ordering food in spanish

How To Order Food in Spanish Like a Pro: 100+ Must-know Phrases

Deborah Cater once said, “You have to taste a culture to understand it.”

It’s no secret that food plays a vital role in the vibrant cultures of Spanish-speaking countries.

Whether you’re planning a vacation for a week, a homestay for six months or a permanent move, you’ll quickly find that you need to know how to order food in Spanish (or at the very least, talk about it!).

In this post, you’ll learn exactly how to order food in Spanish with over 100 must-know phrases, plus cultural notes and sample dialogues.

Contents

Important Words and Phrases for Ordering Food in Spanish

1. Ordering Food in Spanish: Quick Answer

Before diving into the many useful Spanish phrases you can use when eating out, let’s get these basics down:

While there are a few ways to begin your order, in Spanish, you can actually just go ahead and state what you want when the waiter indicates they’re ready to take your order.

In English we like to start by saying “could I have…” or “can I please order…” but in Spanish this is not necessary. For example, you may simply just say: El pollo asado, por favor (The roast chicken, please). 

But if you’re an English speaker, it might feel strange to order without some formalities leading into it—and in that case, you can use some of the phrases we shared above!

If you learn well by watching, the YouTube video below is a great complement to this post:

Now that you’ve learned the essentials, let’s look at ordering food in Spanish in more detail.

2. Spanish Phrases for Arriving at the Restaurant

ordering food in spanish

The moment you arrive at a restaurant is often the most stressful, but it’s also the easiest to handle!

Just learn a couple of greetings in Spanish. Make use of the phrases below and you’ll be ready to get the conversation started.

What you can say:

SpanishEnglish
Buenos días / Buenas tardes / Buenas noches Good morning / Good afternoon / Good evening
Una mesa para dos, por favor A table for two, please
Tenemos una reserva a nombre de [your name]We have a reservation under the name [your name]
¿Tienen alguna mesa libre? Do you have any free tables?
Mi [novio, esposo, amigo] no ha llegado todavía My [boyfriend, husband, friend] hasn't arrived yet
¿Tienen alguna mesa con vistas a ...? Do you have any table with a view to...?
¿Podemos sentarnos en la terraza? Can we sit on the terrace?

What you might hear:

SpanishEnglish
Bienvenidos a... Welcome to...
Sí, claro Yes, sure
Por aquí, por favor This way, please
Lo siento. No encuentro su nombre en la lista I'm sorry, I can't find your name on the list
Lo siento, no nos queda ninguna mesa libre I'm sorry, we don't have any free tables left
Lo siento, no nos queda ninguna mesa libre en la terraza I'm sorry, we don't have any free tables on the terrace
Lo siento, la cocina ya está cerrada I'm sorry, the kitchen is already closed
Disculpe las molestias Sorry for the inconvenience
Siéntese donde quiera Sit wherever you want
¿Para comer o solo para beber? Are you going to eat, or just drink? Lit. To eat or just to drink?
Debe esperar unos ... minutos You have to wait around ... minutes
¿Tienen una reserva? Do you have a reservation?
Puede esperar en la barra You can wait at the bar

Keep in mind that different Spanish-speaking countries can have various meal times for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper. For example, Spaniards eat supper around 10-11 p.m., while Venezuelans do around 7-8 p.m.

Make sure you get to know the locals’ eating habits and meal times beforehand to avoid unpleasant surprises.

In some countries, it’s common for restaurants to have separate places for people who want to eat lunch or dinner and those who only want to have a drink.

Sample Dialogue

Waiter: Buenas tardes. Bienvenidos a Casa Pepe. (Good afternoon. Welcome to Casa Pepe.)

You: Hola, buenas tardes. Una mesa para dos, por favor. (Hello, good afternoon. A table for two, please.)

Waiter: ¿Para comer? (Are you going to eat?)

You: Sí. ¿Tienen alguna mesa libre en la terraza? (Yes, we are. Do you have any free table on the terrace?)

Waiter: Un momento, por favor. Déjeme revisar. (Just a moment, please. Let me check.)

