People standing outside restaurant at night

104 Spanish Restaurant Vocabulary Words and Phrases [with Audio]

Mexican and Spanish food is adored by language learners and people who don’t speak a word of Spanish alike. 

So why not order in the local language?

Learn some essential Spanish restaurant vocabulary in this post and eat like a native Spanish speaker!

Contents

Finding Your Table

Interior of Spanish restaurant

If you’ve chosen a swanky bistro that is regularly flooded with devoted patrons, you may need to make a reservation ahead of time. Call them up on the phone and be sure to greet with a friendly salutation. Next, tell them:

Quisiera hacer una reserva para … personas. — I would like to make a reservation for … people.

They will then ask you:

¿Bajo el nombre de quién? — Under whose name?

If you’re like me and you typically fail to plan well in advance, you can slip into a full restaurant by requesting a seat at the bar:

¿Podría sentarme en el bar? — May I sit at the bar?

Or you can just walk in a restaurant and say:

Mesa para … por favor. — Table for … please.

Special dietary preferences are often viewed with a suspicious eye in Latin America. You really need to specify with your server what it is that you cannot eat. Clearly state:

Soy vegetariano… vegetariana. — I am vegetarian.

Tengo alergia a … — I’m allergic to …

No como … — I don’t eat…

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Ecuadorian restaurants serve meat-laden soups to disappointed vegetarian friends. So, my advice to you is to always double-check that your order doesn’t contain something you don’t want to eat.

Navigating the Restaurant

People eating in a restaurant

restaurante — restaurant

pedir — to order

quisiera… — I would like…

el menú — menu of the day

la carta — menu

ración — full portion

Media ración — half portion

camarero, camarera — server

mesero, mesera — server [in Latin America]

mesa — table

plato — plate

tenedor — fork

cuchara — spoon

cuchillo — knife

sal — salt

pimienta — pepper

servilleta — napkin

cuenta — check/bill

Tráigame la cuenta, por favor. – Bring me the check, please.

The paper-signing hand gesture translates smoothly enough. Most small restaurants in Latin American will not accept tarjetas de crédito (credit cards), so it’s best to carry some efectivo  (cash) in case of emergency. 

If you need some help remembering restaurant-related words, consider the following resources:

  • Memrise has vocabulary courses (made by both Memrise and its user community) that cover a range of subjects. Some focus on words for various types of food.
  • FluentU has videos made by native speakers (and has a section for cuisine and food-related content).
  • Duolingo has themed “skills” in its course that relate to ordering in a restaurant. You will, however, have to unlock them by completing a level in each preceding skill in the course.

Understanding Regional Food Traditions

Tortilla on restaurant table

While traveling, always ask the locals:

¿Cuál es la comida típica de esta región? — What is the typical food of this region?

 Don’t be afraid to ask the waiter what he or she recommends.

¿Qué me recomienda? — What do you recommend?

Bebidas — Drinks

Vermouth on restaurant table

When seated at a restaurant, the first thing a waiter will ask is what you’d like to drink. Know your refreshment vocabulary so you can get straight to reading the menu!

café coffee

té helado — iced tea

cola — cola/soda

limonada — lemonade

jugo — juice

batido — milkshake

Common flavors of juice or smoothie you might like to order are:

melón — melon

sandía — watermelon

naranja — orange

fresa or frutilla — strawberry

uva — grape

Some alcoholic drinks are: 

vino blanco — white wine

vino tinto — red wine

vermut — vermouth

cerveza — beer

sidra — cider

caña — small beer

doble — large beer

Desayuno — Breakfast

Breakfast dishes on table

Breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day. Learn how to order breakfast so you can fuel your adventure-filled day abroad!

pan — bread

mermelada — jam/jelly

huevos revueltos — scrambled eggs

tortilla — omelet

tocino — bacon

avena — oatmeal

pan con tomate — bread with tomato

Almuerzo — Lunch

A woman eating salad for lunch

In Latin America it is very common to find yourself in a restaurant that has no menu. For lunch, local restaurant-goers will simply strut in, seat themselves, and request Un almuerzo, por favor.  (one lunch, please). Give it a try!

Lunch is a great representation of common home cooking, and is usually the best bargain. They serve something different daily, so you are welcome to ask:

¿Qué tiene el almuerzo de hoy? — What do you have for lunch today?

¿Cuál es el menú de hoy? — What is on the menu of the day?

¿Viene con …? — Does it come with …?

Almuerzo generally includes:

sopa — soup

plato fuerte — main course

postre — dessert

Cena or Merienda Dinner

People having dinner

There are two commonly used words for dinner: merienda and cena. In most parts of Latin America, merienda refers to an average evening meal and cena is reserved for special occasions – like a big Christmas Eve turkey dinner.

In Spain, merienda is a small meal meant to tide you over between el almuerzo and la cena.

In both contexts, merienda is a light, simple meal – often bread and cheese, a hot chocolate, or another modest snack. Don’t worry though, after an authentic almuerzo there is a good chance you won’t even be hungry by the evening!

Here’s some important menu lingo that will get you through ordering any meal:

Mariscos — Seafood

Various seafood on ice.

mariscos — seafood

camarones — shrimp

cangrejo — crab

langosta — lobster

pescado — fish

calamares — squid

atún — tuna

pulpo — octopus

Carne — Meat

Steak on a plate

chorizo — sausage

jamón — ham

lomo de cerdo — pork loin

bistec — steak

pavo — turkey

codorniz — quail

And here are the meat temperatures:

muy crudo — very rare

poco asado — a little rare

termino medio — medium

bien cocida — well done

Frutas y Verduras  — Fruits and Vegetables

A platter of fruits and vegetables

espárragos — asparagus

aguacate — avocado

acelga — chard

berenjena — eggplant

calabaza — pumpkin

espinaca — spinach

cebolla — onion

tomate — tomato

pimientos de padrón — padron peppers

Food Preparation

Two people preparing food and cooking

filete — filleted

a la plancha — on the grill

asado — roasted

al ajillo — with garlic

apanado — breaded

a la parrilla — barbecued

frito — fried

Postres — Desserts

Cupcakes

torta — cake

ensalada de frutas — fruit salad

gelatina — gelatin (like Jell-O)

Culinary Specialties of the Spanish-speaking World

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for! While at home or abroad, try to seek out traditional cuisine from the Spanish-speaking world to better immerse you in the language and culture. There’s nothing better that justifying indulgence with an educational experience!

Ceviche

Ceviche : A lime marinaded seafood dish served all along the coasts of Central and South America. Each country has its own distinct flavor and style!

spanish restaurant vocabulary 89 words phrases

Chicharrón : Pork rind extravaganza! This fried, seasoned pig skin is a beloved snack throughout Latin America and parts of Spain.

spanish restaurant vocabulary 89 words phrases Churros

Churros : Crispy, sugar-coated fried dough – how could anyone resist?

Dulce de tres leches : A moist, super-sweet cake that features three forms of milk (natural, dried, and condensed).

spanish restaurant vocabulary 89 words phrases Gazpacho

Gazpacho : The cold, refreshing tomato soup popular in Spain.

spanish restaurant vocabulary 89 words phrases Paella

Paella : A classic Spanish dish that blends rice, beans, seafood, meat, and savory seasonings.

spanish-restaurant-vocabulary

Patacones, Tostones  : These crisp, fried plantain slices are a common side dish throughout Latin America.

 

Armed with this Spanish restaurant and food vocabulary, you should be able to have a pleasant meal without confusion.

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