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If “Just a Taste” is Too Much

If “Just a Taste” is Too Much
Written by Hannah Lee Leidy | Image courtesy of Longoven

The growing presence of tasting menus at fine dining establishments revolutionizes how diners order . . . and eat. Small plates and petite pours enable guests to maximize all they taste and sip and frees them from the struggle to settle on just one dish. 

Through five, twelve, or eighteen courses, a gastronomic bacchanal unfolds in the form of bite-sized snacks and artistically presented small plates. It’s an indulgent experience often reserved for special occasions.

But, there’s an entire demographic of casual diners who want to swing by on an ordinary weeknight to enjoy their favorite dish without committing to the entire menu. In order to make these splurge-worthy tasting menus more accessible for the everyday visitor, restaurants are introducing snack programs for select small plates and bites. These elevated snacks reflect the tasting menus’ seasonal elements and the chefs’ creativity, often with equally sophisticated presentations. 

For a whimsical outing that’s casual enough to follow the workday, try a taste of the tastings at these Southern destinations. 

Tasting Menus Make for Fine Snacking

The snack board at offers a taste of Longoven's tasting menus

Image courtesy of Longoven

Longoven

Richmond

The snack flight board at this tasting menu-only restaurant pulls together an elegant smorgasbord with a-little-of-this/a-little-of-that from the eight-course menu. It’s available to walk-ins at the bar and patio, providing a less rigid experience than the reservation-required tasting dinner.

Highlights might include nori brioche, grilled shrimp with Shio Koji cabbage sauce, and a pumpkin and sweet potato mochi with Iberico lardo. You can upgrade the experience from there with add-ons, such as Snacks with Somm for wine pairings and guidance from the in-house sommelier, Grayum Vickers. Visitors on the hungrier side can also opt for the Stay Awhile, which includes two chef’s-choice plates from the tasting menu. 

The bar inside the Dabney serves snacks and small plates from the tasting menus

Image by Andrew Cebulka

The Dabney

Washington DC

Regionally sourced meats, seafood, and vegetables shine in the four courses of this Michelin-rated tasting menu. Guests less interested in the prix fixe option can drop by the bar to order off the à la carte menu, which offers a smattering of dishes found on the tasting menu. Options vary between East Coast-driven snacks, like the green garlic hushpuppies with country ham and citrus mayo, to heftier options, like Autumn Olive Farm pork with rutabaga and apple. Or, if you dined elsewhere, you can still slip in late for a nightcap and the pavlova with dark chocolate sorbet.

The Bar at Audrey

Nashville

Sean Brock’s latest restaurant Audrey celebrates Brock’s Appalachian roots and the foodways of the rural South through an ambitious five-course tasting menu. The second-floor Bar presents a lighter, more laid-back experience. The ever-changing cocktail menu, which prioritizes Southern ingredients over spirits, complements the seasonal plates. Select options from the tasting menu are available at the Bar, such as the wild boar meatball or the lobster with paw paw and freeze-fried nasturtium. For a lighter bite, try the sunchoke with benne and spring onion. 

The beet plate and cocktails at Warehouse in Charleston

Image courtesy of Warehouse Lux

Warehouse x Lux

Charleston

This downtown late-night hang made food its primary focus with the addition of chefs Zach Woody and Brandon Andrist. The duo brings a modern, seasonal focus to the kitchen for weekend brunch and dinner. The entire menu is available a la carte. But, if you can’t decide between the scallop with fennel, tangerine, apple snow, and celery; turnip in smoked combo broth; and pork with tortellini, maitake, and mustard jus, just opt for the tasting menu. 

Note: The hyper-seasonal nature of these tasting menus results in frequent changes to dishes and ingredients. Those listed here may no longer be served at the time of visit. 

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