How to go about setting up a Nacho/Taco Bar for 20-25 people?

platocatFebruary 22, 2009

DH and I recently joined a neighborhood euchre club and the rules are that it costs $10/person to play and the winner gets the $$ but has to host the next gathering. Even though we are both new to the game, wouldn't you know it but DH ended up winning last time so we're hosting next month. I estimate about 20-25 adults will be coming, we're responsible for all the food and drinks, and we have $180 to work with. Now, I expect we'll be chipping in extra but I don't want to go broke doing so. The last euchre party we attended had a really lavish spread with jumbo shrimp, chocolate fountain, 3 different entrees, etc. We aren't going to go that route but I don't want to come off looking cheap, either.

I'm thinking of going with a Nacho/Taco Bar so people can serve themselves. The food can be kept warm through-out the night. We'll also have desserts and plenty of beverages available. Qdoba has catering service available for a Nacho Bar and it includes:

-homemade tortilla chips

-marinated grilled chicken

-marinated ground sirloin

-choice of black or pinto beans

-warm 3-cheese queso

-three salsas

-sour cream

-greshly made guacamole

-choice of cookies or brownies

Qdoba charges $170 + tax for 20 people for the above mentioned items and the kit will come complete with chafing stand, chafing dishes and sterno, all serving utensils, plates, and napkins. We'd supply taco shells, flour tortillas, and lettuce to make it also a "taco bar".

Going with Qdoba sounds tempting but when you add in the costs of desserts, wine, beer, soft drinks, etc, we'll probably be $100-150 "over budget". I'm thinking it might be worth it to prepare the stuff myself to save some money.

Do you have any advice/tips on how I can do this? Any good recipes to share? I have several crock pots and an electric warming buffet that I can use. How much meat, salsas, tacos, tortillas, etc. should I get for this amount of people? Will it be easy to do or should I save myself the hassle and go with Qdoba?

Thank you so much for any and all suggestions!

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I did a taco bar for Superbowl. Prepared the beef and chicken fillings the day before and then kept them warm in crockpots for the party. Pre-prep all the veggies: shredded lettuce, chopped onion, tomato, jalapeno, black olives, etc. and shred the cheeses. All of these can be placed in bowls on a bed of ice to keep them chilled.

Beans can be kept warm in a chafing dish or crockpot as can queso dips. Guacamole, bean dips, sour cream and such can be kept in smaller containers in the fridge, and just replenished as they get low.

Tortillas do not have to be served warm, I served them at room temp and they were just fine.

Don't forget to have lots of Cervesas! I also had plenty of Sangria and Margaritas ready to go!

Good luck, I am sure it will be a wonderful party!


    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 3:26PM
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Price out the ingredients for doing it yourself. I think it will be waaaaay more economical. Preparation of those things is easy. Time consuming perhaps, but simple. Save your cash for the things you can't economize on, such as the beverages.

You can rent large chafing dishes/trays from a rental place if that will help, and I think it would.

Personally, I would warm the tortillas. I think it makes an important difference. They need to be wrapped or covered during and after warming so they don't dry out.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 4:14PM
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Thanks for your inputs. Does anyone have tasty but easy recipes for beef and chicken fillings to share? I also have access to Sam's Club and Costco so even buying pulled pork from there to heat up in a crockpot will likely be cheaper than going with Qdoba, right?

I don't mind doing the prep work, especially if I can do this a day or two ahead of time. How much of everything do you think I will need for a group of this size?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 4:35PM
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I your own ands erve top shelf booze and beer.
For a pork shoulder roast....put it in the oven with a little salt and papper in a covered roaster and cook at 325 for about 3 hours or more until it's good and done.
Pull it apart, add a big jar of salas and reheat with some of the defatted could season your own sauce by using tomato sauce, onions, garlic, chili powder and cumin....but.
Do the same with a couple of chickens and there is your meat.
Buy cans of beans and heat up, buy shredded cheese.....shred a couple of heads of lettuce, some tomatoes and a few bunches of green onions.
B uy a big jar of salsa from Sams, buy some tortilla a couple of chafing dishes from Sam's ( will cost you about $25 including sterno) and you will be ready for the next time you get lucky.
Have lots of Corona and limes....lots of margarita mix and tequilla and triple sec and enjoy!
Linda C

    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 5:33PM
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Add a bowl of sour cream to Linda's suggested set-up.

Also have a dish of chopped cilantro.

I would not add any sauce to the meat. I would serve sauces on the side and let everyone please themselves.

Guacamole would be a great addition to the menu. We had a thread on guacamole recently, didn't we?

Corona has done a terrific marketing job, to the point where many Americans now consider it top shelf. To me it is anything but. Nevertheless, have plenty of Corona for those who want it but have some Negra Modelo on hand as an alternative. Bohemia is another good one if you can get it.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 5:53PM
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Jim, I agree...Corona is mexican Miller Lite! But hey, to each their own. I wouldn't bother with pork shoulder myself, but that is up to you. I would go with ground beef and chicken. Trays of cheese, hot peppers, onions, cilantro, sour cream, guacamole, tomatoes and lettuce. Also offer corn and flour tortillos'. I would season the chicken and beef with some flavor packets available at the local market or your own concoction if you are so inclined. Sounds great, I wish I was on the guest list....I love fresh taco's and make them at least once a week!


    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 6:09PM
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Thanks for all the help! You've all helped breakdown the process for me so it doesn't sound as intimidating. :)

    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 10:46PM
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I have to ditto what the others said. Doing your own meats and fixings would be more economical, plus then you would have extra money to supply beverages and maybe more garnishes.

Our office has had Qdoba's cater a few client lunches, and while it is nice that they come with all the pans and sterno, sides and garnishes, it really isn't very lavish. I actually called them after receiving the "pulled beef" because it hardly looked adequate for 10 people, not the 25 that I ordered it for.