Waiter: Nos queda una. Por aquí, por favor. (We have one left. This way, please.)

You: Gracias. (Thank you.)

3. Most Common Foods and Drinks in Spanish

You’ll need to be familiar with the most common food and drink options when you finally arrive at the Spanish restaurant, so now, we’ll learn a few items that are pretty much guaranteed to show up on the menu.

SpanishEnglish
La carne Meat
El pollo Chicken
La carne de vaca Beef
El cerdo Pork
Los mariscos Seafood
El camarón Shrimp
El arroz Rice
Los frijoles Beans
El agua Water
El té Tea
El jugo Juice
La gaseosa Soft drink
El vino Wine
El alcohol Alcohol

For a full, in-depth list of Spanish restaurant food and drink vocabulary, check out our post here:

4. Ordering Your Food & Drinks in Spanish

Your next step will be to order what you want to eat and drink.

This is probably when the biggest part of your conversation will take place, and the moment your Spanish food and drink vocabulary will most come in handy.

What you can say:

SpanishEnglish
¿Qué vino recomienda? Which wine do you recommend/suggest?
¿Cuál es la sopa del día? What's the soup of the day?
¿Tiene menú del día? Do you have a set meal?
¿El pescado es fresco o congelado? Is the fish fresh or frozen?
¿Lleva ... este plato? Does this dish contain any [ingredient]?
¿Tiene... Do you have any...
Agua con / sin gas Sparkling/still water (Lit. with/without gas.)
Jugo / zumo de [fruit] [Fruit] juice
Cerveza sin alcohol Alcohol-free beer
Batido / batida / merengada Milkshake
¿Tiene algo... Do you have anything...?
Para vegetarianos / veganos For vegetarians/vegans
Para diabéticos For diabetics
Para celíacos For celiacs
Para intolerantes a la lactosa For lactose intolerant people
Sin azúcar Without sugar
Sin carbohidratos Without carbs
Sin gluten Without gluten
Sin lactosa Without lactose
¿Puede repetir, por favor? Could you repeat, please?
Lo siento, no entiendo I'm sorry, I don't understand
Ahora entiendo I understand now
Una botella / copa / vaso de... A bottle/glass of...
Nada más, gracias That's all, thanks (lit: nothing else)
Poco hecho / Poco cocido Rare (when talking about the cooked level of meat)
Al punto Medium
Bien hecho / Muy hecho / Muy cocido Well-done

Note: You normally use copa when referring to wine and vaso when referring to water and soft drinks.

What you might hear:

SpanishEnglish
¿Qué van a tomar? What are you having?
¿Les pongo algo para beber? Shall I bring anything to drink?
¿Están listos para pedir? Are you ready to order?
¿Les traigo el menú / la carta? Shall I bring the menu?
¿Quieren ver el menú / la carta? Do you want to see the menu?
Vuelvo en unos minutos I'll be back in a few minutes
Ahora mismo se lo traigo Right away (lit: I'll bring it to you right now)
Le recomiendo... I recommend...
Hoy tenemos... Today we have...
Todo el pescado es fresco All the fish is fresh
Lo siento, solo nos queda pescado congelado I'm sorry, we only have frozen fish left
¿Cómo quiere ...?How do you want [meat] cooked?
Este plato tiene / lleva... This dish has...
Lo siento, no tenemos nada para vegetarianos / veganos I'm sorry. We don't have anything for vegetarians/vegans
Voy a ver / mirar si nos queda I'll go check [see] if we have any left
Aún nos queda We have some left
Lo siento, no nos queda I'm sorry, we don't have any left
¿Algo más? Anything else?

Note: The verb tomar literally means to take or to consume. In Spain, it can be used to refer to both eating and drinking. However, in Latin America it’s normally used to refer to drinking alcohol so, when in doubt, use comer (to eat) and beber (to drink) instead.

Sample Dialogue

Waiter: Buenas tardes. ¿Les pongo algo para beber? (Good afternoon. Shall I bring anything to drink?)

