Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of any culture is the food! Every country and region has their own specialties and local favorites. If you’re learning Spanish, you have the opportunity to connect with food culture across 20 countries! When you’re preparing to travel and feel ready to put your Spanish into action, take a peek at this complete guide of the phrases you’ll need to know to order food in Spanish.
Table of contents:
- Common Spanish food vocabulary and phrases
- How to order: From hello to goodbye
- Usted versus tu
- Ordering for a group
- Asking about dietary restrictions
- Asking for recommendations
- Ordering to-go food
- Can you say bon appétit in Spanish?
- Dig into learning Spanish
Common Spanish food vocabulary and phrases
From las bebidas (drinks) to los platos (entrées), you’ll encounter a wide range of vocabulary on menus. First, dive into vocab and example conversations in the video below, where you’ll take a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico with Rosetta Stone.
Ready to dive deeper into ordering food in Spanish? Let’s review some common words and phrases.
|¡Bienvenido! ¿Cómo puedo ayudarte?||Welcome! How can I help you?|
|Una mesa para uno, por favor.||A table for one, please.|
|¿Quieres sentarte adentro o afuera?||Do you want to sit inside or outside?|
|Afuera, por favor.||Outside, please.|
|Acompañarme.||Come with me.|
|¿Qué te gustaría tomar?||What would you like to drink?|
|Me gustaría una cerveza, por favor.||I would like a beer, please.|
|¡Aquí tienes!||Here you go!|
|¿Y qué te gustaría comer?||And what would you like to eat?|
|No lo sé. ¿Tienes algo vegetariano?||I don’t know. Do you have anything vegetarian?|
|Sí, tenemos unos deliciosos chilaquiles.||Yes, we have delicious chilaquiles.|
|Suena perfecto.||Sounds perfect.|
|¿Es picante?||Is it spicy?|
|Sí, es un poco picante.||Yes, it’s a little spicy.|
|Perfecto. Me gustaría unos chilaquiles, por favor.||Perfect. I would like the chilaquiles, please.|
|¿Algo más?||Anything else?|
|¡La cuenta, por favor!||Check, please!|
Vocabulary for drinks:
|el agua con gas||seltzer water|
|el vino tinto||red wine|
|el vino blanco||white wine|
|el café solo||black coffee|
|el café con leche||coffee with milk|
Vocabulary for meat and seafood:
|la carne (de res)||beef|
|la (carne de) cerdo||pork|
Vocabulary for fruits and vegetables:
|la papa / patata||potato|
Vocabulary for desserts:
|el pastel||cake (Mexico)|
|el helado||ice cream|
Vocabulary for restaurants:
|la cuenta||check / bill|
|la tarjeta de crédito||credit card|
How to order: From hello to goodbye
Now that we’ve reviewed some common phrases and vocabulary, let’s walk through the different steps of ordering food in Spanish, from making a reservation to paying the check.
Getting a table
Not every restaurant you go to will require a reservation, but you will have to ask for a table. Just like when you’re at home, it’s a good idea to call ahead for table reservations when you plan to go to a fancier or more popular restaurant.
Here is an example of how you would make and claim your reservation:
|Quiero hacer una reserva para dos personas el martes a las dos de la tarde, por favor.||I’d like to make a reservation for 2 people on Tuesday at 2pm, please.|
|¿Cuál es su nombre?||What is your name?|
|¿A nombre de quién?||Who’s it addressed to? (Whose name is under?)|
|Tengo una reserva a nombre de…||I have a reservation under the name of…|
If you’re walking into a more casual restaurant or cafe your conversation may include some of the following phrases:
|Una mesa para dos, por favor.||A table for two, please.|
|¿Podemos sentarnos adentro?||Can we sit inside?|
|¿Podemos sentarnos afuera?||Can we sit outside?|
|Por favor, tome asiento.||Please, take a seat.|
|Permítame llevarlo a su mesa.||Let me walk you to your table.|
Greeting your server
Once you get to your table it’s a good idea to say hello to your server! Here are a few different ways to greet your server:
|buenos días||good morning|
|buenas tardes||good afternoon|
|buenas noches||good evening|
They’ll then ask you if you’re ready to order. You can either start ordering or ask them for more time.
|¿Estás listo?||Are you ready?|
|¿Estás listo para ordenar?||Are you ready to order?|
|¿Les puedo tomar tu orden?||May I take your order?|
|Sí, estamos listos.||Yes, we are ready.|
|Sí, por favor.||Yes, please.|
|Todavía no estamos listos.||We are not ready yet.|
|¿Nos puedes dar un minuto más, por favor?||Can you give us one more minute, please?|
If you’re having trouble understanding your server, you can ask them to speak slower or repeat what they said.
