Ah French cuisine! French food is revered around the world for its quality, and if you’re planning on visiting France sometime soon, you should plan on spending lots of time eating out in as many cafes, bistros, and restaurants as possible.

When heading to a tiny French bistro, though, it’s helpful to have some key phrases down in order to make the experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

So, having already written the web's most comprehensive set of tips and resources for how to learn French on your own, Brainscape has consolidated a list of some of the most useful French phrases for eating out at restaurants.

Note: Some of these are a bit more advanced. If you need help with your pronunciation or you just want to learn more of the grammar check out our Learn French curriculum. It's perfect for any level from beginners to advanced French speakers.

French food vocabulary phrases to know for eating out

French food vocabulary at restaurant with plate of food
Know these key French food vocabulary terms to make the most of your trip to France.

Ordering and etiquette

When you are ordering and interacting with the staff at restaurants in France, manners and proper dining etiquette will go a long way toward getting you on their good side. These are some essential phrases you will need to use with your waiter and other staff. (A select few are phrases you may need to respond to.)

  • Bonjour. J’ai une réservation pour deux (trois/quatre) sous le nom de … : "Hello. I have a reservation for two (three/ four) under the name of…"
  • Avez-vous une table pour deux (trois/quatre)?: "Do you have a table for two (three/four)?" If you don’t have a reservation, this is how to ask if you can be seated. Remember, though, that it’s best to call ahead, especially for dinner.
  • La carte, s’il vous plaît.: "The menu, please."
  • La carte des vins, s’il vous plaît.: "The wine list, please."
  • Qu’est-ce que vous voulez commander?: "What would you like to order?" Just so you know, if the waiter says this to you, he or she is asking for your order!
  • Que voulez-vous?: "What would you like?" The waiter will ask this as either an alternative way of taking your order, or as a general way of seeing if there’s something else (a napkin, some water) you’d like.
  • Qu’est-ce que la recommandation du chef?: "What is the chef’s recommendation?" If you don’t know what to order, this is a great way to find out what the best or most famous dishes at the restaurant are.
  • Quel est le plat du jour?: "What’s today’s special?"
  • Je prendrai/ Je voudrais/ J’aimerais…: "I would like to order…" All three are acceptable.
  • Un moment, s’il vous plaît.: "One moment, please." This is something to say if you are still deciding what to get.
  • L’addition, s’il vous plaît.: "The check, please." Usually, you won’t get the check until you ask for it. This is a polite way to let the waiter know you are ready to leave.

Food and drink

The highlight of the experience: the food and drink. Make sure to know some basic food words for things you would like to try (or anything you know you don’t want to try!). Don’t be afraid to get something new, though.

  • Vin rouge/ blanc/ mousseux: "Red wine/ white wine/ sparkling wine"
  • J’aimerais de l’eau.: "I would like some water."
  • le pain: "bread"
  • le fromage: "cheese"
  • une salade: "a salad" Strictly speaking, this is also the word for lettuce, so if it is listed on the side of something like a hamburger, it may just mean that the dish comes with lettuce. Be aware of the context.
  • les pommes de terre: "potatoes"
  • le porc: "pork"
  • le poulet: "chicken"
  • le bœuf: "beef"
  • J’aime mon steak saignant/ à point/ bien cuit.: "I like my steak rare/ medium(-rare)/ well-cooked."
  • Puis-je avoir du sel/ poivre?: "May I have some salt/ pepper?"
  • Un café avec le dessert, s’il vous plaît.: "A coffee with dessert, please."

Other phrases you may need

These French phrases for eating out are a great place to get started, and you may be able to survive at a restaurant on these alone. If you want to really enjoy your time eating your way through France, though, it’s helpful to know even more.

An easy way to build your French food vocabulary is to study with Brainscape’s free Survival French package. Or, if you really want to learn French fast, you should check out Brainscape’s complete set of French grammar and vocab flashcards (with audio). Either way, a little French will get you far, and make sure to enjoy eating the food as much as you do talking about it!

And again, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide to learning French efficiently for tons of resources and a step-by-step guide to setting up your French learning program. Bon courage!