Famous Chefs Tell Us Where To Eat The Best Bar Food

Bar food often fails to get the attention it deserves, because it is primarily prepared for people who are drunk and would, therefore, screech at the top of their lungs that stale corn chips were the “BEST THING I HAVE EVER EATEN!” It’s absolutely true that even mediocre nachos snarfed down after hammering back shots for hours taste as heavenly as the approval you so long sought from your father. But that doesn’t mean that bar food can’t be awesome. When bar snacks are elevated beyond a bowl of peanuts or Loaded Crazy Bread Bites, they tap into undeniable sensory appeal and hit that fatty, salty sweet spot.

Despite the wealth of upscale drinking establishments serving bespoke cocktails that involve something being muddled and probably some house made bitters, bar food remains pretty lowbrow, appealing to the lizard brain that takes over when the drinks flow. One might expect that the drunk fare of the masses would be beneath the palates of culinary professionals, but they like to get their drink on just as much as anyone else.

We asked some of the best chefs in the country where they go when they want to indulge in some bar food and they had a lot to say. Apparently, wings are very contentious.

Lola Gaspar (Santa Ana, CA)

Chef Mark McDonald — Executive Chef and Owner, Old Vine Cafe

My latest favorite bar snack is the crispy chile relleno at Lola Gaspar. It’s crust is perfectly crunchy, and the filling is creamy and delicious. Their nacho fries are pretty tasty, as well!

Cassidy’s Bar & Grill (Newport Beach, CA)

Chef Craig Connole — Executive Chef, La Casa del Camino, K’ya Bistro Bar, The Rooftop Lounge

The burger at Cassidy’s Bar & Grill in Newport Beach, California. Every time I’ve had that burger, which has only been about five times in the past 10 years, it’s been one of those “this is the best thing I’ve ever eaten” moments. You’re drinking, you’re hungry, and the bartender cooks it in the little kitchen behind the bar. Ever since the first time I went there and got the burger, every time I drive by there, I think about how delicious that was and want to stop for a couple of beers and, of course, that burger!

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Bar Mash (Charleston, SC)

Chef Elizabeth Blau — Founder/CEO, Blau + Associates

While everyone can agree that nachos, mozzarella sticks, and chicken wings are great bar snacks, our favorite bar snack takes us to Bar Mash. From the moment you walk in and experience the old world charm, you feel like you’ve been brought back to a simpler time. As for the snack — it’s two separate ones in the same building. First up is their pimento jerky: pimento cheese, house-made jerky and crackers & the other option is their fried oysters: served on the half-shell with creolaise and green tomato chow chow. Enjoy an oyster or six, and play shuffleboard and just soak it all in!

Anchor Bar (Buffalo, NY)

Chef Matthew Lemery — Chef, Duchess

Hands down the almighty Buffalo wing is the ruler of all the bar snacks. Hot, spicy, crispy served in a basket with its best buddies carrots, celery and bleu cheese. In my mind, there is nothing that can top that. To be fair, I love all types of chicken wings, but the classic Anchor Bar crispy tossed in Frank’s Red Hot and butter is the peak of perfection.

It doesn’t really matter where they are from or what kind of sauce they are tossed with — if you offer chicken wings, the odds of me ordering them are pretty good. I’ll seek them out and make a solo mission, so I don’t have to share. Dear chicken wing, I love you so.

Bar La Plata (Barcelona, Spain)

Chef Oscar Cabezas — Executive Chef, Teleferic Barcelona

Barcelona is my hometown and amongst the hundreds of bars that populate its streets, La Plata is the one that I love the most. The selection is simple: fried anchovies, tomato salad and butifarra “esparracada,” paired with white or red wine from Catalunya. But La Plata is more than a bar; it is the nostalgia of the city. It is a haven of peace nestled between streets full of tourists. It is the food of Barcelona taken to the extreme: simplicity, authenticity, product. The crackling of the fried fish, when the bite caresses the tasty thorn. The taste of the sun in the tomatoes, the sweetest red of the Mediterranean. The flavor of the butifarra, our sausage, homemade flavored, fried in olive oil.

Duff’s Famous Wings (Buffalo, NY)

Chef Garrett Pittler — Executive chef, City Winery Nashville

I’m from Buffalo, so wings, and regardless of what anyone says, Duff’s in Buffalo has the best wings. They’ve been making their wings the same way in the same location since they first opened in the 1940s. Anchor Bar, also in Buffalo, is second best, but Duff’s is and will also be number one.

