Ordering a meal in Spanish is one of the most useful ways to practice your language skills. It’s normal to feel nervous the first few times you do it, but just remember that most people will appreciate your efforts no matter how well you do. All you need is some basic vocabulary and phrases so you can order confidently.
Jim and I went to our favorite restaurant in Villa de Álvarez, Colima, Mexico. This place is called Los Molcajetes. We came in with our gear to make a video about how to order food in Spanish in the real world. No textbooks, no phrases that will make you sound weird, rude or too polite. Just the real deal. Watch the video if you want to listen to the conversation or keep reading.
These are some of the most important phrases we go over in the video:
- Hola, buenas tardes. = Hi, good afternoon.
- 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?
- Te/Le encargo... = Would you bring me…? / Can I get…?
- Para él/ella = For him/her
- Vamos a compartir. = We are going to share.
- Todo está delicioso. = Everything is delicioso.
- Te encargo la cuenta, por favor. = Can I get the check, please?
- ¿Aceptan tarjetas? = Do you take cards?
- ¡Gracias! = Thank you!
Let’s get started. First thing we do when we get to a restaurant, store, a friend’s house, etc is to greet people. So, when your waiter comes to the table, you can greet him/her by saying:
- Buenos días. = Good morning.
- Buenas tardes. = Good afternoon.
- Buenas noches. = Good evening.
If you can’t understand what the waiter is asking or saying you can say:
- ¿Me lo puedes repetir? = Would you repeat that?
- ¿Lo puedes decir más lento? = Can you say that slower?
In most restaurants in Mexico it is common to order drinks before food. Common bebidas = drinks you might want to order are:
- Agua = Water
- Refresco = Soda
- Limonada = Lemonade
- Café = coffee
- Té = Tea
- Agua fresca = Fresh fruit blended with water and sugar.
When you are ready to order your drinks you can use the phrase “Te encargo...”. This is a very useful phrase for just about anything you might need. There is no exact translation in English for this phrase but you hear it a lot at restaurants and for some reason it is never in any Spanish textbook. Here are some examples on how you can use it:
- Te encargo una limonada. = Can I get a limonade? / Would you get me a limonade?
- Te encargo más servilletas. = Would you bring me more napkins?
- Te encargo otra bebida. = Would you bring me one more drink?
Remember, if the waiter/waitress looks older than you, use "Le" instead of "Te". You can say:
- Le encargo una limonada. = Can I get a limonade? / Would you get me a limonade?
- Le encargo más servilletas. = Would you bring me more napkins?
- Le encargo otra bebida. = Would you bring me one more drink?
In the video, Jim ordered his own drink and then he ordered for me by saying:
- Y un “Limoncito” para ella. = And a “Limoncito” for her.
When you want to order for someone else you can say what the other person wants followed by “para ella” (female) or “para él” (male). For example:
- Te encargo un café y una cerveza para él. = Can I get a coffee and a beer for him?
If the waiter/waitress is back with your drinks, but you are not ready to order food yet, you can use any of these phrases:
- Todavía no estamos listos. = We are not ready yet.
- Necesitamos unos minutos más. = We need a few more minutes.
- ¿Nos puedes dar otro minuto? = Can you gives one more minute?
Other phrase you can also use for ordering at a restaurant is “Va a ser…” = It’s going to be… followed by whatever you want. For example:
- Va a ser una hamburguesa para él y para mí la ensalada. = It is going to be a burger for him, and the salad for me.
- Va a ser una sopa y un sandwich. = It is going to be a soup and a sandwich.
- Va a ser un refresco y dos tacos. = It is going to be a soda and two tacos.
If the waiter/waitress asks “¿Sería todo?” = Would that be all? you can simply answer by saying:
- Sería todo, gracias. = That’ll be all, thank you.
- Sí, es todo. = Yes, that’s it.
- Sí, gracias. = Yes, thank you.
In the video, we didn’t order dessert because we were really "llenos" = full, but this is how you can ask about a dessert menu:
- ¿Puedo ver el menú de postres? = Can I take a look at the desserts menu?
- ¿Tienes postres en el menú? = Do you have any desserts in the menu?
- ¿Qué postres tienen? = What desserts do you have?
You can use either “Te/Le encargo…” or “Va a ser…” to order dessert. For example:
- Te/Le encargo una rebanada de pastel de chocolate. = Can I get a slice of chocolate cake?
- Va a ser un helado de fresa para mí y un pedazo de pay de limón para él. = It is going to be a strawberry ice cream for me and a piece of lime pie for him.
There are many restaurants in Mexico where they only take cash. So, if you want to check whether you can pay by card or not, you can ask:
- Disculpa, ¿aceptan tarjetas? = Excuse me, do you take cards?
- ¿Puedo pagar con tarjeta? = Can I pay by card?
And that’s all there is to it! This is how you order food in Spanish. There are many more phrases you can use but these are the most common ones, and the ones I am pretty sure you won’t find in your grammar book.
* This is what Mexicans say after a good meal:
- ¡Panza llena, corazón contento! = A full stomach makes for a happy heart!
Next time you are eating with your Spanish speaking friends or at a Spanish speaking restaurants, you can show your skills and order food in Spanish for everyone at the table.
Go out there and practice! Let us know in the comments how it went.