You: Para mí una cerveza y para ella agua sin gas, por favor. (I’ll have a beer and she’ll have still water, please.)

Waiter: Ahora/Ahorita mismo se lo traigo. (Right away.)

Waiter: ¿Están listos para pedir? (Are you ready to order?)

You: Un momento, por favor. (One moment, please.)

Waiter: No hay problema. Vuelvo en unos minutos. (No problem. I’ll be back in a few minutes.)

(…)

Waiter: ¿Saben ya qué van a tomar/comer? (Do you know what you’re going to have?)

You: Sí. Para mí pollo con ensalada. Para ella espaguetis a la carbonara. (We do. I’ll have the chicken with a salad. She’ll have the spaghetti carbonara.)

Waiter: Perfecto. ¿Cómo quiere el pollo? (Perfect. How do you want the chicken cooked?)

You: Muy hecho, por favor. (Well-done, please.)

Waiter: Muy bien. ¿Algo más? (Very well. Anything else?)

You: No, gracias. Eso es todo. (No, thanks. That’ll be all.)

5. Spanish Phrases To Use During the Meal

ordering food in spanish

You might need something during the meal or the waiter comes to your table to check if everything’s fine.

Use these moments to practice your Spanish further!

What you can say:

SpanishEnglish
Está delicioso / riquísimo It's delicious/very tasty
Todo está perfecto Everything's perfect
¿Puede traer...? Could you bring...?
¿Tiene menú / carta de postres? Do you have a dessert menu?
Estuvo todo perfecto  Everything was perfect
Felicitaciones al chef Congratulations to the chef
El / la ... está frío / fría The [food] is cold
Perdone, le había pedido... Excuse me, I ordered...
El / la ... no está fresco / fresca The [food] isn't fresh
Hay un pelo en mi sopa There's a hair in my soup
Esto no sabe bien This doesn't taste good

What you might hear:

SpanishEnglish
Buen provecho / Que aproveche Enjoy your meal
¿Está todo bien? Is everything OK?
¿Todo bien por aquí? Is everything OK around here?
¿Cómo está el / la...? How's the...?
Perdone. Ahora le traigo lo que pidió I'm sorry. I'll bring what you ordered right away
¿Les traigo algo más? Shall I bring anything else?
¿Han terminado ya? Are you done?
¿Van a tomar postre / café? Are you going to have dessert/coffee?

Sample Dialogue

Waiter: ¿Todo bien por aquí? (Is everything OK around here?)

You: Sí. Está todo riquísimo, gracias. (It is. Everything’s delicious, thanks.)

Waiter: Perfecto, me alegro. ¿Está el pollo bien cocinado? (Perfect. I’m glad [to hear]. Is the chicken cooked properly?)

You: Sí. Justo como me gusta. (It is. Just how I like it.)

Waiter: Excelente. ¿Les traigo algo más? (Excellent. Shall I bring anything else?)

You: Otra cerveza, por favor. Oh, y un poco de pan. (One more beer, please. Oh, and some bread.)

Waiter: Marchando. (Right away./Coming up.)

6. Asking for the Check in Spanish

It’s time to pay and leave the restaurant.

Hopefully, you’ll be wanting to come back soon and put your Spanish to the test again!

What you can say:

SpanishEnglish
La cuenta, por favor The check, please
¿Puede traer la cuenta, por favor? Could we get the check, please?
¿Puedo pagar con tarjeta / en efectivo? Can I pay by credit card/with cash?
Voy a pagar con tarjeta / en efectivo I'll pay by credit card/with cash
Volveremos seguro. / De seguro volvemos We'll be back for sure
Muchísimas gracias por todo Thank you so much for everything
Ha sido un placer It's been a pleasure

What you might hear:

SpanishEnglish
Ahora / Ahorita se la traigo Right away
¿Cómo van a pagar? How are you paying?
Me alegro de que les haya gustado I'm glad you've liked it
Vuelvan pronto Come back soon
Esperamos volver a verlos pronto We hope to see you again soon
El placer ha sido mío / nuestro The pleasure has been mine/ours
Los esperamos We'll be waiting for you

Sample Dialogue

You: ¿Nos trae la cuenta, por favor? — Could we get the check, please?

