Learn French - How To Order Properly in a Restaurant
If you plan to go to France, you must be excited to discover « la cuisine Française » (French cuisine). And you won’t be disappointed. Usually, « les restaurants gastronomiques » (gastronomic restaurant) offer their « Menu » both in French and in English. This is particularly the case in Paris, as it’s the « Capitale Mondiale du Tourisme » (world captial of tourism). But they are expensive, and you often need to make « une réservation » (a booking) weeks in advance. You can find everything about this restaurants in “Le Guide Michelin”, where they are given up to 3 “etoiles” (stars).
But there is alot of « Bonnes adresses » (French expression to say «good places »). Some being small, despite scoring 1 “étoile” in Le Guide Michelin which is already an achievement. And all offer different cuisins. There is alot of style in French cuisin, from modern to gastronomic, to traditional. And even there, the tradiotional cuisin will be very different upon the “Région” it’s coming from. I can argue for “la cuisine du Sud Ouest” (south west cuisin) being one of the best. You could also choose to go in a « Bistrot », which is a mix between a bar and restaurant, where you can have a complete meal or just « un café » (a coffee). There is alot of place where you can enjoy « la cuisine Française » where the staff is not necessarily fluent in English. And in this case, it’s always helpful to know some basic terms in French.
As soon as you enter, “le serveur” ou “la serveuse” (the waiter or the waitress) will ask you “pour combien de personnes ?” (how many people are you?) and will direct you towards “votre table” (your table).
First, you have to be able to cypher the menu. In France, « Un repas » is divided in 4 to 5 parts. Basically: « Une entrée », « Un plat », sometimes « Un plateau De fromage » (a plate of cheese) « Un dessert », and generally to end « Le repas », you’ll take « Un café ». « Le serveur » (the waiter) will come often and ask you «si vous avez choisi ? » (did you made your choice ?). You can say « non, pas encore » (no, not yet) if you didn’t. But if you are ready, place your order. You can read our « Food Terms » article to help you make “votre choix”. In “Bistrots” you’ll often have a single “Menu du Jour” (menu of the day) so be sure to check that this menu is “à votre goût” before sitting and ordering.
When choosing meat, you’ll be asked for your taste considering “le type de cuisson” (the cooking). If you want it barely cooked, answer “Bleu”, and if you want it underdone, answer “Saignant”.
In all restaurants, you’ll be asked « voulez vous du vin ? » (do you want some wine ?). You can choose to have it « au verre » (a single glass of wine), or « à la bouteille » (the whole bottle). Sometimes, if you are numerous, you can choose wine « au pichet » (a pitcher of wine). In « Un Grand Restaurant », you’ll have « un sommelier » (a wine steward) giving you advice on which wine to choose according to the type of meats and savors you ordered. Basicaly, you’ll be offered between “du Vin Blanc” (white wine) and “du Vin Rouge” (red wine). But you can also be offered “du Rosée” (pink wine) or even “du Beaujolais”.
If at any time you need water and bread, they are, in a vast majority of restaurants, served for free. Simply ask “De l’eau, s’il vous plaît” if you want water, and “Du pain s’il vous plait”, if you need bread. The free water will be “de l’eau du robinet” (tap water). There a other types of water, which you need to pay for: If you want carbonated water, ask for some “Eau Gazeuse”, and if you need minetal water, ask for “Eau Minérale”.
“Le dessert” will often be ordered after the “Plat principal” is over. Some restaurant have “une carte des desserts” (a dessert menu) that will be bringed to you at this point. In this case, you’ll have plenty of choise between “Pâtisserie” (pastry) and “Glaces” or “Crêmes glacées” (ice creams).
To end the meal, Le serveur will bring you “L’addition” (the bill). Note that if you are in a hurry, you can ask it by saying “L’addition, s’il vous plaît” to your waiter. “Les pourboirres” (tips) are common, even if not always the rule. “C’est votre choix” (it’s your choice) to give one or not.
Finally, you have to know that in France « le déjeuner » (the lunch) is taken between « midi » (noon) and 2 PM. Alot of restaurant and Bistrots will stop their noon service after 2:30 PM. Le « dîner » (the dinner) can be taken between 7 PM to 11PM, generally. Les Bistrots allow you to take « le petit déjeuner » (the breakfast), which generally consist in un café or « un chocolat chaud » (hot chocolate) with some « Viennoiseries » (vienneses pastry).
Anyhow, even if you still feel un confortable placing your order like a real French gourmet, do not hesitate to try small restaurant in small towns. People are always happy to see foreigners in their establishment, and you will always be « Le bienvenu ».