¿Tienes hambre? (Are you hungry?) En este video vas a aprender (In this video you will learn): cómo ordenar (how to order) in Spanish!
So, you can go to that Latin American restaurant around the corner and get a breakfast chimichanga… NO! That’s not actually Mexican food! But yes, you’ll learn how to order any delicious Latin American food!
If you go to a fancy restaurant, or not even that fancy, but the kind where you would make a reservation, your first encounter will be with the hostess —we use the same word! So, no problem here!
The hostess will guide you to la mesa (the table) and will hand you el menú or la carta (the menu), which should be arranged like everywhere else.. I think…
First, entradas (appetizers). Learn this word because it’s like a 3 for 1, it also means entry and entrance.
Then, you’ll have los platos fuertes, which literally means “the strong plate”, but actually refers to the main courses, or the Entrees, like my American friends say.
Al final (at the end), los postres (the desserts).
Ordering a drink
Like in most countries, if you are in Mexico or in South America, las bebidas (drinks) come first… And el mesero (the waiter) or la mesera (the waitress) will ask you and your friend something along the lines of:
- ¿Desean algo de tomar?
- ¿Les ofrezco algo de tomar?
- ¿Les traigo algo de tomar?
They all mean: “Do you want something to drink?” Regardless of how el mesero says this, the keywords here are: “algo de tomar” (something to drink).
You can order agua (water), refresco (soft drink or soda), or cerveza (beer).
How do you order? There are so many ways, but I want you to share with you the easiest, which is also a CHUNK that will be helpful for other kinds of conversations beyond the confines of un restaurante (a restaurant).
You just have to remember to smile and say por favor (please) at the end.
- Para mí (For me)
If you are ordering for someone else, say :
- Para él (For him)
- Para ella (For her)
- Para mí, una Coca Cola de dieta, por favor (For me, a Diet Coke, please)
- Para ella, una corona, por favor (For her, a Corona, please) —or any other cerveza, since that word has a bad rep now
- Para él, agua, por favor (For him, water, please)
Not ready to order yet?
Now, when el mesero comes back to la mesa (the table) con las bebidas (with the drinks), they might ask: ¿Están listos para ordenar?
Pay attention to the keywords: listos (ready) and ordenar (to order).
You and your friend are still looking at la carta (the menu), so you’re not ready to order yet. Hence, you say:
- Todavía no estamos listos. (We’re not ready yet.)
But since I want to make this as easy as possible for you, if you are not ready to order yet, you can always use this phrase:
- Cinco minutos, por favor. (Five minutes, please)
They will know that you are not listo (ready) and they will come back to the table en 5 minutos (within 5 minutes).
El mesero regresa a la mesa (The waiter/waitress comes back to the table)… and you order appetizers:
- Para mí, un guacamole (For me, guacamole)
- Para él, una ensalada César (For him, a Cesar salad)
- Para ella, un queso fundido (For her, melted cheese)
What if you are sharing?
- Vamos a compartir (We are going to share)
- Vamos a compartir las empanadas, por favor (We are going to share the Empanadas, please)
Empanadas? They are these heavenly pies of all kinds of fillings that you can find throughout Latin America. Learn that word because you can’t go wrong with empanadas.
The main dish and desserts
After the appetizers, ordenas (you order) el plato fuerte. Usually, you’ll have pollo (chicken); carne (which means meat, but it’s often used to mean beef); cerdo (pork); pescado (fish).
Most likely, the restaurant will have some platillos vegetarianos (vegetarian dishes) and some platillos veganos (vegan dishes).
Now, you’re eating your delicious comida (meal)… and pum!… You drop your fork!
¡No te preocupes! (Don’t worry!) You ask the waiter:
- Un tenedor, por favor (A fork, please)
- Una cuchara, por favor (A spoon, please)
Maybe you’re super clumsy, like me, and you need a whole new set:
- Unos cubiertos, por favor (Utensils, please)
You are going to town in your comida and you have a little bit of meat and salsa and some tortilla bits in your hair… Now, you’re a mess… You need una servilleta (a napkin)!
Now you are lleno (full), but the waiter comes and ask:
- ¿Desean algo más? (Would you like anything else?)
…and you want postre (dessert). So, of course you order it because what’s the point of living if you can't have coconut flan?!?!?
The check and tip
Now you are really ready to go and of course you could get away with the check-please gesture, but it’s super useful to remember this:
- La cuenta, por favor (Check, please).
Remember, in Latin America, tips are a huge portion of the income of servers, so please no seas codo (don’t be cheap)!! Ten percent is the least you can leave. I only suggest you leave 10 if it was only one person, and you ordered like an appetizer and a drink.
I would suggest that 15 is the default, but leave 20 percent or more if there were more than 4 people at the table.
Free Spanish Training
¡Muy bien! Now you are ready to impress your Spanish-speaking friends when going to a restaurant or even coming to Latin America and acting like a local.
Now, if you're ready to go beyond ordering food and asking for the bill and really want to speak Spanish fluently, we have a free Spanish training on our website where you'll discover the method we use in our Spring Spanish Academy to teach students to speak fluent Spanish.
You also get some free sample Spanish lessons there that come straight from our Academy!