Ordering at a Restaurant in Spanish
4 of 12 in Series: The Essentials of Going Out on the Town in Spanish-Speaking Countries
When you’re eating out at a Spanish-speaking restaurant, knowing some basic Spanish vocabulary can make the ordering process a little easier. Placing your order basically consists of two parts: ordering a beverage and ordering food. But first you need to get the attention of your server.
Calling a waiter over to your table
If your waiter is a man, the appropriate way to address him depends on where you are. A waiter in Argentina is a mozo (moh-soh) or young man. But, calling someone mozo in Chile is offensive. In Chile, you say, garzón (gahr-sohn), which is derived from the French word for young man. If you call the waiter by either of these terms in Mexico, he may not react. You can better get his attention by saying joven (Hoh-bvehn), meaning young, even if he isn’t so young. In Spain, a waiter is a camarero (kah-mah-reh-roh).
When a woman is serving you, call her simply señorita (seh-nyoh-ree-tah), meaning Miss, no matter where you are.
Ordering a beverage
Many people like to order an aperitif, or cocktail, before dinner. One popular local liquor is aguardiente (ah-gooahr-deeehn-teh), which translates as fire water, and is made out of grapes, tequila (teh-kee-lah), and mezcal (mehs-kahl). In Chile and Peru, people like pisco (pees-koh) sour, a cocktail made with pisco (another liquor made from grapes), sugar, and lemon juice.
Agua (ah-gooah) in Mexico can mean water, which is its exact translation, but it can also be a beverage made with water, fruit, and sugar. All fruits, and even some vegetables, make refreshing aguas. In Chile, aguita (ah-goo-ee-tah), meaning little water, can be an herb tea served after a meal.
Following are a few more phrases you may hear or want to use when ordering beverages:
Escoger un vino (ehs-koh-Hehr oon bvee-noh) (choose a wine)
¡Salud! (sah-lood) (Cheers!)
Tomar un refresco (toh-mahr oon reh-frehs-koh) (drink a soda pop)
Tomar un trago (toh-mahr oon trah-goh) (have a drink [alcoholic])
Un vaso de agua (oon bvah-soh deh ah-gooah) (a glass of water)
Un vaso de leche (oon bvah-soh deh leh-cheh) (a glass of milk)
Ordering a main course
In order to make a selection, you may want to ask questions about various dishes on the menu. Here are a few helpful phrases:
¿Qué nos recomienda? (keh nohs reh-koh-meeehn-dah) (What do you suggest?)
¿Con qué está servido? (kohn keh ehs-tah sehr-bvee-doh) (What does it come with?)
¿Qué ingredientes tiene? (keh een-greh-dee ehn-tehs tee eh-neh) (What are the ingredients?)
¿Qué más trae el plato? (keh mahs trah-eh ehl plah-toh) (What else is in the dish?)
Your server may have occasion to use the following phrases:
¿Están listos para ordenar? (ehs-tahn lees-tohs pah-rah ohr-deh-nahr) (Are you ready to order?)
Está caliente. (ehs-tah kah-lee ehn-teh) (It’s hot [temperature].)
Está picante. (ehs-tah pee-kahn-teh) (It’s hot [flavor/spicy].)
Está frío. (ehs-tah freeoh) (It’s cold.)
Lamento, no tenemos . . . (lah-mehn-toh noh teh-neh-mohs) (Sorry, we don’t have any . . .)