16 Party Bar Ideas

A party bar (sometimes called food stations) makes any party instantly more festive… the following 16 party bar ideas will not only make your party more memorable, but also less stressful. With a food party bar, guests can make their own dish according to their tastes… extra marshmallows, no problem… don’t like olives, no big deal… Oh and if you like this post, here are 24 more party bar/ food station ideas

16 Food bar ideas

16 party food stations

16 party food stations

16 party food stations
16 party food stations

16 party food stations

16 party food stations

16 party food stations

11: Trail Mix

16 party food stations

12: Pasta

16 party food stations
16 party food stations
14: Pizza
16 party food stations
Any one of these ideas would be fun for a simple gathering at home or you could combine a few ideas for a bigger event. My friend, Katy, hosts dinner at her house and she always does a “make your own_______” theme. I love it! We’ve done nachos, fajitas, and pizza so far :) Do you have a make your own ________ buffet? What are other good meals to do this with?

Here are 24 more fun food station ideas:

Party bar ideas

Psst… Here are 25 unique guest book ideas to make your par-tay even more special!


  1. I also love the idea of party bars! A couple friends of mine had a potato bar and a candy bar at their wedding receptions. The potato bar was a choice of mashed or sweet, and came out of one of those "squeeze" machines like soft serve icecream. LOL With all different toppings available! I love the cookie bar too. Great ideas!

  2. oh, what inspiration for future parties – LOVE THIS! thank you for the roundup!

    happy 4th!!

  3. How cute! I love the cupcake decorating bar! I'm going to have to try that at one of my parties. I love throwing parties!

  4. Love Party bars! I also went to a party with a really fun martini bar, with different color sugar for the rims, and fruits and mixers… so fun! I have never thought of the cereal or oatmeal bar!! Thanks! elyse

  5. These are great ideas! I love all the colors in the candy bar! :) I had friends do an ice cream sundae bar for their wedding, and the cupcake bar in the cafeteria at our university is always a hit!


  6. Oh, wow! Great ideas! We do "oatmeal bar" for breakfast at our place–and breakfast is a party everyday with a family of 10! :o)

  7. Oooo I love the yogurt bar! I may have to do that at my baby shower!!

    -Jess @ That's Sew Crafty

  8. What great ideas! I love the glasses (and what looks like chalkboard paint) with the Mashed Potato Bar the best. Thanks for sharing!


  9. Mom had us and our cousins do sandwich bars when we were kids. The only rule was you had to eat what you made. She also did crepe buffets for Sunday suppers sometimes.

  10. So many great bar ideas! I've added them to my Pinterest board:http://pinterest.com/madebyaprincess/party-decor-design/ and started following you :) Thank you!

  11. I LOVE the pasta bar – such fun ideas. But, the link is the same as the one before it – do you have the link that'll take me to the pasta bar inspiration? I'd love to see more details!
    (btw, love your blog, I've gotten so many great ideas so Thank You!)

  12. I love candy bars at wedding receptions. I'm helping my future sister in law plan her wedding and she's having a candy bar. Thank you for all the helpful ideas! I looked online and found a company, Box and Wrap that supplies cute candy bags, candy boxes, and Favor boxes. They are very nice and reasonably priced. She's going to order some and let the guests fill their own container from the candy bar. Wedding Favors Done!! Much better than giving something that will be thrown away or tossed in a junk drawer!

  13. I love your list of was looking and making my own lists and stumbled upon yours. I love hosting make your own________ parties and have been trying to think up some different ones. It is the best for parties and really makes the party and since food takes time to prepare and such why not make it the main event!

  14. Love the ideas! We have done the yogurt bar, baked potato bar, pizza bar. And for our gradutaion party this year, instead of cake, we are doing a mini fruit pizza bar. We are using individual sugar cookies. My sister’s son is having a candy bar instead of a cake. I hope guests find it fun without the traditional grad. cake.

  15. I love party bar too. Last year for my daughters 3rd birthday she wanted hot dogs as the party food. I was less than excited since I tend to do over the top parties. I made it work though with a hot dog bar. I have a triple crockpot and had chili, sauerkraut, cole slaw and all the fixins! The kids (and parents) loved it. Plus it wasn’t expensive!!! Make your own bars are the best! Thanks for these other ideas. I have many more birthday ideas now 😀

  16. Love this post – to add, I do a Mac & Cheese bar every year for Christmas – it’s a total hit. Usually the same toppings as the Potato bar. Yummy!

  17. For our engagement party, we did a make your own salad bar. And my mother own does make your own pizza. Recently I hosted a make your own burger bar: beef or vegan burgers with about ten toppings. These are great ideas – thanks!

