By Chef Ron Spaziani

Have you ever sat down at a restaurant and looked at the menu for what seemed like hours, because you just can’t decide what to order?  You look at your friends and colleagues for some guidance and ask “What are you having? Have you tried the [specific dish] here, is it good?” This seems all too familiar, doesn’t it? Well now, we don’t have to commit to full sized dishes and we can thank Spain for creating tapas. Tapas are Spanish small plates that are served as the main dish. They can be served cold (think marinated olives or cheese) or hot (meatballs or stuffed peppers, just to name a couple).

When Tapas was first introduced in the U.S. about 10 years ago, it was an instant hit. Chefs were excited because they were given the freedom to be more creative with smaller plates and diners quickly embraced tapas because they could now try more dishes meant for sharing and they were also paying less than they would for full size dishes. The Chinese have dim sum, Italians have antipasti, Greeks have Mezze and now in the U.S., tapas has evolved into “small plates.” The reason behind this was that restaurants did not want to be associated with only Spanish style dishes. They wanted to branch out into different styles of cooking.

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Nowadays, we see small plate restaurants everywhere. For us, it means dishes for sharing. Great for curious diners, it makes it easy to try several unique dishes at once. This creates a sort of unity between those at the table and immediately sparks conversation because everyone can try the same dishes. One of the reasons these small plates have become so popular is due to millennials. This younger group of people, aged 18-34, has adopted an experiential way of sharing various dishes and the idea of customizing meals appeals to them, says Mary Chapman of Technomic.

The rise in small plate restaurants can also be linked to health sensibility. Many Americans are looking for healthier options when dining out. In a country full of oversized portions, small plate restaurants stand out. They offer smaller portions to share, allowing the diner to really savor the food and most likely, not overeat. As a chef, there is another advantage as to why small plates are king. When small plates are ordered, they are cooked as soon as possible and brought to the table as they finish, which means happy guests. A shorter cook time makes for shorter time spent at the restaurant, which means tables turn around quicker and there are ultimately more diners in the restaurant each night.

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The whole small plate revolution is a convenient and smart idea when entertaining at home. Personally, some of my favorite small plates to make are: Short Rib Bouguignon with a dollop of sour cream and chive mashed potatoes or Dukkah-Crusted Lamb Chops with pomegranate molasses.

If you are looking to get out and explore some small plate restaurants, it’s worth checking out these:


31 W 17 St.

New York, NY 10011



108 W 18 St

New York, NY 10011


Sunset Marquis

1200 N. Alta Loma Rd

West Hollywood, CA 90069


Small Plates Detroit

1521 Broadway St

Detroit, MI 48226


For more information on small plates check out the following articles:

Small Plates Grow Up

5 days ago

We live in a messy revolutionary period for restaurants. The old rules for going out to eat, under which Mom and Dad ambled down a predictable path from appetizer to main course to dessert, with Mom pausing halfway through dinner to ask about Dad's veal chop, were repealed some time ago.

more »

Restaurant chains roll out small bites at small prices -

one day ago

By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY Some of the nation's most familiar casual-dining chains are suddenly thinking smaller. They're rolling out tapas-like small plates of shareable items that typically are cheaper than appetizers by a buck or two - or even three.

more »

Small Plates

one day ago

S ociologists used to think they could track the rise and fall of the economy by the length of women's skirts. Then fashion got hopelessly permissive. Perhaps the size of plates is a better indicator. In the dot-com euphoria, dishes had to be tall.

more »

Four Stars: Small plates with great tastes

5 days ago

Banquet buffets are trending in the direction of small plate displays, leaving behind the chafing dish with heavy "bulk" preparations. Quick bites and small plates allow guests to sample many different dishes in one dining experience. They support the trend toward sharing, not overeating, and sampling a variety of flavors.

more »

Small plates are a big food trend

5 days ago

Tupelo Honey Café made a big announcement last month. The Asheville-based restaurant told customers it would be changing its menu, adding more mix-and-match options, new bar items and new, healthier sides. But one of the biggest changes the 15-year-old restaurant made was adding a whole section of small plates.

more »

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