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Buffalo wings! #1stdayofspringbreak

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Lola Gaspar (Santa Ana, CA)

Chef Jon Melendez — Owner and Chef, CIVIC and Mar

There’s too many, but bacon wrapped dates at Lola Gaspar in DTSA got to have them every time. Sweet, salty, cheesy, bacon, bacon … bacon …

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Bacon Wrapped Dates & Tacos.

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Perfect combo! #dtsa #lolas #tacosnbeer

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Stanton Social (New York, NY)

Potato and goat cheese pierogi at Stanton Social. The sharp and gamey flavor of the goat cheese cuts through the rich but fluffier flavor of the pierogi. I could eat about 20 of these if I sat at the bar long enough … which I have.

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Perogie tower 😍

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Brunch!!!!! 🍔🍾🥔 @candyflz

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Boar’s Head Pub (Dublin, Ireland)

Ireland owns the best bar snack title. Nothing in the U.S. compares to the Boars Head Pub in Dublin or Ireland’s crispy fried pigs ears. These little morsels of joy are pickled in a natural Irish bacon cure, topped with olive oil and black pepper, cooked in a 500-degree oven, and served with Irish Mustard Sauce. #MouthWatering

Rich Table (San Francisco, CA)

Chef Isaac Miller — Chef and Partner, Maven

The sardine chips with horseradish crème fraiche at Rich Table in San Francisco. The time they put into weaving those tiny fillets into slices of potato seems to make them taste even better to me. They look natural and effortless. Putting the delicate details aside, I love the flavors and textures that these bring. Bar snacks are typically salty, crispy and cheesy. These chips hit all those characteristics while still staying light and satisfying. The fish and the horseradish don’t overpower each other or the potatoes. It all just works and makes so much sense. I want one now.

Fat Rice (Chicago, IL)

Chef Katy Smith — Executive Creative Chef, Puesto

One of my favorite restaurants of all time is Fat Rice in Chicago. They serve food from Macau which is an incredible blend of Chinese and Portuguese flavors. They always have different types of pickled seasonal veg as a bar snack that pairs so well with their awesome beer selection. One of my favorites that they do are their jumpwater pickles made with radish, carrot and kohlrabi and ahi chili. They are spicy, taste slightly fermented, and perfectly salty and pickly.

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67 Sky Lounge (Forte dei Marmi, Italy)

Chef Joshua Pebbles — Executive Chef, TART

The best bar snack that I’ve ever had was in Italy at the 67 Sky Lounge at the Hotel Principe Forte dei Marmi. One of the most amazing views from a bar along the Tuscan Coast is accompanied by the best bar snacks you’ll ever find. Upon ordering my Negroni at this rooftop bar, I was also presented with a beautiful plate of burrata, pecorino and caciotta that was paired with jams, prosciutto, house marinated olives, nuts and house-made bread.

And, what’s better? It’s complimentary!!! I was so surprised by this, as I didn’t ask nor was I offered it. They just brought it out!

Beaker & Gray (Miami, FL)

Chef Lorena Garcia — Featured Chef, CHICA at The Venetian Las Vegas

This Wynwood spot has the best bar snacks going and is dangerously close to my studio. Beaker & Gray is one of my favorite places for a fantastic cocktail, but it’s the snacks that somehow make my car head there after a long day in the studio. They have an entire menu (yes, AN ENTIRE MENU) dedicated to snacks. Most days, I just order all of them because I can’t choose. Kettle corn. Cheesy fries. Grilled cheese with chorizo and swiss (shockingly good combination). Cheese poppers. Mochi (which are savory). And you know, crudite because vegetables are necessary after I eat two pounds of kettle corn!

Steiner’s (Las Vegas, NV)

Chef Matt Fresinski — Corporate Chef, V&E Restaurant Group

Being from upstate New York, I love all things wing, I am very much a traditionalist when it comes to wings; they have to be Buffalo, and they have to have good blue cheese. Anything else just won’t do. Steiner’s in Vegas has some great wings: big and meaty, with very gentle touch of garlic. They match perfectly with a Guinness or, in my case, a little Bulleit Rye.