90+ English Restaurant Vocabulary Words and Phrases for the Best Dining Experience

Eating at a restaurant is a wonderful and relaxing experience when you know all the right phrases. This guide covers everything you need, from making reservations to paying for the bill.

I’ll take you through over 90 vocabulary words, phrases and sentences in English that you’ll need when dining out.


English Vocabulary for Eating at Restaurants

As the person in the family who’s responsible for buying groceries and cooking all the meals, I sometimes need a break. Eating out at a restaurant is a fun treat! It’s a great way to try new food and enjoy a meal that you didn’t have to cook for yourself.

If you’re learning English, going out to eat at a restaurant in an English-speaking place might seem a little scary. You can prepare before you go by learning these common English vocabulary words for eating at a restaurant:

  • Al dente — Pasta cooked to be firm to the bite, not overly soft or mushy.
  • Appetizer — A small dish served before the main course.
  • Baked — Food cooked by dry heat in an oven.
  • Beverage — A drink, such as water, soda, juice, coffee or tea.
  • Bill / Check — A written statement of the total cost of a meal, including food and drinks.
  • Bitter — Food that has a sharp and unpleasant taste, such as dark chocolate or certain vegetables.
  • Buffet — A self-service style of dining where customers can fill their own plates from a variety of dishes.
  • Chef — A professional cook who prepares meals in a restaurant.
  • Condiments — Sauces, spices or toppings used to enhance the flavor of food.
  • Cutlery — Utensils used for eating, such as forks, knives and spoons.
  • Dessert — A sweet dish or treat served after the main course.
  • Farm to table — Made from fresh ingredients from local farms and producers.
  • Fresh — Food that’s newly harvested, recently made or not preserved.
  • Fried — Food cooked in hot oil until crispy and golden.
  • Gluten-free — Food that doesn’t contain gluten, suitable for those with dietary restrictions.
  • Grilled — Food cooked over direct heat, often resulting in char marks.
  • Hearty — Food that’s filling and satisfying.
  • Host / Hostess — A person who greets and seats customers at a restaurant.
  • Juicy — Food, particularly meat, that’s moist and full of flavor.
  • Locally sourced — Food that’s obtained from nearby or local farms or producers.
  • Main course — The primary dish in a meal, typically consisting of meat, fish or a vegetarian option.
  • Marinated — Food soaked in a seasoned liquid to enhance flavor and tenderness.
  • Medium — Food, particularly meat, cooked to a moderate level of doneness, usually with a slightly pink center.
  • Melt-in-your-mouth — Food that’s incredibly tender and easily breaks apart.
  • Menu — A list of food and drink options available at a restaurant.
  • Mild — Food that has a subtle and gentle flavor, not spicy or overpowering.
  • Napkin — A cloth or paper used for wiping the mouth and hands while eating.
  • Organic — Food produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
  • Rare — Food, particularly meat, cooked for a short time to retain a pink or red center.
  • Reservation — A prior arrangement to secure a table at a restaurant.
  • Roasted — Food cooked in an oven or over an open flame until browned and cooked through.
  • Sautéed — Food cooked quickly in a small amount of oil or fat over high heat.
  • Savory — Food that’s flavorful and not sweet.
  • Seafood — Edible aquatic animals, such as fish, shrimp or oysters.
  • Seasonal — Food that’s available during a specific time of the year when it’s at its peak freshness.
  • Simmered — Food cooked gently over low heat in a liquid, allowing flavors to meld.
  • Sour — Food that has a tangy or acidic taste, often from citrus or vinegar.
  • Special — A dish that’s unique or featured for a specific day or occasion.
  • Spicy — Food that has a strong and pungent flavor from the use of spices or hot peppers.
  • Sweet — Food that’s sugary or dessert-like in taste.
  • Table — The furniture around which customers sit to eat their meals.
  • Takeout — Food ordered from a restaurant to be consumed somewhere else.
  • Tip — An additional amount of money given to the server as appreciation for good service.
  • Vegan — Food that doesn’t contain any animal products, including meat, dairy and eggs.
  • Vegetarian — Food that does not contain animal meat.
  • Waiter / Waitress — A person who serves food and drinks to customers at a restaurant.
  • Well-done — Food, particularly meat, cooked thoroughly with no pink or redness.
  • Zesty — Food that has a lively and tangy flavor, often from the addition of citrus or spices.

