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What is the coolest thing that a restaurant has ever brought you instead of a basket of bread?

So many restaurants send out that boring basket of dinner rolls, YAWN! I really like the places that offer peanuts, but I have also seen potato chips. Anybody seen anything really different?

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  1. At Mame's in Meredith, NH they always bring out their bean spread with an assortment of crackers. The best way to describe it is, that the flavor is somewhat similar to a 3 bean salad, except this is just kidney beans. I think it probably has some mayonnaise in it as well. I've tried to duplicate it a few times but haven't been successful.

    1. This may be more akin to chips and salsa than bread, but there is a brunch place near me that puts out bowls of fruit loops and apple jacks to snack on. Very cute and colorful on the table, if not exactly gourmet.

      1. Kushner's in Silver Spring, MD used to bring out both dill pickles and cinnamon buns.

        1. At a Churrascaria we went to they brought out cheese puffs, fried polenta, fried yucca, and a crumb coated fried banana. Good stuff!

          I love the places that have the in shell peanuts. We went to one with my daughter and her family and you know you can toss the shells on the floor. Horrified my 6 year old grandson! he piled them up on the table.

          4 Replies
          1. re: danhole

            I haven't seen a place like that in a while, I figured it had gone the way of the dodo with all the peanut allergies. I know a place near me ( a chain I think ), used to do the peanut thing, and you could throw the shells no the floor.

            1. re: im_nomad

              There are a few around here. They have a sign out front warning that if you have severe peanut allergies that you might want to go somewhere else for dinner.

            2. re: danhole

              No one does the peanut thing here anymore since the peanut scare and I sure did miss it, but now that I have a child who is allergic I guess it is for the best.

              1. re: danhole

                Brazilian cheese puffs are called "Pao de queijo" lit. "cheese bread". Food of the gods!

              2. I go to a Jewish deli that brings you rye bread and dill pickles when you sit down.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Salty_Loves_Sweet

                  At my favorite deli in NYC it's two kinds of pickles and fresh fried gribnetz (chicken cracklings).

                  1. re: BobB

                    BobB, care to share the name of the place? Sounds like a must-go to me.

                    1. re: dmd_kc

                      Second Avenue Deli (which is no longer on 2nd Ave, it's now on E. 33rd).

                2. Munroe's Restaurant (Closed)in Downtown Sarasota would bring a lovely bread assortment with some Olive Tapenade..delicious

                  1. One of my favorite Mexican restuarants has the usualy chips and salsa, but also this amazing bean dip that has a touch of cinnamon in it.

                    1. Years ago here in Naples...roasted garlic with fresh bread, BEFORE it was wildly popular...we just could NOT get enough...restaurant closed a few years ago.

                      1. Years ago Johnny Allman's steak house in the Lexington area of KY served beer cheese with crackers. Wonderful.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Janet

                          Hall's on the River (which is just FEET from where Johnny Alman's brunt down) still serves beer cheese, crackers, crudites.

                        2. Soft pretzels, fresh and warm at Classic American, Babylon NY...

                          1. Ria del Mar, suth River, NJ, in the 90's, free peal your own shrimp, then fava beans at the bar, now, nada.

                            1. Hushpuppies! Love those things!

                              I also love corn bread, and once had a lovely basket of jalapeno-cheese cornbread.

                              Fresh warm cheese popovers, such a treat, especially as I know how fussy they can be. To be able to serve them in a restaurant fresh from the oven (the only way they are really good) shows a real dedication to quality.

                              Freshly made turkish lavash! There is a great little resto in our city where you can watch the lady make the lavash (and manti, those delectable Turkish dumplings), it is soft and chewy, and i love it with all the small salads.

                              In korean restos, the little plates of ban chan, various side dishes meant to be eaten with the meal. Kimchi has to be part of that.

                              Bread with cottage cheese and deli pickles at a local steak place. A really satisfying combination.

                              1. Ninfa's is a mexican restaurant in Kansas City, Kansas. They serve flour tortillas hot from the griddle with squeeze margarine and a spicy salsa. Although the food is very good, the highlight is those tortillas.

                                1. Cream puffs at Than Brothers (pho) in Seattle!

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Vetter

                                    Cream puffs?! The kind with sweet custard filling?! Before pho?! Hmmm...

                                    1. re: aqn

                                      Heck yeah! It makes sense, in a way, with the French influence on Vietnam. I don't know if they come first as an appetizer or because it's just easier to drop them by at the start of the meal. I was always too gleeful to ask.

                                      1. re: Vetter

                                        Love the cream puffs at Than Bros! My husband has his as an app and i save mine for dessert.

                                  2. - Gruyere popovers at the BLT Restaurants...what i wouldn't give to be able to eat one of those again!
                                    - chocolate chip cornbread at the now-defunct Royal Canadian Pancake House
                                    - wine-infused cheese spreads (served with radishes, celery & bread sticks for dipping) at Fleming's Steakhouse

                                    1. At the eponymous "Souffle" in Madrid, Spain, they bring out a small bowl of the glorious souffle potatoes - these are little puffed pillows of spud that are to potato chips like crack is to Diet Coke. It's actually a clever marketing ploy; they're so delicious, everyone orders a large bowl to go with their dinners.

                                      1. We have an Alaskan inspired Italian restaurant here in AK called Orso and they bring out hummus with hearty artisan bread from a local bakery. Very yummy! ;)

                                        1. I've had popcorn. But, my favorite different thing is bread w/homemade ricotta instead of butter/oil. It'll make you look at the boring old bread basket in a whole new way.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Lucia

                                            Agree with popcorn. Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro in Ottawa, Canada serves up some of the most fabulous popcorn I've ever tasted as an appetizer.