- ¿Me lo puedes repetir? = Would you repeat that?
- Más despacio, por favor. = More slowly, please.
- ¿Lo puedes decir más lento? = Can you say that slower?
Ordering a drink
Your server will likely ask what you’d like to drink first. Here’s how that conversation might go:
|¿Qué van a tomar?||What would you like to drink?|
|¿Qué les pongo de beber?||What can I bring you to drink?|
|¿Qué bebidas tienes?||What drinks do you have?|
|Me gustaría una botella de agua, por favor.||I would like a bottle of water, please.|
|¿Me trae una cerveza, por favor?||Could you bring me a beer, please?|
Once you have your drink, your server will ask you to order your meal.
|¿Le puedo tomar su orden?||Can I take your order?|
|¿Desea ordenar?||Would you like to order?|
|¿Qué va a comer?||What would you like to eat?|
|Para empezar me gustaría…||To start I would like…|
|Quisiera un/una…||I would like…|
|¿Me traes un/una…?||Will you bring me…?|
After you’ve ordered, your server may return to ask how you like your food.
|¿Todo en orden?||Everything okay?|
|¡Gracias por la deliciosa comida!||Thank you for the delicious food!|
|¿Se les ofrece algo más?||Can I get you anything else?|
|¿Sería todo?||Will that be all?|
|Sería todo, gracias.||That’ll be all, thank you.|
|Sí, es todo.||Yes, that’s it.|
|Sí, gracias.||Yes, thank you.|
Asking for the bill
Finally, when you’re finishing up and ready to pay, here’s how to get and pay the check.
|Disculpa, la cuenta, por favor.||Excuse me, the check, please.|
|¿Me trae la cuenta, por favor?||Can you bring the check, please?|
|¿Puedo pagar con tarjeta de crédito?||Can I pay by credit card?|
|Disculpa, ¿aceptan tarjetas?||Excuse me, do you take cards?|
|Tiene que pagar en efectivo.||You have to pay with cash.|
You can also signal non-verbally that you’re ready to pay. First, you’ll raise your hand to get the waiter’s attention. Then, motion with your hands like you are writing something down.
Usted versus tú
When speaking another language, politeness is an important part of helping conversations go smoothly. These etiquette rules apply to conversations you have with servers and restaurant staff. An important part of expressing politeness in language is using the proper pronouns when speaking to other people. In Spanish, you’ll have to choose between using the formal usted (you) and the informal tú (you) when speaking.
While you may initially lean towards using usted, the formal version, this isn’t always the best approach. Depending on the country you’re visiting, the proper “you” can differ. And, with Spanish as the official language of 20 countries, there’s a lot of room for variation.
But never fear, we have a few tips to help you make the right choice.
- First, don’t overthink it! People will appreciate that you’re making an effort to learn and speak their language.
- Practice active listening. When the server addresses you, try to listen for whether they address you with tú or usted. From there you can mirror their level of formality. A great way to get used to listening to people in other languages is through the immersive environment of Rosetta Stone. With both pronunciation recognition and audio lessons, Rosetta Stone will help you strengthen your speaking and listening skills.
- Practice using both versions! The more comfortable you are forming sentences with tú and usted, the easier it will be to switch between the two.
If you’re still unsure which to use, you can generally use tú in more casual settings, like a cafe, and usted for more upscale restaurants.
Don’t use tener – ask a question instead!
Another common mistake new Spanish speakers will make is using tener when ordering at a restaurant. In English, it’s common to order food or drinks by telling the server what you would like or want to have (tener). You might be tempted to translate literally and end up with a sentence like Podría tener… (Could I have…), Quisiera tener… (I would like to have…), or Me gustaría tener… (I would like to have…) that uses tener.
But, in Spanish these “I” statements aren’t quite right. Instead, you should focus on what you want your server to do for you. An easy way to do this, while still being polite, is to give your server commands in the form of a question. So instead of saying “Can i have” instead ask your server “Can you bring me.”
- Me traes… = You bring me…
- Me puedes traer… = Can you bring me…
- Me podrías traer… = Could you bring me…
Ordering for a group
Now that you’re ready to order, make sure you know who you’re ordering for! Most of the time you’ll likely be ordering food for yourself. In these situations you can use para mí (for me) in the sentence to indicate you’re ordering for yourself.
- Para mí, una cerveza, por favor. = For me, a beer, please.
