Ordering food 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.
To show you how it’s done, we went to our favorite restaurant in Villa de Álvarez, Colima, Mexico. This place is called Los Molcajetes – “The Mortars.” We went 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.
Common Phrases for Ordering Food in Spanish
These are some of the most important phrases we go over in the video:
Making a Reservation
It is not always necessary to make reservations in Mexico, but it is sometimes a good idea, especially if you are going to a fancy restaurant or to a popular place that gets easily crowded. This can help you avoid waiting for a long time. Also, consider making a reservation if you are going with six or more people, as it may be difficult to find a table for everyone without waiting. To make a reservation, say:
“Quiero hacer una reservación para # personas el (día) a las (hora), por favor.”
“I’d like to make a reservation for # people on (day) at (time), please.”
Suppose you want to make a reservation for five people on Saturday at 6pm. You would say:
“Quiero hacer una reservación para cinco personas el sábado a las seis (de la tarde), por favor.”
They’ll ask you your name – ¿Cuál es su nombre? – and that should be it.
Once you arrive to the restaurant, let them know you’ve made a reservation:
Tengo una reservación a nombre de… = I have a reservation under…
If the restaurant is busy, they might cut you off after reservación. You might hear them say, ¿A nombre de quien? – Under what name? Tell them, and they’ll either take you to your table and say Por aquí – this way. Or they may ask you to wait a few minutes. Un momento, por favor. – One moment, please.
Asking for a Table for a Certain Number of People
When you arrive at a restaurant, you might need to specify how many people will be dining with you. To do so, you would say:
“Una mesa para (number) personas, por favor.” = “A table for (number) people, please.”
For example, if you are with three other people, you would say:
“Una mesa para cuatro personas, por favor.” = “A table for four people, please.”
Asking if There’s Any Room Available
If a restaurant looks busy, you might want to check if there is any room available before you wait to be seated. You can ask:
“¿Hay mesas disponibles?” = “Are there any tables available?”
Asking About the Wait Time to Be Seated
If the restaurant is busy, it is common to ask about the wait time. You can ask:
“¿Cuál es el tiempo de espera?” = “What’s the wait time?”
Sharing Whether a Reservation Was or Was Not Made Originally
If you’ve made a reservation, you might want to let the restaurant know as soon as you arrive. You could say:
“Tengo una reservación a nombre de (your name).” = “I have a reservation under (your name).”
If you haven’t made a reservation, and you’re asked about it, you can say:
“No, no hice una reservación.” = “No, I didn’t make a reservation.”
What to Do When There’s No Table Available or the Wait is Too Long
Sometimes, the restaurant might be full, or the wait might be longer than you’re willing to stick around for. Here are some phrases you can use in those situations:
“¿Hay otra hora disponible más tarde?” = “Is there another time available later?”
“Regresamos otro día, gracias.” = “We will return some other day, thank you.”
How to Greet the Waiter
The first thing you usually do at a restaurant, store, or a friend’s house is to greet people. So, when your waiter (el mesero) comes to the table, you can greet him/her by saying:
- Buenos días. = Good morning.
- Buenas tardes. = Good afternoon.
- Buenas noches. = Good evening.
How to Say “Can You Repeat That?”
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?
Common Types of Drinks
In most restaurants in Mexico, it is common to order drinks before food. Common bebidas = drinks you might want to order are:
- Agua = Water
- Agua mineral = Sparkling water
- Refresco = Soda
- Limonada = Lemonade
- Café = coffee
- Té = Tea
- Agua fresca = Fresh fruit blended with water and sugar.
IN THIS VIDEO, WE GO IN-DEPTH TO SHOW YOU HOW TO ORDER DRINKS IN SPANISH. FOLLOW US TO OUR FAVORITE CAFÉ IN QUERETARO, MEXICO TO SEE HOW IT’S DONE.
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. It’s common in Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. 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 of 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?
If you’re backpacking through South America or Spain and want to minimize the number of strange looks you get, feel free to switch out “te/le encargo” for “me trae(s).” Not all Spanish-speaking countries are used to this casual use of encargar.
If you’re ordering a country that’s not Mexico or Central America, you can use ¿Me trae…? (formal) or ¿Me traes…? (informal) in the same way.
Ordering for Someone Else
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?
Now for the main meal. These are the most common situations you’ll encounter for ordering food in Spanish.
Are You Ready to Order?
When the waiter/waitress comes to your table to take your order, they will ask you:
- ¿Están listos? = Are you ready?
- ¿Están listos para ordenar? = Are you ready to order?
- ¿Les puedo tomar su orden? = May I take your order?