  18. Lanibug says:

    I am currently planning my daughter’s graduation party. We’ve decide to do a burger bar. We will have hamburgers and turkey burgers with all different topping options…. sauteed mushrooms, sauteed onion, sliced onion, lettuce, tomato, bacon, pico de gallo, guacamole, grilled pineapple, Pepperjack, cheddar, swiss, havarti. Would love any other recommendations!

    • Jessica says:

      BBQ sauce, teryaki sauce would be good with the pineapple. french fried onions (though, that may be too many onions) and maybe some other veggies. You could grill red peppers if you were grilling burgers, maybe spinach leaves or alfalfa sprouts, or fried green tomatoes- I’ve seen those on some cooking shows, like BLT burger, but with fried green tomatoes.

      • I don’t know your crowd or your daughter’s, but I’d suggest having a vegetarian option, whether a prepared “veggie burger” or one of your own.

    • BBQ, A1, cucumbers, banana peppers, pickles

  19. I hosted a waffle party! It was awesome – savoury, sweet, anything goes!

  20. We just hosted a taco bar! Very similar to your nachos bar… but with hard and soft taco shells. Someone at our party mentioned having taco bowls, like for taco salad, at our next one. Thanks for more ideas! Our Sunday School class is doing “Make your own” nights for our monthly get togethers and now we have MORE ideas. Wahoo :)

    • i was going to suggest taco salad bar. an office i visit hosted one as a fundraiser, with small ($3) and large ($6) plates. You could choose from taco meat and/or a black bean-corn-salsa mix, chips, ranch, olives, cheese, salsa, tomatoes, onions. Good additions would be avo or guac, cilantro, refried beans, multiple cheese options, upgraded greens (they just had iceberg), etc.

    • We do taco-in-a-bag bar – a fun-size bag of doritos, opened up, with all the taco fixings you want in it, or dumped out onto a plate – yum!

  21. LOVE party bars! We’ve done pizza, taco/burrito, and hawaiian haystacks for our big family gatherings. Makes prep so much easier and I love that all my guests choose what THEY want!

    • Y’all have so many fun ideas! I’m googling “Hawaiian hay stacks” now :)

    • Stephanie M says:

      I hosted a Christmas party for 40 and we did build your own Hawaiian Haystacks. I made the rice and chicken gravy and assigned out toppings: cheese, olives, celery, pineapple, coconut, tomatoes, almonds, chow mein noodles, mushrooms, bell peppers, etc. It was easy to please everybody! (I even made the gravy dairy and gluten-free).

  22. Awesome! We have a boatload of allergies/specialty diets going on in our family, so a lot of these are just practical dinner ideas for us. Thanks!

  23. what about a make your own soup bar? Have hot chicken, beef, and vegetable broth with noodles, rice, vegetables and different meats. Could be kind of fun.

    • Deborah says:

      That’s a great idea for a soup bar. I do that all the time at our local oriental buffet. I get the won ton soup and add shrimp, rice, and some vegi’s . Delish!

  24. We had a make your own sunday bar at my son’s first birthday party. The kids loved it but most of the adults were in there more than once! I had three different sauces, candy, cookies, fruit, chocolate chips, marshmellows … I kept it all hidden inside until everyone had finished their lunch and brought it out while we served cake. Perfect treat for the summer! We have also done pizza, sandwiches, pancakes/french toast, salad, and many more. It is a great way to serve a lot of people and not have to worry about different tastes or allergies!

  25. christymeez says:

    a Gyro bar is great too… Pita bread, gyro meat, tomatoes, lettuce, black olives, cucumber sauce and red onions.

  26. I did a Cheesecake bar for a friends baby shower. It was so fun and we used the big Cheesecakes from Costco and had all kinds of fruit and sauces.

  27. Christin says:

    I’m having a hotdog bar (recipe cards; chicago dog, reuben dog, etc…) and a grilled cheese bar (pizza, caprese, french onion,)… for my daughter’s graduation this Sunday…
    When I “say” hotdogs and grilled cheese, people kind of roll their eyes, they don’t think past ketchup, mustard and American, but I’m SO excited!! :)

    • We had a hot dog bar at our son’s bday party last year. You are right – there are so many options besides mustard, ketchup, relish! It was a huge hit! (We were inspired by the then-recently new Sonic hot dog ads.) :) Grilled cheese bar is a fun idea too!

