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What's your favorite free food to be served before a dinner at a restaurant

I was having a discussion on this topics with some friends at a seafood restaurant. Many people say freshly aked bread, but I find its too easy to fill up on. My personal fave is still warm sweet potato chips. While in peru, we always got oiled corn kernels which were pretty good too. Thoughts?

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  1. Any artfully presented and tasty morsel, aka amuse bouche. Of course, that's only in upscale restos. If bread is served, I like either good, slightly salted butter, or a nice herb-cream dip.

    1. In Taiwan and the PRC you usually get little dishes of pickled cabbage, boiled peanuts, cucumbers in sauce, etc. There may be a small charge added to the bill but it's more than worth it.

      1. Hush puppies or red potatoes boiled in crab/crawfish boil spiced water

        11 Replies
          1. re: LaLa

            hush puppies ftw with honey butter

            1. re: emmaleeb

              My daughter and I vacationed in NC this summer. We consumed so many hush puppies with honey butter, we could not eat our dinner. I would love to have some RIGHT NOW!!!

              1. re: six dower

                Oooh hey, you mentioned Bar Symon earlier ....

                I have found that Mitchell's seafood in Eton Place has vair vair good hush puppies, and I'm not one for "fancy"-type fried stuff. But these are legitimate. And the butter is pretty much to die for.

                1. re: Scargod

                  Must be 'cause they're "decadent." I have taken more than my fair share of honey-drizzled croissants (still warm) before a meal.

                  If fresh baked bread is involved, I love it with butter or a dunk in some garlicky white bean dip (as served at La Tavola).

                  Even more fun in the free food category is when I am rewarded with a free dessert just for being me! It does happen and it is always a delightful surprise. :) My last surprise was tempura-battered pineapple chunks. Yum!

                  1. re: kattyeyes

                    Croissants before a meal? Breakfast, yes? Can't imagine them any other time.. For me they ARE a meal. When in Paris, they start their day later than we do, so we would have to buy them the afternoon before. Otherwise had to wait til after 9am.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Nope, they come before lunch or dinner and I NEVER resist them! Though I would be happy to eat them with breakfast, too.

                2. re: emmaleeb

                  ftw = For the weak? For those wondering? WTF?

            2. At my nearby peruvian restaurant, the fried, salted, blue corn kernels arrive as hot as rivets, and I have to wait a few minutes before the munching can begin.
              In Mexico, I enjoy the home made corn chips and fresh salsa or pico de gallo. The range of salsas, green (chile or tomatillo) and red, plus some that are still a mystery, is fun.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Veggo

                Agreed about the chips and salsa in Mexico. I am not a fan of free bread unless it is absolutely exceptional, and I rarely (and unfortunately) have the chance to eat at a restaurant that might serve an amuse bouche.

                In Mexico, the different salsas really give a great kickstart to a meal. It's fun to to test their different flavors and heat, with cold beer in hand.

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  I'm going to have to go with Korean banchan too - although its usually served with the meal. And ofcourse, nothing beats a good bread basket!