Burgers are crafted with locally sourced beef and topped with an egg from a local
farm and housemade bacon at Quality Social.
isn’t well received, we take it off the menu,”
says Keenan Langlois, chef de cuisine.
Items Langlois cannot remove from the
menu include fried Ipswich clams served with
housemade pickles and chili mayo, braised
Berkshire pork belly and fried chicken livers.
It may seem challenging for chefs to
balance customer expectation of a bar
menu with their own ideas of one. It’s not
difficult, says McDonagh. “We choose
items off our menu so that the bar guest
doesn’t feel second-rate or cheated. At
the same time, we do feature items that
require less silverware, are easier to eat
“You need to have a burger. You need to
have salt. You need to have crunch. Fried
always works well.” In McDonagh’s case,
it means offering fried chicken, which is
marinated in milk with a cornflake crust;
country-fried steak (thinly sliced roast beef
with sage country gravy); or chicken liver
pâté piped into challah, served with dried-cherry compote.
“Our entire menu is based on our
collective culinary history in the States
with an emphasis in the mid-century,”
McDonagh continues. “So we have chips
and dip in a way that feels traditional, but
is elevated without kitsch.” He makes
housemade chips and serves them with a
seasonal dip, such as Capriole Farm goat
cheese melted with shallot and garlic.
By offering items off the regular menu at
a discounted cost, he hopes to not only
attract more bar guests, but to get the
existing guests to order food.
While menu options are important, the
convenience of a bar menu is what Langlois
feels sustains it. “With a bar menu, guests
can dine when they want and try different
items in smaller portions,” he says. And those
smaller-portion items will be at a lower price
point than items on the main dining menu.
Bottom line, upscale bar menus are here
“I think it speaks to the public that has
increasingly more available information,”
Bar (menu) tips
Want to tweak your bar menu?
Chefs offer advice.
Take your dinner menu and shrink
it. Single out popular items, lower
the price and add more things that
people can share so there is more
variety per dish.
—Stephen Brown, co-executive
chef, Davio’s Northern Italian
Listen to your patrons to find
out what is working and what is
not. Take inspiration from your
brunch, lunch and dinner menus to
create a sophisticated bar menu
that reflects all aspects of your
—Ed Cotton, executive chef,
Plein Sud, New York
Take a simple item and dress it up.
—Keenan Langlois, chef de
cuisine, Union Bar and Grille,
”“Don’t underestimate the importance of cooking to guests’ specific tastes. —Jason McClure, executive chef, Sazerac, Seattle
says Van Camp. “You can’t get away with
low-quality processed food anymore. More
effort goes into the craft, and I wouldn’t
have it any other way.”
Melanie Wolkoff Wachsman is a freelance
writer based in Louisville, Ky., and a former
editor of Chef and Chef Educator Today.