  28. I hosted a panini bar… I had two panini makers, two kinds of bread, grilled chicken, sliced turkey, spinach, roasted red peppers, three kinds of cheese and a couple kinds of spreads (pesto, olive, etc.). I also offer tomato soup as a side dish…

  29. A friend and I are planning another friends bachelorette party, and we’re doing a Bloddy Mary Bar and a Taco Bar. We figured they’d be easy to do, especially the Taco Bar. People can make tacos, nachos, taco salads, etc – and not get super full from eating everything either. Love these ideas!

  30. Love the round up! Thanks for posting.

    I did a yogurt/parfait bar for my son’s brunch birthday party. There are so many toppings you can use and we set out 2 different kinds of yogurt, greek and vanilla.

    I’ve also done a lemonade bar. We set out pink lemonade and regular lemonade. We made icecubes with fruit in them and we also left out various fruits and fruit juices to flavor your lemonade. We also left a few “hard” choices for the adults to mix in 😉

    For my daughter’s 3rd birthday coming up in a few weeks, we are going to do a popcorn bar. We will have about 8 varieties of popcorn (regular butter, light, chili flavored, dill, cotton candy, grape, white chocolate, dark chocolate). We are doing an outside showing of her favorite movie, so we can’t go wrong with popcorn!

  31. Hi! Can you please tell me where you got the divided dish for the pasta bar? I would love to get one like that. Thanks!

  32. We had a big party here at our horse stables/riding school last Fall. We had a “hot dog bar” and it was a blast. I grilled everal different kinds of hot dogs, brautwurst & sausage. Set up a “fixins bar” with all the usual condiments plus grilled onion, sauerkraut, jalapeños, different cheeses, chili, bacon, relishes, blue cheese, etc. We also offered several types of buns & rolls. It was a big hit!

    • Jenniffer says:

      I am planning on doing this for the barbeque baby shower (baby-q) im hosting next month! Im glad to hear it was a hit. Im hoping it will be for me too!!

  33. I’ve done several potato soup bars (one served 25-30 and the other served 125) that were always a big hit!!! Sides offered were: sour cream, bacon bits, fried kielbasa slices, corn, sliced green onions, cheddar cheese, and Parmesan cheese. Comfort food!

  34. We did a a chili bar for my son’s, who is a winter baby, birthday. We did things you put chili on as well as what you could put on chili.

  35. Awesome ideas. Yummy & fun!

  36. I recently saw an Italian Soda bar on a blog {I can’t take credit for it…and now am drawing a blank as to which site it was}. It was so fun. Lots of syrup choices, sparkling waters, stripey straws, and lots of whipped cream and cherries.

  37. Jaya Maharajh says:

    How about a Falafel Bar or a Salad Bar or a Wrap Bar?!

    • Salad bars have been a tradition in our family for eons! They’re great for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. My parents just call it “chef salad” but put everything out separately, which is the same thing, right? LOL

  38. I love food stations! I did a hashbrown bar for a St. Patrick’s Day brunch a couple of years ago and people loved it. Crumbled bacon, ham, chorizo, three kinds of cheese, lots of different veggies, sour cream, salsa, ketchup, corn flakes. You really can put anything on potatoes . . .

  39. For my son’s first birthday we did a burger bar; we grilled pork and beef burgers and as toppings we set out three different types of cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, sautéed onions, sautéed mushrooms, jalapeños, homemade jalapeño aioli, homemade BBQ sauce, avocadoes, several different types of mustard, ketchup, and mayo…it was HUGE hit, everyone had a blast creating their own burgers!

  40. For a Super Bowl party 2 years ago I had a potato skins bar. It was a huge hit! I made the potato skins in advance and then had tons of different toppings. The two teams that played were the Packers and the Steelers so we had lots of different cheeses (including WI cheese curds), bratwursts, and onions for the Packer skins and sausages, sauerkraut, and cheese for the Steeler skins plus chili, shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions, bacon bits and lots of other toppings.

    I think it would be cool to have a quesadilla bar as well. Set out tortillas, cheese, chicken, salsa, sour cream, onions, guacamole, and anything else you can imagine. Let everyone make their own and then throw them on a griddle or in a skillet. Quick and easy and everyone can make it just how they like it.

    Thank you so much for this wonderful collection of food bars. I will definitely be making some of these really soon!

  41. Kayla Edsall says:

    I did a carmel apple bar at my wedding. We had placed a green apple on a stick at each place setting for everyone before hand. We had crockpots of carmel and we also had nuts and oreos to put on their apples. We also had containers for everyone to take it home if they didn’t want to eat it there. It went over very well.

