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How to Order Food in a Restaurant in English

The American culture is a restaurant culture. Americans love eating out, getting take out, getting deliveries (especially here in NYC), and we even love getting our food through a drive thru, where we don’t have to get out of our cars.

Given that America is a diverse country by its heritage, non-native English speakers are confronted with a huge variety of menu options and etiquette in restaurants and cafes.

Since I’ve already done a lesson on How to Order at Starbucks in English, this lesson will focus on the necessary language needed for eating out, ordering food in restaurants, common vocabulary and typical practices in American restaurants.

Hostess

  • Hostess: “How many will you be tonight?” or “How many people are in your party?”
  • Diner: “Just two” or “two people”.


Drinks

  • Waiter: “Can I bring you some water?” or “Can I get you some water?” or “Would you like tap or bottled water?”
  • Diner: “Sure, we’ll have some water please. Tap is fine.” or “Yes. I’d like some bottled water please”


Ordering Salad

  • Diner: “I’d like to have the chef’s salad, please.”
  • Waiter: “What kind of [salad] dressing would you like?”
  • Diner: “What are my options?” or “What kind of salad dressings do you have?”
  • Waiter: “We have:
    • Balsamic Vinaigrette
    • Blue cheese dressing
    • Caesar dressing
    • French dressing
    • Ginger dressing
    • Honey Dijon
    • Italian dressing
    • Ranch dressing
    • Russian dressing
    • Thousand Island dressing”
  • Diner: “I’ll have Caesar dressing, please.”


Ordering Food

  • Waiter: “Would you like to hear the specials for tonight?” or “We have some specials this evening…”
  • Waiter: “Are you ready to order?”
  • Waiter: “Do you have any questions about the menu?”
  • Diner: “We’re ready to order. I’d like to have the steak please.”
  • Waiter: “How would you like that done?” or “How would you like that cooked?”
  • Diner: “Medium, please.”
The range of levels of cooked meat are (from least cooked/most pink to most cooked):
rare –> medium rare –> medium –> medium well –> well done
However, because of health regulations, some restaurants will not cook your meat less than medium well!


Vocabulary

Appetizer: The small dish before your main course.

Bill: Also called “the check,” this tells you how much you need to pay for your meal.

Booster seat: A child’s seat placed on a chair to allow the child to sit at the table (see also high chair).

Bus boy: The person who cleans the tables and dishes off of the table.

Check: The check is also called the bill. It tells you how much you have to pay for your meal.

Dessert: The last sweet dish of the night, after your entrée. (Notice that it is spelled with 2 “s”s.

Entrée: The main course.

High chair: The chair a baby sits in (see also booster seat).

Hostess/Maitre d’: The person at the front of the restaurant who greets you and seats you at a table.

Menu: the list of food and drink options available to order.

Party: The number of people who will be sitting at your table.

Tip: Usually 15% (20% in New York City) of the bill. Waiters and waitresses rely on this money as their income. Also called gratuity.

Waiter/Waitress: The person who takes your order and serves you food

Wine List, The: The menu showing all of the wine options you have.


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5 comments

  1. thank you so much for this info. and I want to ask about the sides of main course

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