How to Order Food in Spanish and Survive Restaurants

Food is often one of the most memorable experiences of traveling, and yet, entering a restaurant in a country where you don’t speak the language can feel intimidating. From not knowing what to say to the waiter to trying to decipher the blocks of text on the menu, you might feel lost while trying to get something to eat.

Fear not, for once you understand the basics of dining in Spanish, you’ll be well equipped to enter any restaurant in a Spanish speaking country.

Walking Into the Restaurant

When you get to the restaurant, you’ll want to greet the host or server. The server may ask you “¿Cuántas personas?”, meaning “How many people?”. You can answer with the number of people in your group.

Ordering Drinks

Once you’re at your seat, the server will likely ask you “¿Algo para beber?” which means “Something to drink?” The key word to listen for are “Beber”, meaning “to drink” or “bebida”, meaning “drink”.

Here are the Spanish names of some common drinks

SpanishEnglish
AguaWater
Agua con GasSparkling Water
Jugo (Latin America)/ Zumo (Spain)Juice
CaféCoffee
Tea
CervezaBeer
VinoWine
RonRum
LimonadaLemonade
LecheMilk

Drink Modifiers

With some of these, you may want to modify them to be more specific. One word you will probably want to be more specific with is “Jugo” or “Zumo”.

If you’re asking for juice, you probably want it from a specific fruit. If you wanted to say apple juice, you would say “jugo de manzana” which literally means “juice of apple”. You can use “de” to specify from which fruit you would like juice.

If you’re asking for wine, you’ll want to specify whether you want your wine red, white, or rosé. To describe the word “vino”, we put the adjective after it. Red wine is “vino tinto”. White wine is “vino blanco”. Rosé is “vino rosado”.

If you want to request your drink with something, you can use the word “con”, which means “with”. For example, to say water with lemon, you would say “agua con limón”.

If you want to make sure your drink doesn’t contain something, you can use the word “sin”, which means “without”. For example, to say “water without ice” you would say “agua sin hielo”.

Ordering Food

Ready to Order?

After the server brings your drinks, they will ask you if you are ready to order. There are a few ways that the server may say this.

  • “Están listos para ordenar?” – Are you ready to order?
  • “Algo para comer? – Something to eat?
  • “¿Les tomo nota?” – May I take your order?
  • “¿Les tomo su orden?” – May I take your order?

The keywords to listen for are ordenar, comer, and nota. If you hear these words, the server is probably asking if you’re ready to order.

To respond to this, you can say “Si, estamos listos,” and begin your order. This means “Yes, we’re ready.” If you’re by yourself you can say “Si, estoy listo,” which means “Yes, I’m ready.”

If you need a few minutes to think of what you want to eat, you can tell the waiter “todavía no estamos listos,” which means “we’re not ready yet.” If you’re by yourself you can say “todavia no estoy listo,” which means “I’m not ready yet.”

Deciphering the Menu

Spanish menus can be intimidating due to the fact that many restaurants don’t have pictures of the food in the menus, and even the ones that do usually don’t have pictures of every item.

Learning some basic words for different kinds of food items can help you read and understand Spanish menus.

Meat

The spanish word for meat is “Carne”. In some contexts, the word “carne” can also refer to beef. For example, “empanadas de carne” usually means beef empanadas.

SpanishEnglish
CarneMeat
PolloChicken
JamonHam
Carne de ResBeef
CerdoPork
PavoTurkey
PescadoFish
TocinoBacon
CorderoLamb

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *