- Mix it up with two types of chili. I offered both a meat and a vegetarian version; both were made ahead, and kept warm in slow cookers at the table.
- Vary the base as well as the toppings. Serve cornbread on the side, or cilantro-lime rice. Offer Fritos for make-your-own Frito pies, and pasta for those who go the route of Cincinnati-style chili. Oyster crackers would be great, too.
- Go crazy on top! I laid out everything from chopped red onions and scallions to sour cream and shredded cheese to pickled jalapeños and lime wedges. Or try something ridiculously over the top — like bacon!
- Be sure beverages are apropos for the occasion. To start off, I passed around tumblers of pineapple margarita. Once guests sat down at the table, they were greeted by an ice bucket full of California beers.
- Don't forget ambiance. Set the spread on top of a red checkered tablecloth, or scatter tea candle votive holders around the table for a little extra flair.
Ever created a make-your-own bar at home while entertaining? If so, do share your tips below!