The snack attack hits full-serves and opens the door to guests coming back for lunch and dinner.
Sam Hellman-Mass, chef/partner at Odd Duck in Austin, Texas, couldn’t shake off the realization that his staff turned people away when the restaurant closed between the hours of 2:30 and 5 p.m.
“People just wanted a bite to eat and not a full meal. They would go somewhere else,” says Chef Hellman-Mass, who debuted an afternoon snacks menu in August. “If you can find a reason for them to stay, it’s a win-win situation.”
Like Odd Duck, other restaurants now offer a midday snacks menu. Smaller portions requiring minimal preparation drive the concept.
Items on the afternoon menu at Odd Duck include a warmed chocolate chip oatmeal cookie, house-made pickles, ham-and-cheese pretzels with mustard béchamel, and bread baked daily in a wood-burning oven.
Not calling it a bar menu helped Jim Solomon, owner of The Fireplace Restaurant in Brookline, Massachusetts, market his midday menu. Served from 2:30 to 5 p.m., it launched in October with items like sweet potato chips and pickled vegetables. “In the spring, we’ll get fiddlehead ferns and chive blossoms and ramps. We serve as many fresh as we can and then we pickle a bunch,” he explains.
The end of Nantucket Bluefish season always saddened his customers, but now, Solomon says, “We smoke and preserve them, and serve them with garlic crackers,” describing the Smoked Fish Paté on the midday menu.
Chefs at some restaurants test items via the midday menu. "It’s a menu where the chef can really have fun,” says Jose Gonzalez, general manager of Wit & Wisdom Tavern by Michael Mina, inside Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore. He notes a preference for “things on sticks,” like lobster corn dogs, crispy pork belly, and fried mac-and-cheese. Steak and turkey burgers and blue crab deviled eggs are also on the midday menu, offered from 4 to 7 p.m.
For French and Mediterranean eateries, all-day dining has always been in vogue. An Intermezzo menu influenced by France, Africa, and Italy is offered from 2:30 to 5 p.m. at The Lazy Goat in Greenville, South Carolina, where charcuterie, cheese plates, hummus, and pizza with duck confit and duck egg are among the choices.
The snacks trend has extended to chain restaurants, as well. BRAVO! Cucina Italiana and BRIO Tuscan Grille have introduced midday menus, served from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Items include crispy eggplant fries at BRIO and fried shrimp topped with charred tomato sauce at BRAVO.