French cuisine is known all over the world for it’s decadent and varied options. There are various dining options in France – cafes, sit-down restaurants, and take-out restaurants.
Read on to learn all about ordering food in French like a local.
Ordering Food in French Cafés
Cafes in France aren’t only for tea, coffee, and pastries. Around meal times, many casual restaurants offer a menu full of delicious options. So whether you want a meal or a coffee, a cafe is a good place to go.
You don’t need to wait for a server to show you to a table. Just find an empty table and sit down. You can expect the seating to be squished in close.
Sometimes you’ll find tables in rows on terraces crowded together. But don’t be put off. French cafes are perfect for people watching and enjoying the view.
French service at cafes won’t be 5 star, and that’s OK. You’ll see that staff is bustling back and forth with the flood of customers coming and going.
And in France, service is more lax. Staff can smoke right outside the front door.
You might even catch them on their phones behind the counter. That’s normal in France.
Don’t feel you have to rush out of a cafe just because it’s busy. Go ahead and enjoy each delectable sip and mouthful. In fact, if you want to spend a euro on a cafe au lait and read the paper all morning on the terrace, you can!
Unlike cafes which offer simple fare, French restaurants often include three courses or more. Bread comes out first, typically. Then a starter, an entree, and dessert. Often, a cheese course is part of the meal, too.
It’s a good idea to make a reservation ahead of time so you’re sure to get a table. Unlike many American restaurants, eating food in French parts of the world, especially in France, is an experience.
You can expect to be there for a few hours. Service at French restaurants is attentive and you’ll need to wait to be seated.
If you want to save a couple of euros, go ahead and order tap water. That’s one way to enjoy travel without spending too much.
Also, you won’t need to tip after you eat. Look on the bill, you’ll see a service charge that is already added to your bill. This can be 10 to 25% depending on the restaurant and on the size of your party.
You don’t need to give anything extra as a tip. Your waiter won’t expect anything on top of the amount printed on your bill.
But if you really want to show you appreciated the service, a couple of euros will suffice.
There are many places where you can enjoy French food and drink to go. Look for signs on the door or website that says vente à emporter (which means buy to take out).
Ordering takeout is a great way to get you to talk in French. If you don’t want to order over the phone, there are many takeout sites that let you order online.
Allo Resto is a site that lets you choose a city and select a restaurant you’d like to order from.
Now that you know the different types of eating options in France, let’s go over the basics of ordering food from a French menu.
Ordering Food From a French Menu
Even if you don’t know a lot of French, being friendly and polite will go a long way.
Attract your waiter’s attention by saying excuse me (excusez-moi?). You can use this phrase if you don’t catch what your waiter has said. He or she will then repeat themselves.
Make sure to say please (S’il vous plaît) and thank you (merci) often and you’ll do just fine at getting the waiter on your side.
In French restaurants, there are two kinds of menus: a la carte and prix fixe. A la carte means that you can choose whatever you like on the menu. Prix fixe means that there is a set menu for a set price.
Often, these menu options cost less than if you order a la carte. It’s a great way to sample authentic French food.
Here are a few phrases you will see again and again on French menus:
- L’entrée — Appetizer
- Le plat principal — Main dish
- Le fromage — Cheese plate
- Le dessert — Dessert
- Le digestif — After-dinner drink
It’s common to see “du jour” option on the menu. Often there are soups, salads or entrees that change from day to day.
Ask your server about the “du jour” option for the day if it’s not printed on a sign or menu.
Food Preparation Terms to Know
It’s also a good idea to understand a few food preparation terms. That way you understand how your food will be prepared. Whether something is baked, melted or grilled can make a big difference in the end result.
Here are common terms that you’ll see to describe how French dishes are prepared.
- À La Vapeur: Steamed
- À L’Etoufflée: Stewed
- Au Four: Baked
- Bouilli: Boiled
- En Daube: In a Stew
- Fondu: Melted
- Frit: Fried
- Fumé: Smoked
- Grillé: Grilled
- Haché: Minced or ground
Thanks for reading! We hope your mouth is watering just thinking about all the delicious offerings available at French restaurants.
Ordering food in French is not as difficult as you might think. By understanding the type of restaurant you’re in, and a few key phrases and you’ll soon be enjoying French cuisine.
Want to do more than visit museums while you’re in France? Check out these spooky attractions in Paris.