Waiter: Ahora mismo. ¿Cómo van a pagar? — Right away. How are you paying?

You: Con tarjeta. — With credit card.

Waiter: Perfecto. Ya vuelvo. — Perfect. I’ll be right back. (Lit. I already come back.)

(…)

Waiter: Muchas gracias. Esperamos volver a verlos pronto. — Thank you very much. We hope to see you again soon.

You: ¡De seguro volvemos! Ha sido un placer. — We’ll be back for sure! It’s been a pleasure.

Waiter: El placer ha sido nuestro. Vuelvan pronto. — The pleasure has been ours. Come back soon.

You: ¡Hasta pronto! — See you soon!

Cultural Notes When Ordering Food in Spanish

  • There are several ways to refer to a waiter in each Spanish-speaking country. Sometimes, you can even use more than one word in the same country. Here you have some examples:

Camarero in Spain, Ecuador and Peru (rarely)

Mesero in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile (in a bar), Puerto Rico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru

Mesonero in Venezuela

Salonero in Panama, Nicaragua and Costa Rica

Mozo in Argentina, Uruguay and Peru

Garzón in Chile (in a restaurant)

  • Tipping (dar/dejar propina) can be a very delicate topic for some people. When traveling to a Spanish-speaking country there’s not an established percentage you have to tip, but the amount that’s normally accepted is 10% of the total value of the check.

    But remember that you’re not obligated to leave a tip anywhere! If the tip is compulsory, it’ll already be included in the check, but if it’s not, no one will tell you anything.

  • Pay special attention to your check. Some places add the tip (propina) or “service included” fee (servicio incluido) to the check automatically, so you’re not expected to add a tip on top of that unless you want to. If the check says servicio no incluido, the service fee hasn’t been included.
  • Just remember to be polite and say thank you. For waiters, being rude is much worse than not tipping!
  • Meals are usually served at specific times of day. In countries like the United States we can usually go out for a meal any time we please. However, in many Spanish-speaking countries—like Spain—restaurants serve meals during specific time windows, just like you’d expect in a family’s home. For example, restaurants usually open for lunch between 1pm and 3pm, whereas dinner is served at 9pm and later.

A good way to pick up on more natural ways to order food in Spanish is to see it being done. For instance, the videos on FluentU give you a chance to see the language in context.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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FAQs When Ordering Food in Spanish

How Do You Order Food for Pickup in Spanish?

If you want to take your food to-go at a Spanish restaurant, you’d say para llevar, which literally means “for take.”

If you’re calling to order food and you want to specify it’s for you to pickup later, you can say Quiero pedir comida para llevar (I want to order food for takeout/to go).

What Is the Word to Order Food in Spanish?

The verb “to order” in Spanish is pedir. For example, Quisiera pedir comida, por favor means “I’d like to order food, please.”

How Do You Politely Order Food in Mexico?

If you want to sound more polite than yo quiero (I want), one of the politest ways you can order food in Mexico (and Spanish in general) is by saying me gustaría… (I’d like…).

For example:

Me gustaría pedir el pollo con arroz, por favor. (I’d like to order the chicken with rice, please.)

How Do You Politely Order Food in Spain?

Ordering politely in Spain can be done the same way as in Mexico—by using me gustaría or quisiera (which also means “I’d like”). You should also use the formal way of addressing the waiter, which is to use usted and its conjugations.

And of course, don’t forget to add a simple por favor (please) to the end of your request!

 

See? That wasn’t hard at all!

You’ve managed to arrive at a restaurant, order food and drinks, chat with the waiter and pay like a boss. A Spanish boss.

Stay curious, my friend, and as always, happy learning!

And One More Thing…

If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Spanish with engaging material and will then love FluentU.

Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.

FluentU has a wide variety of videos, as you can see here:

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FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.

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Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.

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