- Los chilaquiles para mí, por favor. = The chilaquiles for me, please.
When you’re ordering for someone else at the table you can similarly use para ella (for her) or para él (for him).
- Para ella, una cerveza, por favor. = For her, a beer, please.
- Los chilaquiles para él, por favor. = The chilaquiles for him, please.
In some situations though, like ordering appetizers for the table, you might want to order for the group as a whole. In these cases, you’ll want to say vamos a pedir (we’re going to order) or add para compartir (to share) to the end.
- Vamos a pedir cervezas, por favor. = We’re going to order beers, please.
- Vamos a pedir tacos para compartir. = We’re going to order tacos to share.
Asking about dietary restrictions
Another aspect of dining that can make it difficult to eat out in another country is finding food that aligns with your dietary preferences. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or have allergies, it’s important to find out what ingredients are in your food.
To ask about specific ingredients, you can use the phrase ¿lleva…? (does it have).
- ¿Lleva carne? = Does it have meat in it?
- ¿Lleva nueces? = Does it have nuts in it?
If you have severe allergies, it can be a good idea to write out a couple of these questions on a notecard or on your phone so you’ll remember how to ask the waiter when you order.
If you’d like to order something but it has an ingredient you don’t want, you can use sin (without) to ask for the dish without a specific ingredient.
- sin carne = without meat
- sin queso = without cheese
- sin nueces = without nuts
Or, if you’d like to add on a specific ingredient you can use con (with) to ask for it.
- con carne = with meat
- con chile = with spice
- con leche = with milk
Asking for recommendations
As with any restaurant you visit, but especially when traveling, you may be unsure what to order. Here are a few helpful phrases to ask the waiter if you’re having trouble choosing something to eat.
- No sé qué pedir. = I don’t know what to order.
- ¿Qué nos recomiendas? = What do you recommend to us?
If you’re choosing between two dishes you could also ask which the server recommends.
- Estoy entre la paella y los chilaquiles. ¿Qué me recomiendas? = I’m between paella and chilaquiles. What do you recommend for me?
Or, if you’re wondering if there are dishes with a specific ingredient or for your dietary needs, you can ask for recommendations like this:
- ¿Tienes algo vegetariano? = Do you have something vegetarian?
- ¿Tienes algo con pescado? = Do you have something with fish?
Asking for suggestions is also a great way to find out about the local specialities. With Spanish speakers all over the world, you’ll never run out of exciting and delicious local delicacies—from the arepas in Colombia and mole in Mexico to the paella in Spain. So before you visit a new place, be sure to do some research on the regional dishes.
But for those times when you’re in a pinch, here are some phrases for asking your server about regional dishes:
- ¿Cuál es la comida típica de esta región? = What is the typical food of this region?
- ¿Cuál es su especialidad? = What is your speciality?
Ordering to-go food
If you’ve finished your meal and you want a to-go container, or you’d like to order takeout, it’s okay to ask the restaurant. Simply tell your server:
- Para llevar, por favor. = For takeout, please.
You can also use a similar phrase to indicate that you’ll be eating at the restaurant.
- Para comer aquí, por favor. = To eat here, please.
Can you say bon appétit in Spanish?
Want to celebrate eating your delicious meal? Do it like a local! You may be familiar with the French phrase bon appétit, but is there an equivalent in Spanish?
Well, in Mexico you can start your meal by saying provecho or buen provecho, which is sometimes translated as bon appétit or enjoy your meal!
- ¡Provecho! = Enjoy your meal!
- ¡Buen provecho! = Enjoy your meal!
You can also say salud before you have drinks (usually alcoholic drinks).
- ¡Salud! = Cheers!
And, after a good meal you can proclaim your happiness with this Spanish saying:
- ¡Panza llena, corazón contento! = A full stomach makes for a happy heart!
Dig into learning Spanish
Ready to take a bite at improving your Spanish knowledge? Let Rosetta Stone help you! Start by learning basic words and phrases, reviewing the essential basics for learning Spanish, or exploring Oaxaca, Mexico through everyday conversations. Rosetta Stone can help you learn a language faster and more confidently than you would if you studied on your own.
With Rosetta Stone, you’ll learn Spanish naturally with a unique immersive approach to learning. Bite-sized lessons help you learn at your own pace, and the Rosetta Stone app lets you do it all on the go. Plus, you’ll have the option to choose between Latin American or European Spanish to ensure you master the nuances of each dialect!
Ready to jump right in? Start your first lesson today at rosettastone.com.