The Big Impact of Small Plates

It’s gone from the tapas trend of the late 1990’s to the more recent small-plate craze to a standard offering in not only specialty restaurants but some big chains as well. Whatever you call them or wherever you order them, they have changed the way many people eat out with family and friends. But what’s the difference between appetizers and small plates, and why should you order them? Let’s see if we can explore this topic together, since that’s what small plates are designed to do – create a more unified “togetherness” type of dining experience.

The difference

Appetizers are meant to be just what the name implies – something to get you started or to stimulate your appetite before the meal. Typically ordered and eaten before the entree, these are often shared items. Several small plates are typically eaten in place of the meal – though some people treat them as appetizers.

Rather than narrowing down your choice to one particular lunch of dinner serving, small plates allow you to sample a wider variety of tastes. Order a few and you have a full meal that can be enjoyed at a more leisurely pace.

The experience

The experience of eating small plates is different because it allows you to order a few dishes and eat them before ordering more. No need to inhale your food before it gets cold, or to have food envy when you see your dining partner’s dish and realize you wish you’d ordered something else from the menu.

Buffets are popular not just for the all-you-can-eat scenario, but also because you can try several different dishes in small quantities, thus getting a more complete dining event. But some people don’t like the idea of serving themselves or scooping food off of plates that other people are serving from. Small plates combine the best of the buffet and regular dining scenarios.

But small plates are meant to be a shared experience, so they’re not for everyone.

Do as your mother taught you

If you’re someone who wants all of your food, and only your food, then small plates may not be for you. They’re meant to be a communal thing. It’s a great way to dine with friends and family as long as you’re on the same page. It’s actually fun to collaborate on what to order – it’s an affair that can bring you closer together.

One benefit is it may get you to step out of your routine and order something you may not ordinarily try. If you don’t care for what comes, it’s not wasted, and if you do, then kudos on your choice! Just think about ordering a little bit of something for everyone.

Make it your own

By make it your own, we don’t mean eat it all by yourself. The customization of the meal experience with small plates is one of the most attractive elements. You can create an entire meal of small plates or treat them as a quasi-appetizer. Order just a couple of those and perhaps an entree or two to share as well and you’ve got a meal that will make everyone happy.

A few tips

Definitely work together as a group to determine what you’ll order. Use the serving utensils and not your own, and be open to trying at least a bite of everything. Oh, and take your time. Sample a few dishes, then see what you feel like next. Just don’t send your server running back and forth by ordering one at a time!

Let small plates make a big impact on your dining experience. Come sample a few of our menu favorites, like the Thai Style Beef Shortribs, Duck Confit Empanadas, or Ahi Tuna Tartare!


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