Offering a sandwich bar for dinner is a great way to feed a crowd on a budget. Here are some tasty ideas to include in your build-your-own sandwich bar. This is a great quick dinner to make any night.
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It’s your turn to host your friends for supper. Whaddya gonna serve?
You could go all out and have your dinner catered. You could spend big bucks on party trays from Costco. You could tear your hair out making all your guests’ favorite foods.
No, thank you.
Luckily, there are lots of great dinner options for serving a crowd on a budget: a Mexican buffet, a pasta feed, a simple roast chicken. These are all well and good, but don’t overlook one of your simplest and more affordable options:
The Sandwich Bar
Sandwiches have been around for a long time, traced back at least 200 years. Originally a gambler’s meal, they have become a staple all around the world.
Sandwiches are among some of my favorite good cheap eats. There are so many ways that you can combine ingredients that there are endless opportunities to make your sandwiches different and unique.
Sandwiches specifically are highly portable, one-dish dinners that please almost anyone, especially picky eaters. And serving a Sandwich Bar allows your guests the freedom to prepare their meal exactly as they want it.
What do you need for a sandwich bar?
A Sandwich Bar is one of the easiest buffets to assemble. At the bare minimum, you’ll need bread or rolls, meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and some kinds of spreads.
What goes with deli sandwiches?
Man cannot live on bread (or sandwiches) alone, so be sure to serve a few select side dishes. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A trio of a veggie tray, side salad, such as potato salad, and a fruit tray are easy and delicious to go alongside sandwiches.
Of course, you can get more creative with your side dishes, but since you’ll already be setting out a colorful array of ingredients, don’t feel like you have to go hog wild. Okay, add some bacon to the buffet!
How much deli meat do I need per person?
People differ in their preferences as to how meaty a sandwich should be, but as a general rule, plan to have 2 to 3 ounces of deli meat per person. Round up as you do your calculations so that you’ve got a little extra in case folks want seconds.
Your sandwich bar will be so delicious, you know they’ll want to go back for more!
What equipment do you need for a sandwich bar?
You don’t need any special equipment for a sandwich bar other than plates and platters to hold the ingredients and your guests’ creations as well as knives for cutting and spreading.
It is nice to offer folks the option of making grilled sandwiches, so if you have a panini press or an electric griddle, those are nice to set out.
What ingredients to include in your sandwich bar:
Breads for Making Sandwiches
Since bread is the foundation of a sandwich, it’s important to have the good stuff. Consider these options:
- sliced sourdough
- whole wheat focaccia
- Italian sandwich rolls
- homemade hamburger buns
- pita bread
In most cases, it will cost less if you bake your own bread over buying deluxe bread. The added benefit of fresh baked bread is that your sandwiches will be over the top amazing!
However, bread baking is not for every one or every situation. That’s when shopping at ALDI or Costco can offset this expense. You can also shop the sales at your local grocery store and see if they have coupons as well.
Protein-rich Sandwich Fillings
Next in the sandwich ingredient hierarchy is the protein. It doesn’t have to be pricey. Quality deli meats often start at $10/pound, but there are some tasty work-arounds. Consider some of these options:
- Sliced turkey breast ($3.99/pound at Costco, when you buy the whole breast)
- Grilled chicken ($1.69/pound on sale)
- Grilled tri-tip ($3.99/pound on sale)
- Canned tuna ($0.88/can)
- Hard boiled egg ($0.15 each)
- Sliced cheese ($3.50/pound at Costco)
- Chicken patties (about $4/batch)
These prices are current as of 10/4/2019, San Diego County.
Sandwich Spreads and Other Fillings
The sandwich spreads and other fillings are where the fun comes in!
Fresh veggies and spreads add richness and flavor. They also show that you’ve put a little more care into the preparation. I try to keep these items prepped and ready to go in a divided plastic container in the fridge, so that sandwiches can be a quick, pick-up meal any day of the week.
Buy these items on sale when you can. Since no sandwich requires a lot of any one of these items, you don’t need to buy a ton for your Sandwich Bar.
Offer a selection of the following:
- Sliced tomatoes
- Shredded or leafed lettuce
- Sliced onion
- Sliced peperoncinis
- Sliced bell pepper
- Sliced cucumbers
- Chipotle Mayonnaise
- Cooked, chopped bacon
Want to put together a fancy Sandwich Bar?
If you want to give the folks at your table a little more direction and possibly have more fun, build your sandwich bar around two or three of these sandwich recipes.
You can lay out all the ingredients in one space to let folks mix and match as they like, but then you can also, post the printed recipes around your buffet so that they can follow a recipe if they want to.
While I love me a $5 footlong sub, I also keep in mind that I can make a ton of sandwiches at home for a fraction of the price. And usually they are tastier than what we would buy in a sandwich shop!
Serving a sandwich bar is a great way to save money.
- bread knife
- 8 slices bread or rolls of your choosing
- ½ lb select deli meats, such as turkey, roast beef, or ham
- ½ lb sliced cheese, such as cheddar, swiss, and provolone
- 1 head lettuce, washed and leafed
- 2 roma tomato sliced
- 1 sweet onion sliced
- 1 batch chipotle mayo
- 1 batch herbed mayonnaise
- assorted condiments, such as mustard, mayo, and butter
- assorted pickles or peppers
- Lay out platters of each element and allow diners to assemble their own sandwiches.
- If desired, provide a griddle or panini press for those who want a hot sandwich.