                                          2. Along with their bread, one place often brought out a cold chickpea salad consisting of chickpeas, roasted red peppers, chopped red onion and olive oil. A competitor of theirs would dole out salads. All complimentary ! Be assured that those little freebies generate a lot of return customers.

                                            1. Home made brucheta on crunchy Italian bread at Covello's in Sayreville, NJ.

                                              1. Chopped liver spread and crudites (very 50's), Don & Charlie's in Scottsdale

                                                1. zucchini pancakes (German restaurant)

                                                  big, white petals of shaved parm dipping their toes in a pool of green olive oil (Italian place-think it was up North) to go with hunks of warm bread

                                                  1. A bowl of peruvian cancha: hot, roasted, salty, large corn kernels, is addictive and definitely encourages a second round of beverages.
                                                    In Cabo Frio, Brazil, I was served a plate of dried sardines, which I understand is popular in Japan but I have never been there. I didn't need a refill.

                                                    1. At Fogo De Chao, they bring delicious cheese popovers, at Luques you get marinated olives, at Cobras and Matadors they bring marinated olives and almonds, and at XIV you get awesome super soft pita bread with a sort of tzadziki sauce. (All of these places are in LA)

                                                      1. about 4 years ago every restaurant i went to on my annual visit to LA served olive teppenade. Some with bread, some with bread and olive oil, some with focaccia, some with lavosh. Guess people got tired of it.

                                                        Some chinese restaurants in the bay area used to bring out an order of fried won-ton with sweet and sour sauce. Seems to have been replaced with crappy crunchy noodles with sweet and sour sauce. Talk about a downgrade. If i wanted to buy chunking noodles I would go to the supermarket.

                                                        What ever happened to breadsticks? Did Olive Garden and Pizza Hut kill breadsticks? They were always long and crunchy and my brother and I used to love them.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                          Papa Razzi here in Boston still offers breadsticks. Their version is great, ultra thin and crunchy.

                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                            Ohhh I remember long and crunchy bread sticks too! =) They were my sister's and my fav. as kids too! =) Restaurants don't do that anymore?

                                                          2. Roasted corn kernels at Peruvian restaurants. Various pickles or stewed peanuts at Chinese places. Cheese at Portuguese places. Someone will probably mention that an aperitif would be even cooler than all the above.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: limster

                                                              Our local Peruvian restaurant does that too.

                                                            2. Tuna mousse cups served with warm Italian bread is set down before ordering at A CA MIA in Cape May, NJ. Love it!

                                                              1. Popovers with strawberry butter at Mariposa (Neiman Marcus in Coral Gables)

                                                                1. We have a great Persian restaurant in town (Shiraz) that serves warm pita, olives, feta, and mint. A great way to start a meal.
                                                                  A restaurant in Cozumel I went to once sent out a plate of little new potatoes that had been fried until they were puffy. They served them with a little dish of salt and another of tomatillo sauce for dipping. Those were good.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: san antonio eater

                                                                    OMG! Those potatoes sound so tasty!

                                                                    I'm going to have to agree with moh with the banchan. Depending on the restaurant, you can sometimes get up to 10 dishes, including an entire fried fish! Who needs to order an entree after that!

                                                                    I've also liked the freebies I've gotten at Jacques-Imo's in New Orleans -- cornbread and spinach salad topped with a fried oyster. And Eleven Madison Park in NYC offers a really cool selection of amuse-bouches with your dinner -- no, not just one, but several beautifully prepared items.


                                                                  2. Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop brings the yummiest johnny cakes. mmmmmm.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. In Corona, Queens NY, Parkside serves a huge basket of various rolls and breadsticks. The best were the rolls stuffed with salami and other meats.

                                                                      1. The Four "C" Sons in LEH NJ brings little meatballs in marinara and a garlicky (3?) bean dip with crackers. A strange combo, but both are very good. They bring out a bread and biscuit basket a bit later, too.

                                                                        1. Moto in Chicago;
                                                                          Edible menu of your courses for the evening.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: gordeaux

                                                                            That might notbe the tastiest, compared to other posters' recollections, but it probably does qualify as the coolest.

                                                                          2. A restaurant/bar known for their Korean fried chicken in Federal Way, WA brings out a hot stone platter and proceeds to crack an egg on it for you to cook any way you want it. Didn't think I was in the mood for it, but it was great!

                                                                            Always love any tsukemono that comes unexpectedly at japanese restaurants. And of course, the edamame.

                                                                            1. Recently I had these amazing little cheddar pop-overs/biscuits at a place in Brooklyn. (Bussaco) Think - intense creamy cheddar taste with the consistancy of a French Cruller - they were great.
                                                                              I also love the fresh ricotta and gravy (red sauce) served with bread at Apizz.

                                                                              1. I used to give customers homemade root vegitable chips (potato, sweet potato, beet, turnip, parsnip)
                                                                                At another place I had, we would put out hot pita and tzatziki.

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: bigfellow

                                                                                  CityZen in DC serves bite-size Parker House Rolls in a small wooden box.

                                                                                  >>Sorry, meant to reply to the OP.

                                                                                  1. re: bigfellow

                                                                                    The vegetable chip idea is great, and I'll bet you didn't have much left over per table, like you might with plain old rolls.

                                                                                    1. re: cuccubear

                                                                                      They went fast, but they were expensive to make.

                                                                                  2. Peruvian Roasted Corn,
                                                                                    Breadsticks and Olive Oil
                                                                                    Hushpuppies! (I love ‘em too, moh!) http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6067...