If you know what you want to order, then you can reply:
- Sí, estamos listos. = Yes, we are ready.
- Sí, por favor. = Yes, please.
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?
Placing Your Order
In the Ordering Drinks section, we saw that “Te encargo…” is something you can say to ask for anything. You may use this as well for ordering food, but another 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.
Other alternatives are:
- ¿Me puede(s)* traer…, por favor? = Could you bring me…, please?
- ¿Me puede(s)* dar…, por favor? = Could you give me…, please?
- Quiero…, por favor.** = I want… please.
* We add an S to puede to talk in an informal way.
** I know it may feel rude to say quiero, but as long as you say por favor and use a nice tone of voice, it’s just fine.
Asking About Ingredients for Special Diets and Allergies
Let’s have a look at some of the most common questions to ask a waiter while ordering. If you want to make sure if the dish you’d like to order has (or does not have) a certain ingredient, you could ask ¿Lleva…? = Does it have…in it?
- ¿Lleva queso? = Does it have cheese?
- ¿Lleva carne? = Does it have meat?
- ¿Lleva nueces? = Does it have nuts in it?
Asking if Something is Spicy
Whether you like spicy food or not, it can be helpful to ask ahead of time. Use these phrases to find out:
- ¿Es picante? = Is it spicy?
- ¿Pica mucho? = Is it too spicy?
- ¿Cuál pica menos/más? = Which is less/more spicy?
If you’re sensitive to spicy food, you might want use one of the following phrases:
- ¿Lo pueden hacer sin chile? = Can you make it without chile/spice?
- ¿Se puede hacer sin chile? = Can it be made without chile/spice?
- ¿Tienes otra opción similar sin chile? = Do you have another similar option without chile/spice?
- ¿Tienes otra opción que no pique? = Do you have another similar option without chile/spice?
The words con = with and sin = without are also very useful. They allow us to add or take away ingredients from our dish.
- Con leche. = With milk.
- Con queso. = With cheese.
- Con pollo. = With chicken.
- Sin azúcar. = Without sugar.
- Sin alcohol. = Without alcohol.
- Sin carne. = Without meat.
Will That Be All?
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.
When the waiter/waitress comes back with your food, they’ll probably ask who ordered what. When they ask about yours, you could say:
- Para mí, por favor. = For me, please.
- Aquí. = Here.
How to Say “Bon Appetit” in Spanish
The key to ordering food politely in Spanish is using por favor often. But you’ll need to master one other culturally appropriate phrase to dominate the dining experience in Spanish.
Before you start eating your food, it is important to follow the Mexican rule telling the others to enjoy their meal by saying provecho or buen provecho. Besides saying this to the other people at our table before we start eating, it is also common to say it to the people at the other tables on your way out of the restaurant. But pay attention. We only do this in small, casual places. We wouldn’t do it at a fancy restaurant, for example.
As you may know, we have a similar rule about drinks. We say salud before we start drinking. It is more common to do this when having alcoholic drinks, but not necessarily.
Is Everything Alright?
While you are at the restaurant, the waiter/waitress may approach you every now and then to make sure everything is alright. They may ask things like:
- ¿Algo más que les haga falta? = Is there anything else you need?
- ¿Todo bien? = Is everything alright?
- ¿Necesitan algo? = Is there anything you need?
If you don’t need anything, then you can reply:
- Todo bien, gracias. = Everything is alright, thank you.
- Estamos bien, gracias. = We are fine, thank you.
But if there is something you need, then you can say:
- Te encargo otra bebida, por favor. = I’d like another drink, please.
- ¿Me puedes traer un vaso de agua, por favor? = Can I have a glass of water, please?
- ¿Nos puedes dar más servilletas, por favor? = Could you give us more napkins, please?
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 dessert 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.
Requesting a To-Go Container
If you didn’t finish your meal, you could order it for takeout. This is common and it’s not considered tacky as it sometimes is in some other countries. This is the most common way of asking:
Para llevar, for favor. = For takeout, please.
If, on the contrary, you’d like to specify that you’ll eat at the restaurant, then just say para comer aquí.
Asking for the Check
You can ask for the check by saying:
- Disculpa, la cuenta, por favor. = Excuse me, the check, please.
- Te encargo la cuenta, por favor. = Can I get the check, please?
There is also a non-spoken way of asking for the check. It consists of raising your hand to get the waiter’s attention and then moving your hand as if you were writing something down. If you’re looking to practice your Spanish, then I would recommend the previous options, but this might come handy in noisy places or when the waiter is far away.
Also, bear in mind that 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?
If they don’t take cards, they’ll reply sólo efectivo = cash only.
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 restaurant, 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.
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- All About Mexico Pesos
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