The Dinner Bar: 4 Fun Ideas for Quick Meals


Some evenings getting dinner on the table is tough. You’re in the mood for a fun meal without the fuss of going out. It is cold and dark outside, and you are tired at the end of the day. Dinner is not ready, but the kids are hungry, and you really do not want to pop a frozen meal, or make boxed pasta. What to do?

Image of tacos in a rowI have recently found my sanity in the dinner bar: simple ingredients, little prep work, many options, but still a good meal. Here are FOUR dinner bar meal ideas that have made up easy evening meals the past weeks:

1. Bread and Dip Bar

A good loaf of bread goes a long way. Buy the bread already sliced, and save yourself a step. Portion it out alongside the table and offer dips on this dinner bar. Our go-to’s are differently flavored oils and vinegars such as lemon olive oil and fig balsamic vinegar. We also add a zaatar dip, an olive tapenade, some tomato tapenade, and cheese to our spread. For healthy vegetable and fruit sides, cherry tomatoes or grapes are easy additions. This meal is filling, quick, and easy. 

2. The “Sushi” Bar

Who does not love roasted seaweed? My kids do, so that makes this dinner idea exciting. Open up a few packages of roasted seaweed, dish out some precooked white rice, and offer a protein. You can pan fry tofu, boil some shrimp, or buy precooked barbecue eel. Add avocado slices, some picked ginger, soy sauce for the connoisseurs, and dinner is served without a trip to the sushi place! My kids find this so much fun, and believe it or not, with big enough platters underneath them, there is little to no mess afterwards. 

3. The Taco Bar

The tried and true Taco Tuesday can be any day of the week. We like to make our tacos with ground turkey or chicken for a different take on the beef. Diced tomatoes, a can of corn, and some delicious red beans make it to the table for this dinner bar. Shredded cheese and lettuce, too, if we have some. My kids do not care much for sour cream and salsa, but my husband and I do, so we include those as well. Instead of shells, which we always seem to have, we sometimes make it into a salad with tortilla chips on the side. Another great meal, without much a do. 

4. The Cheese Fondue Bar

Why wait for a special occasion to make fondue? That is how it used to be in our house, until I discovered this could become a regular dinner bar meal. Gooey cheese, crusty bread, raw mushrooms, and others make for a fun dinner around the table. I give my younger son a plastic fork instead of the long metal fondue fork to avoid accidents. Still, he has a blast. Dipping grilled, sliced pieces of beef, cubed chicken, and roasted mushrooms, are other suggestions to mix it up a bit. You can also substitute boiled shrimp for a protein alternative. Anything goes, I think, when you wrap it with cheese! 

What kind of easy, dinner bar meals works for your family on a busy evening?

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Lebanese in origin, Ranya became a US citizen in 2007. Shortly after meeting Jeff through a job ad in Beirut in 2003, she moved to Portland to pursue a doctorate at PSU. From there, the two of them moved to the East Coast to begin their adventures. The last fourteen years have seen them in Portland, OR twice; in Arlington, VA twice, in Columbia, MD as well as Lebanon and Morocco. In her current life, Ranya is a teacher’s aide who loves to embark on special projects with her daughter. Their signature Mama-and-Me activity is hosting their friends for formal tea parties. She is trilingual, and is passing on the torch of language to her children who are fluent in English and Arabic. Ranya is passionate about hot yoga, and enjoys long walks. She absolutely hates driving, and reserves it for cases of dire need. She believes in the wonders of snuggles, and advocates their daily use. She lives a walking distance from her all-time favorite restaurant, Saburo, with Jeff, Jannah-Rae and Yousef. They share their one-bathroom house with her parents and Leo, the Arabic-speaking cat. Ranya writes thoughts, tots and essential oils on her blog Ranya, the Memory Keeper.