But having said that, if you really plan to have catering from either Qdobas or elsewhere, you can just add to the food that they bring and that may be a plus for you if you don't have the time to do it all yourself.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 11:40PM
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Hi all !
I am new to posting here but have wanted to chime in every now and then. I sure do love reading here and have been for a few years. :)
A taco/nacho bar is an easy one. On top of everyone else's great advice, look at your super market in the food service isle. They will have giant cans of nacho cheese, refried beans, salsa...usually name brands too. Always a lot cheaper to buy it in bulk that way. Then use your crock pot to heat them up. Have fun!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 8:21AM
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I did a taco bar for my daughter's graduation party - it went over well and most of the food could be prepped in advance. Here's a couple of recipes for meat fillings for you - both can be done in advance.


* Exported from MasterCook *

Kathy's Carnitas

Recipe By :
Serving Size : 0 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories :

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast (3-4) -- cubed and trimmed of visible fat
1 can or bottle beer
tequila (couple of turns around the pan)
5 garlic cloves
1 onion -- chunked
1 teaspoon ground cumin (1-2)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 limes (2-3) -- juiced
cilantro springs
chicken broth or boullion cubes

Place meat, garlic and onions in large pot. Sprinkle with cumin and brown sugar. Add beer, tequila, lime juice. Add enough water to cover meat. Add one boullion cube for each cup of water. Or use chicken broth to cover meat. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Remove lid and increase heat to completely reduce liquid. Remove meat fron the pot and fry up in a large skillet.

"Kathy Boehm"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Taco Filling

Recipe By :
Serving Size : 1 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories :

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 package taco seasoning mix (4 Tablespoons)
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound boned and skinned chicken breast halves

Dissolve taco seasoning into chicken broth. Place chicken breasts in crockpot and pour chicken broth over. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

With two forks, shred the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces. Use in soft tacos, hard tacos, burritos, nachos, etc.

To Freeze, place shredded meat into freezer bags with the juices. Press out all the air and seal.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 10:06AM
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I did a nacho bar for the kids combined graduation party (one from high school and one from grade school).
In addition to the various aged kids, there were about 30 adults too and everyone LOVED the idea and most have copied the idea too!!

I set up stations. I used crock pots (with liners-you'll thank me) for the meats, queso and beans. That was the warm station. I had all the chopped veg in chilled bowls with backup filled bowls in the fridge so I could swap as they were used up.
I then had a salsa station with assorted salsa, creama, guacamole and salsa verde.

I kept it simple and used perdue ground chicken for one meat option. I cooked up batches with cumin, oregano, garlic, cilantro and tomato paste-a few packets of goya sazon and cooked until most the liquid evaporated. I stored the meat in zippered frezzer bags with I could microwave and add to the crockpot. I also had shredded pork with I simmered with the above seasoning and pulled when done. Again I kept extra meat in the freezer bags to refill as needed.

I used store bought tortilla chips but I see no reason you can't add some fresh corn and flour tortillas for tacos.

Since your party is adults I would make batches of white and red sangria to serve in addition to good beer and rum!!
You don't need to splurge on the good stuff if your adding fresh fruit-its up to you!!

I hope you have fun!!


    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 12:10PM
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I appreciate all the suggestions and am taking notes. Please keep them coming!

I've never done this before so please excuse the newbie questions:
-about how many lbs of meat should I have for this number of people, if I go with ground beef, pulled pork, and chicken?
-should I plan on 3 tacos or tortillas per person?

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 1:33PM
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For my gathering I used 6 lbs of ground chickem and one whole pork loin.
I used 6 cans of goya black bean soup...I added a few cans of rinsed black bean but if you use the soup its already seasoned and delish!!
My queso was a cheat (grin), I used ragu double cheddar sauce to which I added cans of diced chiles and chopped tomato...I think I used about 6 jars of that too....seems 6 was the magic number.

I did make my own spicy and one mild, my own guacamole and verdi...the creama and one sauce came from a Hispanic market nearby.
I also forgot to mention I did have fresh shredded jack and cheddar cheese for those who wanted it.

For my party I thought about maybe adding a chicken tortilla soup but I thought that would have been too much.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 1:51PM
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Don't forget the Spanish Rice! :)

This cobbled together "recipe" feeds 12-15 sides

3 cups long grain rice
1/2 scant cup olive oil you might need a bit less :)
2 small cans tomato sauce or 1 large
2 1/4 cups of water or chicken stock if you'd like
1 bunch green onions, medium size slice
1 bunch parsley, rough chop
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
2 tablespoons hot sauce (I use more, we like hot)
Salt and pepper to taste
sometimes I'll add a finely diced carrot

In a large skillet (i use cast iron) on medium, heat oil. Add rice and stir until opaque in color, stirring frequently.
Lower heat to lowest setting, add tomato sauce, stir to mix.
Add all the rest of your ingredients with out stirring..just let them sit on top of the tomato rice mixture and cover with a tight fitting lid.
Go have a cerveza and let it cook for about 50 minutes. Come back and with a metal spatula lift and mix the rice, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom (Yum).
I serve it right in the cast iron looks authentic and less to clean.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 3:52PM
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If you want a really good sangria, try this one. This is my favorite sangria, I make this all the time and it is soooo good!

Red Apple Sangria

3 part Full bodied dry red wine (Shiraz, Cabernet,
1 part Sweet-n-sour mix
1 part Apple Liquor ( I used 99 Apples brand)
1 part Pineapple Juice
1 part Cranberry Juice

Garnish with Chopped apples, orange slices and fresh cranberries.

My notes: I have made this with Shiraz and Pinot Noir and it is just as good!


    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 10:54PM
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