Everyday English: English for Cafés and Restaurants (with VIDEO)

english-cafe-restaurantDo you ever feel like you know a lot of English, but you’re missing some basics? Or, perhaps, that your English is too formal or polite, and you’re not speaking like we natives actually do?

When I’ve traveled, even in places where I know the local language well, I sometimes realize that I forget the most basic, everyday phrases–or even worst, that I haven’t learned them at all (or no one has taught me)!

For this reason, today we’re going to have a basic, but very practical English lesson: English for Cafés and Restaurants.

We’re going to learn not just the basic stuff, but also some phrases that you probably never learned in school that we native speakers use much more often. These phrases will prepare you to travel, to live abroad, and to help foreigners and tourists in your country.

By using these phrases correctly, you can always be sure that your English is top notch (excellent) when you visit a café or restaurant.

First, watch the video, then remember to check out the accompanying article below.

English for Cafes and Restaurants

Let’s get started!

When ordering:

  • I’d like a/the…
  • Do you have…
  • Can I have the (dish/drink) with (ingredient)?
  • How much is… (for price)

IMPORTANT: Remember that in English we generally use have (not take) when talking about food. For example:

  • I’ll have the pancakes
  • I’m going to have lunch with Chad (NOT take lunch)
  • I want to have a coffee before work (NOT take a coffee)

Types of drinks in a café:

  • Coffee with cream (AUS – a flat white), with sugar
  • Types of Coffee: often, more than one type of coffee is available: dark roast (stronger), medium roast or light roast (weaker)
  • Café au lait – coffee with milk (similar to café con leche/café com leite)
  • Espresso – remember that with these drinks you can often request chocolate, vanilla, or caramel flavor (for example, a caramel macchiato)
    • Cappuccino (half espresso, half steamed milk)
    • Macchiato (like cappuccino with less steamed milk)
    • Latte (like a cappuccino with more steamed milk)
  • (Orange, apple, grape, grapefruit, pineapple, carrot) juice
  • Milk/Chocolate milk
  • Smoothie (fruits mixed together in a blender with water or juice) with (types of fruit)
    • For example, a Strawberry-banana smoothie

Questions in a restaurant:

Referring to the taste and quality

  • How’s the… (name of plate)?
  • What’s the (name of plate) like?

For example:

  • How are the steamed mussels?
  • What’s the grilled salmon like?

Referring to the ingredients or cooking

  • What’s in the… (name of plate)?
  • How’s the (name of plate) prepared?
  • Is the (name of plate) spicy?
  • May I have the (name of plate) with/without the (ingredient).
  • May I have the (name of plate) with a side of…?

When you can’t decide what to order

  • Do you have any specials (like a plate of the day)?
  • What would you recommend?
  • Would you recommend the… or the…?

For preparation of eggs:

  • over easy (yolk [the yellow part] completely liquid)
  • over-medium (yolk a little runny)
  • over-hard (yolk completely cooked)
  • Soft-boiled/hard-boiled (egg cooked in the shell with the yolk either runny/cooked)
  • Sunny side up (egg cooked only on one side)
  • Scrambled (eggs beat with milk before being cooked)
    • With… (ingredients)
  • Poached (egg boiled without the shell)

For preparation of meat:

  • Rare (cooked on outside, very red inside)
  • Medium-rare (a little less red inside)
  • Medium (pink in the middle)
  • Medium-well (a little pink in the middle)
  • Well done (no pink)

Special Requests:

  • I’m vegetarian (no meat)/vegan (no animal products). What types of vegetarian/vegan dishes do you offer?
  • I’m allergic to…. Do you have any dishes without…
  • Is a gluten free menu available? (Gluten-free options are becoming more and more common in the United States).
  • With whipped cream/no whipped cream (common request at Starbucks, for example)
  • Please leave room for cream

Other random questions:

  • Do you have (free) wifi?
  • What’s the password (for the wifi)?
  • Where is the bathroom?

There are probably many more things that you can say in a café or restaurant, but these definitely cover the basics. If you want to know anything else, just comment below!

Remember to add these terms to your Anki or Memrise, the best way to memorize vocabulary.

You should also note that in English speaking countries we are often overly polite, so always say “please” and “thank you.”

Also Read:

  • Nero says:

    :-] A Biig round of applauuse!!

  • Great useful expressions!!! My students will love a fresh taste into real world!!!

  • Gilson says:

    Really helpful!! Thanks!!

  • Hongmei Zhu says:

    Very useful. I feel frustrated when I order food at restaurants or decided what to drink at Cafes. This talk helps a lot. Thank you very much, Ethan.

  • Ethan Zinho says:

    You're welcome! 🙂

  • Jason Guo says:

    Before I see this video, I always tell the waitress/waiter “sunny
    side up”, since I did not know any other expressions on how my eggs should be
    prepared, and am shy to ask.
    Thanks for the video. Next time in restaurant, I will order
    scrambled eggs. 🙂

    • Ethan says:

      I know, that’s such an awkward situation! Well, I hope this will help you not to feel embarrassed to order exactly what you want ^^