  42. Stephanie says:

    An ice cream sandwich bar is really fun. You can use different soft cookies from the bakery section at the grocery store (or make your own), and offer different ice cream flavors. It’s fun to make the sandwiches before dinner, wrap them in wax paper and then serve them for dessert. Everyone gets just what they want, and you don’t have to do much work! And, if anyone is too full from dinner, they can take their sandwich home!

  43. I’m doing a Banana Split station for my twins 3rd birthday party. I think it will be a hit!

  44. Cynthia says:

    I am planning a baby shower and plan to have a candy bar. Does anyone know of an affordable online candy vendor?

    • nuts.com is a great website! I usually go to “candy & sweets” where you can order tons of different candy varieties by the color in bulk! Hope this helps!

  45. I do a crepe (thin pancake) bar, we have the fixings for sweet and savory crepes. Sweet fillings include: pudding chocolate and vanilla, all kinds of fruit, peanut butter, nutella, jam, whipping cream, chantilly cream, chocolate sauce, fruit sauces, syrups, nuts and chocolate and butterscotch chips. The savory fillings include: meats such as ham, bacon, thin sliced steak or beef, grated cheeses cheddar and mozzerella, brie cut in slices, cooked asperagus, spinach, brocolli and cauliflower, tomato slices, lettuce, onions, pickled hot peppers, black olives, hollandaise sauce, salsa sauce, brushcetta, cheese sauce.

  46. We’ve done hotdog bars in the past – always a big hit. This past year, for my daughters 9th birthday we did a “Build Your Own Sundae Bar” – complete with everything you could possibly want for your ice cream. The kids LOVED it and loved even more that we allowed them to put on their own whipped topping! lol Going to definitely try some of these ideas out in the future!

  47. We are doing a cheesecake bar for our wedding reception…. plain cheesecake from Costco (which is very affordable!) and all the toppings for our guests to choose from: caramel sauce, fudge sauce, crushed oreos, fruit, nuts, and whipped cream. :)

  48. Just saw a “mini fruit pizza” bar on pinterest. Using sugar cookies, blending cream cheese and marshmello fluff, and different chopped fruits like kiwi, strawberries, and blueberries. I love the cream cheese mixture, it makes a great fruit dip.

  49. My daughters recently attended a party where the girls were able to make their own shish-kabobs from a bar full of choices. Various meats (chicken, sausage..), peppers, mushrooms, pineapple were part of the selection. They loved that they could create a shish-kabob then get their dinner grilled.

  50. Caramel apple bar. Huge hit!! Caramel, m&ms, pecans, Heath, mini chocolate chips, coconut. So yummy!!

  51. I love the cupcake bar idea – so many options, guests could get really creative!

  52. I’m doing a ‘Ready to Pop’ baby shower in a couple of weeks. We are doing a popcorn bar, with about 10 different flavored popcorns & popcorn cupcakes ( just mini marshmallows made to look like popcorn on top of cupcakes). We found individual popcorn containers & Large ones to put the popcorn in on the bar at Party City. I think it will be a great shower! I can’t wait! Love the idea of a potato bar & the pizza bar.

  53. I am doing a “Make your own sushi roll” party soon!!! I went to a sushi class were I learnt how to make it. The teacher told us ideas to invite our friends and make a sushi party. She suggested to everybody prepare thei own mini cons so hosts didnt have to make all the effort. Of course you can also make evrybody to prepare their own rolls but for every roll there are around 6-8 bites of the same and with the mini cons they can prepare a different bite for each con.

  54. My husband’s office had a risotto bar at their holiday party last year. There was a big dish of plain risotto with all sorts of mix ins like cheese, bacon, chives, etc. It was really fun and delicious!

  55. I used to cater and one of the most requested lunches I would do was a Build your own Subs bar- I would have mini size sub buns (6″) and a platter of lunch meats- ham, turkey, roast beef, salami; one of cheeses- American, provolone, Swiss and cheddar (sometimes co jack); a tray of toppings- sliced tomatoes, sliced bell peppers in red, green and yellow, sliced red and sweet onions, shredded lettuce; then mayo, mustard, ketchup, oil & vinegar, black and green olives, sandwich size pickles, hot and sweet peppers and jalapenos. chips and pretzels and chocolate chip cookies would complete the buffet.

    I also did a Top the Dog hotdog bar- Hotdogs, hotdog buns, Ketchup, Mustard, Relish Dill, Relish Sweet
    Diced Onions, Cheese sauce- not nacho, Chili with beans, Coney island sauce, Sauerkraut, potato salad or baked beans, Chips, Pretzels, cookies.