Useful Restaurant Phrases in English

Making a Reservation

When a restaurant is popular, you can usually make a reservation to avoid waiting when you get there. This means you’ll have a table waiting for you at a certain time. All you have to do is show up!

Use these phrases when making a reservation either over the phone or in person:

Before you make an official reservation, you may want to know some details about the restaurant. Here are a few common phrases for that:

Once, my family and I ate at a restaurant where we sat by the kitchen, and the strong smell of hot pepper made our eyes water! You can avoid an uncomfortable experience like this, or improve your experience even more, by asking for specific details during your reservation:

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You finished making the reservation, but realized that you need to make some changes to it. No problem! Here are some common phrases you might need to use:

Arriving at the Restaurant and Getting Seated

You’ve arrived at the restaurant! Now what?

Many restaurants have a host or hostess who will answer any questions you have and take you to your seat. Some common phrases you might need to know at this point include the following:

You might also hear these phrases said to you. Read them now so you’ll be able to recognize and understand them:

Phrases for Ordering Food

You’re taken to your seat and are almost ready to order. Usually, the menus will be waiting for you at your table, but you can also ask for it using these phrases:

Once you have a seat and have had a chance to look over the menu, the waiter will come by and ask if you’re ready to order. Here are some phrases you’ll hear:

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Not sure what to get? Ask your waiter/waitress for a recommendation!

If you’re like me, you have friends and family with dietary restrictions. It’s always a good idea to ask about the ingredients in a dish before you order, if anyone in your dining party needs to be aware of allergens or if you need to know how a meal is cooked for a diet.

Finally, you’re ready to place your order. Here are some useful phrases you can use:

The meal is done. Time for dessert!

During the Meal

As you eat, your waiter might come around to see how everything is. You’ll hear these phrases:

You can also call the waitress over to ask for assistance during the meal.

I talk about some issues you might have later in this post, but if you’re enjoying your meal, let the waitstaff know! They’re probably used to complaints, and a nice heartfelt compliment (and a generous tip!) could make their day.

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Asking for the Check

Whenever I’m out with my friends, we have one person in charge of deciding how much everyone will pay. To save time, figure out if you’re splitting the bill and how you’re doing it.

To ask for the check, use these English phrases:

Resolving Common Problems

Unfortunately, your restaurant visit isn’t always perfect and you may have an issue during your meal. Here are some common problems and how you can politely ask for help resolving them:

Sample English Conversations at a Restaurant

Let’s put it all together! Here are three example English conversations you might have at a restaurant.

Conversation 1: Ordering Food

Waiter: Good evening! Welcome to our restaurant. Are you ready to order?

Customer: Yes, I’d like to start with a Caesar salad, please.

Waiter: Certainly. And for your main course?

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Customer: I’ll have the grilled salmon with roasted vegetables.

Waiter: Great choice. Anything else?

Customer: Yes, I’d also like a glass of red wine to accompany my meal.

Waiter: Perfect. I’ll get that for you right away.

Conversation 2: Asking for Recommendations

Customer: Hi there! We’re looking for some recommendations. Can you tell us about tonight’s specials?

Waiter: Absolutely! Today we have a delicious lobster bisque as our soup of the day, and our chef’s special is a mouthwatering prime rib served with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

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Customer: Both options sound tempting. Could you tell us more about the prime rib? How is it cooked?

Waiter: Our prime rib is slow-roasted for tenderness and cooked to medium-rare perfection. It’s a popular choice among our customers.

Customer: That sounds delicious. We’ll go with the prime rib, please.

Conversation 3: Paying the Bill

Customer: Excuse me, we’re ready to pay the bill.

Waiter: Certainly, I’ll bring it right over. Here’s your bill. Would you like to pay together or separately?

Customer: We’ll pay together, please. Could we also get a receipt?

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Waiter: Of course. I’ll process the payment for you, and I’ll bring the receipt along with your change in a moment.

Customer: Thank you so much for your service. We had a lovely dining experience.

Waiter: You’re very welcome. It was my pleasure serving you. Have a wonderful day!

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With all these vocabulary words, phrases and even practice conversations, you’re ready to head out to that English-speaking restaurant. Enjoy your meal!

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If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:


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