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

Jamie1069 Aug 7, 2009 09:16 AM

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?

  1. p
    Pegmeister Aug 7, 2009 09:49 AM

    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. r
      rds246 Aug 7, 2009 10:14 AM

      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. l
        leaf Aug 7, 2009 11:41 AM

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

        1. danhole Aug 7, 2009 12:47 PM

          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
            im_nomad Aug 7, 2009 05:42 PM

            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
              JK Grence the Cosmic Jester Aug 9, 2009 12:48 PM

              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
              DishDelish Aug 8, 2009 04:59 AM

              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
                Antithesisofpop Aug 14, 2009 12:33 PM

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

              2. s
                Salty_Loves_Sweet Aug 7, 2009 01:36 PM

                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
                  BobB Aug 13, 2009 01:24 PM

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

                  1. re: BobB
                    dmd_kc Aug 13, 2009 08:47 PM

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

                    1. re: dmd_kc
                      BobB Aug 14, 2009 07:13 AM

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

                2. e
                  easily amused Aug 7, 2009 01:43 PM

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

                  1. LA Buckeye Fan Aug 7, 2009 03:26 PM

                    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. v
                      Val Aug 7, 2009 03:37 PM

                      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. j
                        Janet Aug 7, 2009 03:52 PM

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

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Janet
                          LaLa Aug 7, 2009 05:14 PM

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

                        2. m
                          MacTAC Aug 7, 2009 05:59 PM

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

                          1. Passadumkeg Aug 7, 2009 06:05 PM

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

                            1. m
                              moh Aug 7, 2009 06:14 PM

                              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. p
                                powillie Aug 7, 2009 06:23 PM

                                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. Vetter Aug 7, 2009 07:59 PM

                                  Cream puffs at Than Brothers (pho) in Seattle!

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Vetter
                                    aqn Aug 7, 2009 08:57 PM

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

                                    1. re: aqn
                                      Vetter Aug 8, 2009 07:41 PM

                                      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
                                        stolenchange Aug 13, 2009 09:59 PM

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

                                  2. goodhealthgourmet Aug 7, 2009 09:29 PM

                                    - 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. f
                                      FrankDrakman Aug 7, 2009 11:02 PM

                                      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. d
                                        DishDelish Aug 8, 2009 05:01 AM

                                        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. l
                                          Lucia Aug 8, 2009 07:03 PM

                                          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
                                            vorpal Aug 13, 2009 12:14 AM

                                            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. Cheese Boy Aug 8, 2009 09:25 PM

                                            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. Passadumkeg Aug 9, 2009 02:49 AM

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

                                              1. p
                                                Palomino Aug 9, 2009 11:27 AM

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

                                                1. Boccone Dolce Aug 9, 2009 12:06 PM

                                                  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. Veggo Aug 9, 2009 12:59 PM

                                                    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. s
                                                      schrutefarms Aug 12, 2009 11:26 AM

                                                      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. KaimukiMan Aug 12, 2009 11:54 AM

                                                        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
                                                          Pegmeister Aug 12, 2009 12:18 PM

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

                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan
                                                            DishDelish Aug 12, 2009 06:10 PM

                                                            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. limster Aug 12, 2009 01:49 PM

                                                            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
                                                              cuccubear Aug 14, 2009 11:54 AM

                                                              Our local Peruvian restaurant does that too.

                                                            2. h
                                                              HillJ Aug 12, 2009 01:52 PM

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

                                                              1. w
                                                                westaust Aug 12, 2009 02:10 PM

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

                                                                1. s
                                                                  san antonio eater Aug 12, 2009 02:21 PM

                                                                  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
                                                                    Miss Needle Aug 12, 2009 03:04 PM

                                                                    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. t
                                                                    tzurriz Aug 12, 2009 02:35 PM

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

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: tzurriz
                                                                      LA Buckeye Fan Aug 13, 2009 04:41 PM

                                                                      I love the name of this place!

                                                                    2. l
                                                                      liveloveat34 Aug 12, 2009 02:44 PM

                                                                      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. diablo Aug 12, 2009 03:07 PM

                                                                        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. g
                                                                          gordeaux Aug 12, 2009 08:31 PM

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

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: gordeaux
                                                                            Caitlin McGrath Aug 13, 2009 05:35 PM

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

                                                                          2. soypower Aug 12, 2009 08:50 PM

                                                                            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. NellyNel Aug 14, 2009 07:35 AM

                                                                              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. b
                                                                                bigfellow Aug 14, 2009 10:50 AM

                                                                                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
                                                                                  CDouglas Aug 14, 2009 11:36 AM

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

                                                                                  >>Sorry, meant to reply to the OP.

                                                                                  1. re: CDouglas
                                                                                    bigfellow Aug 14, 2009 12:03 PM


                                                                                  2. re: bigfellow
                                                                                    cuccubear Aug 14, 2009 12:26 PM

                                                                                    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
                                                                                      bigfellow Aug 14, 2009 12:30 PM

                                                                                      They went fast, but they were expensive to make.

                                                                                  3. cuccubear Aug 14, 2009 12:03 PM

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

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