    Another Favorite i used to do was You’re the Chef Salads- let them make their own. I included:
    lettuce & red cabbage & carrot blend; shredded carrots, cherry Tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, diced red onion, diced bell peppers, English Cucumber sliced, Cheddar cheese, shredded, Swiss cheese, shredded, Turkey, chopped, Ham, chopped, diced hard salami, Bacon , cooked crisp and crumbled, Hard-boiled eggs, cubed, Sliced black olives, cranraisins, croutons,and assorted dressings.

    I hope these inspire you!

  56. A few years ago we had a Hot Dog Bar. Cut all the hot dogs and buns in half (so you could try more). and had fixings for 5 different styles of hot dog. (Ex. Carolin Dogs, Chicago Hot Dog to Kansas City Hot Dogs) We posted the recipe for each hot dog and guest fixed there own.

  57. I recognize the nacho bar from kojodesigns. We went to that party, and it was so well done. They do a lot of themed parties and post it on their blog. Everything they do is wonderful. You should check them out.

  58. Tristin Rieken says:

    Breakfast sandwich bar (biscuits, English muffins, sausage, bacon, eggs, and all the possible toppings) is fun for a brunch. Also Bloody Mary bar is great.

  59. Very Cool! I can’t help holding a party, it looks so attractive!

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  61. So many great party ideas

  62. We have done an omelet bar at my house. We take zip lock baggies and crack 2 eggs in each. I have all kinds of veggies chopped up in their own containers. we go around and put in what we like. Zip it up and drop the baggie in boiling water, in about 2 – 3 ,minutes (depending on how much stuff you add you have fluffy omelets ! of course squish the eggs around and add a slash of milk salt & pepper ! easy and no clean up.

  63. We had a chili bar. We made a big pot of chili and then put out lots of fixin’s – shredded cheese, sour cream, fritos, salsa, hot sauce, rice, pasta, corn bread, onions. Then we made a big salad and put out some clementines. It was a hit.

  64. Nicole Smith says:

    I’m loving all of these ideas! I’m doing a chili bar for my daughters birthday on Sunday. I’m making 2 different chilis: a traditional with beef and beans and then a white chicken option. For toppings I’ve got: doritos, fritos, black bean/ roasted garlic tortilla chip, goldfish crackers, oyster crackers, pepperjack cheese, sharp cheddar cheese, monteray jack cheese, sour cream, white onions, green onions, and three different hot sauces. We live in IL so the weather is a bit suspect this time of year so I wanted something that people would still be able to eat while milling around the house if we can’t be outside.

  65. I had a quesadilla station at a fiesta themed party I threw several years ago. In addition to all of the typical ingredients (grilled peppers, sautéed onions, a variety of meat, etc) I also had atypical ingredients such as goat cheese, fresh figs, etc. Make sure to include a variety of toppings, such as salsas, sour cream, avocado slices, BBQ sauce, etc. I had several electric griddles plugged in and it made it soo easy. It was a huge hit. I’ve also done a shish kabob party with shrimp, marinated beef, marinated chicken, bell peppers, pineapple, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc. Everyone put their own skewers together to be cooked on the grill. Also a hit-as long as there is plenty of grill space and snacks to munch on while waiting for your skewer to be done. :)

  66. Christie says:

    I ran these idea’s by my 10 year old daughter and she wants to have a Nacho Bar at her Candyland Party birthday party. I think it’s a great idea but is there a need to have any additional item’s? I ask because my daughter would also like to add in a mini burger bar. How was your party set-up, did you offer additional food items?

  67. I love this lists! Found it on pinterest;)

  68. I do a lot of themed bar ideas for my entertaing. One night though I wanted a potluck style theme, so I called it ‘garbage salad night’I asked all my friends to bring whatever they had in their crispers, fridge or pantry to throw in the salad! I provided the big bowl of lettuce, the many random bottles of dressing i had in mt fridge, and homemade bread. Everyone loved it! No one bought anything new!!!

  69. holly molly says:

    I’ve done a chili bar. Served regular chili with cheese, onion, mashed potatoes, spaghetti (Chicago style chili), and crackers. Was a great party for cold weather. If I had more slow cookers I would have made white chili or a vegetarian option. Most of my friends are omnivores, though, so that would have only been for variety.

  70. One of my favourite party bar is a brunch bar. I have a big family and usually to feed everyone the quickest way we have a do it yourself wrap station with scrambles eggs, ham, cheese, mushrooms, peppers, etc. and we have a bunch of sauces :-) we also offer a do it yourself fruit salad station :-) thank you so much for all the other ideas! they are quite inspiring!

  71. I love the idea of a trail mix bar. It is so unique! I had never heard of it before. Setting up a trail mix bar is perfect for a country western/ rustic party theme. I love the inspiration!


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