’t really tasty. It’s that it’s hard to eat standing up, and the more you add to it, the messier it’s going to be. Think you’ll overcome that by having lots of seating? It won’t matter. Someone always stands.
What to Do Instead
First of all, determine why you want to serve salad. Did you just want to impress people with your party food bars? Then pick anything else that’s not on this list. If it’s more of a health thing, regular fruits and veggies are fine. If you really, really love salads, then mix up something yourself with only a few ingredients and serve it as a side dish. People probably won’t overfill their plates with salad and drop lettuce all over your house that way.
4. Crepes or Crostinis Bar
Hear me out on this one, because I hear half of you screaming at me that these are so much fun and the other half screaming, “How are these possibly related?” So here goes. Crostinis and crepes are both delicious foods… if you know the correct combinations. Some of your party-goers absolutely will make beautiful crepes, whether sweet or savory, and plenty will make standard but tasty crostinis. The thing is, if they’re going to be making typical food anyway, you can do that for them instead of setting up pointless party food bars. There’s also this little thing called “decision fatigue“ and you don’t need to add that to your guests on their day off. Plus, and I hate to say this, but some people won’t even know what a crepe or a crostini is.
What to Do Instead
I would suggest you serve one or two types of crostinis that you make and be done with it. I really can’t see the point of having your guests make their own appetizers. If you’re doing brunch and you want it to be crepes, I actually think you can succeed with a crepe bar, but you need to tone it way way down. Either offer one obvious savory option, like egg and cheese, verse one sweet option, like raspberries with whipped cream, or offer two sweet options. Do not get crazy with this or your guests will start filling them up with nonsense. If you want to put a whole bunch of stuff out and let everyone go nuts, do a bagel bar, because everyone already knows what they like on a bagel. The point is not to overwhelm your guests with options.
Well, what do you think? Have I been too harsh on these party food bars or this just the reckoning they deserve? Before you decide, remember this – I’m not talking about weddings, just your everyday party. Brides, you do whatever your little hearts desire on your wedding day, and don’t forget to eat.