How to Order Food in French (with Example Conversations) – Rosetta Stone

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French food has a reputation for being some of the best cuisine out there, which might be why you’ll find French restaurants all over the world, not just in France. You’ve probably even seen French words, like à la carte or à la mode, on non-French menus. 

In this article we’ll dive into almost every French word you’ll need to know at a restaurant, whether you’re sitting inside the Eiffel Tower or eating pie à la mode at your local diner. And, to help you nail the pronunciation of your favorite French treats, try out Rosetta Stone’s TruAccent technology. You’ll get immediate feedback on pronunciation and learn French in an immersive environment with short ten minute lessons.

Table of contents:

Common French food vocabulary and phrases

From les boissons (drinks) to les plats (entrées), you’ll encounter a wide range of vocabulary on menus. First, dive into vocab and example conversations in the video below, where you’ll take a trip to Nice, France with Rosetta Stone. 

Ready to dive deeper into ordering food in French? Let’s review some common words and phrases. 

Basic phrases to order a meal in French:

French English
Voici la carte. Here’s the menu.
Merci.  Thank you.
Est-ce que vous voulez boire quelque chose ? Do you want something to drink?
Une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît.  A carafe of water, please.
Bien sûr.  Of course.
Merci.  Thank you.
Est-ce que vous avez choisi ?  Are you ready to order?
Qu’est-ce que vous me conseillez ?  What do you recommend?
Le plat du jour.  Today’s special.
Très bien, je prendrai le plat du jour,  s’il vous plaît. Very good, I’ll take today’s special, please.
Quel est le plat principal ?  What is the main dish?
Je prendrai la formule, s’il vous plaît. I’ll take the set menu, please.
Très bien. Very good.
Est-ce que vous voulez boire du vin avec ça ?  Do you want wine with that?
Un verre de rosé, s’il vous plaît. A glass of rosé, please.
Excusez-moi! Excuse me!
Avez-vous terminé ?  Have you finished?
Oui. Je prendrais un café, s’il vous plaît. Yes. I’ll take an espresso, please.
L’addition, s’il vous plaît. The bill, please.

>>Check out this helpful French phrase guide to expand the conversation! 

Vocabulary for drinks in French:

French English
un apéritif pre-dinner drink (aperitif)
le vin wine
le vin rouge red wine
le vin blanc white wine
les boissons chaudes hot drinks
les boissons fraîches cold drinks
le cocktail cocktail
la bière beers
l’eau plate still water
l’eau gazeuse sparkling water
le jus  juice
la limonade lemonade
le soda soda
le café coffee / espresso
le café au lait coffee with milk
le café noir black coffee

Vocabulary for meat and seafood in French:

French English
les viandes meats
le bœuf beef
le bifteck steak
le porc pork
le poulet chicken
l’agneau lamb
le jambon ham
le veau veal
les fruits de mer seafood
le poisson fish
les escargots snails

Vocabulary for fruits and vegetables in French:

French English
les légumes vegetables
les fruits fruits
la pomme apple
l’ananas banana
l’orange orange
le citron lemon
les raisins grapes
la fraise strawberry
la cerise cherry
la poire pear
la laitue lettuce
les haricots verts green beans
les asperges asparagus
l’aubergine eggplant
la carotte carrot
le champignon mushroom
le chou-fleur cauliflower
le concombre cucumber
les épinards spinach
la pomme de terre potato
les petit pois peas

Vocabulary for desserts in French:

French English
le plateau de fromages cheese plate
la glace ice cream
le gâteau cake
la tarte pie

Vocabulary for restaurants in French:

French English
le café café
la brasserie pub
le bistro small restaurant
le restaurant restaurant
le hors d’œuvre / l’entrée appetizer
le plat main course
le repas meal
le petit-déjeuner breakfast
le déjeuner lunch
le dîner dinner
le goûter snack
le dessert dessert
la carte / le menu menu
une formule pre-set menu
fait maison homemade
du jour of the day
l’addition check / bill
l’argent liquide cash
la carte de crédit credit card
la fourchette fork
le couteau knife
la cuillère spoon
la serviette napkin
la table table

How to order: From hello to goodbye

Now that you’re familiar with some common phrases and vocabulary, let’s go through the different stages of ordering food in French, from getting a table to paying the check.

Getting a table

Most bistros and cafes will not require a reservation, but you will have to ask the host for a table. More upscale or popular restaurants will require a reservation. So, it’s a good idea to call ahead first.

Here’s an example of some things you may hear when you’re claiming your reservation or booking a table:

French English
Avez-vous réservé ? Do you have a reservation?
Combien êtes-vous ? How many are you?
C’est pour X personnes ? For X people?
Où désirez-vous vous asseoir ? Where would you like to sit?
Installez-vous. Take a seat.
Prenez place. Take your place.
Est-ce que vous préférez être en terrasse ou à l’intérieur ? Would you like to sit outside or inside?

Here are a few phrases you might respond with:

French English
Oui, nous avons réservé. Yes, we have a reservation.
Non, nous n’avons pas réservé. No, we don’t have a reservation.
Nous aimerions nous asseoir à côté de la fenêtre. We would like to sit next to the window.
Nous préférerions être en terrasse. We would like to sit outside.
Nous préférerions être à l’intérieur. We would like to sit inside.

Greeting your server

Once you’ve been seated at your table you should say hello to your server! Here are a few different greetings you could use: 

French English
bonjour good day
bonsoir good evening

Starting your order

Once you’ve said hello, your waiter will ask if you’re ready to order. It’s customary to begin the meal with an apéritif, an alcoholic beverage to stimulate appetite. If you don’t want an apéritif, ordering water is fine. Here are a few phrases your server may use:

French English
Désirez-vous quelque chose à boire ? Would you like something to drink?
Voulez-vous une entrée ? Would you like an appetizer?
Avez-vous fait votre choix ?  Have you decided?
Vous avez choisi ? Have you chosen?
Je vous écoute. I’m listening. (Go ahead.)

Once you know what you’d like to order you can respond with:

French English
Je voudrais… I would like…
Je vais prendre… I will have…
Je n’ai pas encore choisi. I haven’t decided yet.
Est-ce que je peux avoir…? Can I have…?
Pour moi ça sera… For me, it’ll be…

Remember to say s’il vous plaît (please) after you order!

Ordering the main course

The main course of a French meal is usually a dish with meat or fish served with wine. If you order meat your waiter will likely ask you how you’d like it cooked. Here’s what that conversation may sound like:

French English
Je voudrais un steak, s’il vous plaît.  I would like a steak, please.
Quel type de cuisson ? How would you like it cooked?
Pour la cuisson ? How would you like it cooked?
Bleu(e) Blue rare
Saignant(e) Rare
À point Medium
Bien cuit(e) Well done

Say bon appétit!

You’ve probably heard the phrase bon appétit before. Maybe you’ve even said it! Before you dig into your meal it’s customary for you and your dining companions to wish each other a good meal.

Here’s a few ways to toast your meal:

French English
Je vous souhaite un bon appétit. I hope you enjoy your meal.
Je vous souhaite une bonne dégustation. I hope you enjoy your wine tasting.
Bon appétit Enjoy
Santé Cheers

Finishing the meal

At the end of a meal, it is very common (especially in France) to drink a cup of coffee with dessert or a cheese plate. Here are some phrases you might hear at the end of your meal: 

French English
Est-ce que vous voulez un café ? Do you want a coffee?
Oui, s’il vous plaît. Yes, please.
Non, merci. L’addition s’il vous plaît. No, thanks. The check, please.
Avez-vous terminé ? Have you finished?
Ça a été ? Was everything okay?
C’était très bon. It was very good.
Oui, c’était délicieux. Yes, it was delicious.
Est-ce qu’on peut avoir l’addition ? Can we have the check?

In France, le pourboire (the tip) is not mandatory, but you can leave a tip when satisfied with your experience. 

Asking about dietary restrictions in French

If you’ve ever stepped foot in a French restaurant, you probably know that to them, the more gluten, dairy, or meat a meal has, the better. If you have dietary restrictions, like allergies or a vegetarian diet, here are some practical French phrases and vocabulary to help you communicate your dietary needs:

French English
Est-ce qu’il y a de la viande dans ce plat ? Is there meat in this dish?
Je suis allergique à… I’m allergic to…
les arachides  peanut
le gluten gluten
les crustacés shellfish
l’oeufs  eggs
Je suis diabétique. I am diabetic.
Je suis végétarien(ne). I’m vegetarian.
Je suis végan(e). I’m vegan.
Est-ce que je peux remplacer le riz par des légumes ? Can I substitute rice with vegetables?

Asking for recommendations

If it’s your first time ordering French food, you may want to ask your server for recommendations or to describe items on the menu. 

Here are some phrases to ask your server about the menu:

French English
Qu’est-ce que la tartiflette ? What’s tartiflette?
Est-ce qu’il y a de l’ail dans ce plat ? Is there garlic in this dish?
Que me recommandez-vous/conseillez-vous ? What would you recommend? 

Another option is ordering from the pre-fixe menu. In French speaking countries, restaurants often offer un menu du jour (a menu of the day) at a set price where you can choose:

  • entrée et plat (appetizer and main dish)
  • plat et dessert (main dish and dessert)
  • entrée, plat, et dessert (appetizer, main dish, and dessert). 

Pre-set combo meals are referred to as les formules, but they might not be from the menu of the day. Restaurants will also offer le plat du jour (the special of the day), which often includes fresh local ingredients. 

If you’re traveling through France, it’s also a great idea to look into the local specialties of the region. French cuisine is heavily influenced by the seasonal and regional foods available, so foods from different regions in France can be quite different from each other.

Perhaps the most famous regional speciality is champagne (sparkling wine) from the Champagne region, but local specialties extend beyond wine. Ratatouille (vegetable stew) for instance, popularized by the Pixar film of the same name, comes from the southern Provence region and uses vegetables that are grown locally. Or, in the northern Normandy region you’ll likely find some delicious moules marinières (mussels in white wine sauce), especially when they’re harvested from the baie du Mont-Saint-Michel (Bay of Mont Saint Michel). And a personal favorite of many, boeuf bourguignon (beef stew with red wine) is from the Burgundy region.

A lot of French culture revolves around the food they eat. It’s common for French people to stop by the market on the way home for fresh ingredients to make that night’s meal. In fact, food has such an impact that many French idioms are about food!

French food words in English

As mentioned earlier, you’ve probably seen French words on English menus before. So here are some terms you might see that have French roots:

À la carte

This is a term used in both French and English that is used to describe food items that can be ordered individually or on the side.

À la mode

In French, à la mode means “in fashion,” but on a lot of American menus this French phrase means “with ice cream.” The reason for this English definition is unknown, but it was coined in 1903.

Au gratin

This is used to describe meals that are topped with breadcrumbs or cheese and cooked in the oven.

Crème brûlée

Literally meaning “burnt cream” this dessert’s name comes from the charred sugar on the surface of the creamy dessert.

Cuisine

This means “kitchen” in French, but can also be used to describe a type of food preparation.

Hors-d’œuvre

Literally, hors-d’œuvre means “outside of the works” and is used in both English and French to talk about appetizers or starter foods.

Sauté

In French, the word sauté means “to jump,” but in cooking, it is used to describe a way to cook in a pan over high heat with butter or oil.

Dig into French on Rosetta Stone

Ready to get some delicious French food? Order with perfect pronunciation with the help of Rosetta Stone! Start by learning basic words and phrases, reviewing the most common verbs in French, or exploring the south of France through everyday conversations. Rosetta Stone can help you learn a language faster and more confidently than you would if you studied on your own.

With Rosetta Stone, you’ll learn French naturally with a unique immersive approach to learning. Bite-sized lessons help you learn at your own pace, and the Rosetta Stone app lets you do it all on the go.

Ready to jump right in? Start your first lesson today at rosettastone.com

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