Ordering Food in Spanish Like a Local

When traveling to a new country it always helps when you can speak like the locals. Knowing another language changes your world. What I came to realize while living in Spain is that the menus in English are usually higher in prices than those in Spanish. To avoid such scam it pays off to know some basic Spanish words. But how do you order in Spanish like a local? Don’t fret! I’m here to guide you. If the cat catches your tongue while ordering food in Spanish you can always resort to pointing at the menu.  This has awkwardly worked for me.

Some quick things to note: This guide is based on the Spanish from Spain, however, most of the words can be applied in other Spanish speaking countries. In the Spanish language, there are two main ways to order,  The Formal way or the Informal way. Below I show you, how to respond in both ways. It is so important to note that saying please every time like we are used to in English is not necessarily important to mention in Spanish. Now that doesn’t mean that you are rude, your tone and how you address the person is what can be indicated as rude or not. In replace of please, a local would say cuando puedas, meaning when you can.  You will see how this is used in the examples below.  If you do say please, the colloquial way to say it is por fa (usually informal) instead of the normal por favor.  I’ll advise you to open google translate on a new tab to hear how some of these words are pronounced. Now let’s proceed, shall we……


Ordering Food in Spanish: The Formal Way

Ordering Food in Spanish:Spanish Food

Ordering Food in Spanish- Paella

Usually in a fancy restaurant. The waiter or waitress addressess you using the formal “you” (le/ Usted).  You usually respond with, I would like to or could you ….  The Waiter/Waitress fends for the customer in most occassions. 

Things the Camarero/Camarera- Waiter/Waitress would say: 

  • Hola– Hello
    • Buenos días– Good Morning
    • Buenas tardes– Good Afternoon
  • Cómo puedo ayudarle?– How can I help you?
  • Muy bien, acompáñeme – Very good, come with me  OR Sígame– Follow me
  • 1 person: Qué le gustaría tomar?-  What would you like to have? OR  Qué desea tomar?  OR  Qué le pongo?–  What would you like to take?
    • 1 + people: Qué os gustaría tomar– What would you (all/both) like to take OR  Qué os pongo– What would you (all/both) like to take?
  • Y usted, señor (m)/señora (f)/ señorita (younger f) qué le gustaría tomar?– And you, sir/madam/miss?
  • Si no has/habéis probado el pollo asado, os lo recomiendo– If you/you(both/all) haven’t tried the grilled chicken, I recommend it to you.
  • Marchando– Coming right up!
  • ¡Que disfrute la comida/ Que aproveche!– Enjoy the food!
  • Cómo va todo– How is everything going ( as in the food?)
  • Por supuesto– Of course
  • Hasta Luego– Bye


How you should respond:

  • Hola– Hello
    • Buenos días/ Buenas tardes– Good Morning/Good Afternoon
  • Tengo una reserva para dos –  I have a reservation for two
  • No sé que pedir– I don’t know what to order
  • Perdona, me traes/ nos trae la carta, por favor– Excuse me can you bring me/bring us the menu, please
  • ¿Qué me recomienda/ Qué nos recomienda?– What do you recomend me/ What do you recommend us?
  • 1 person ordering: Me gustaría tomar unas verduras y botella de agua–  I would like to take some vegetables and a bottle of water
    • 2 people ordering the same thing: Nos gustaría tomar pollo asado– We would like to have grilled chicken
  • Gracias– Thank You
  • La comida está muy bien/ La comida está muy buena– The food is very good
    • Estaba todo buenísimo– Everything was very good
  • Me podrías traer la cuenta/ Me gustaría la cuenta por favor–  Could you bring me/ I would like the bill, please
  • Adiós/ Hasta Luego– Good Bye!




Ordering Food in Spanish: The Informal Way

Ordering Food in Spanish: Spanish Tapas

Ordering Food in Spanish- 100 Montaditos

Waiters/Waitresses are usually in a hurry. You have to be direct and a bit loud especially during the peak hours as there would be many customers there.  Waiter/Waitress usually addresses you with the informal “you” (tu) except of course you are an older person. Customer fends for their own seat.- story about this coming soon! 

Things the  Camarero/Camarera- Waiter/Waitress would say: 

  • Qué quieres?– What do you want?
  • Qué vas a tomar?– What are you going to have? This usually insinuates, what would you like to drink?
  • Qué vas a comer?– What are you going to eat?
  • Dime–  Tell me/ Say it
  • Algo más?–  Anything else?
  • Vale, ahora vengo – Alright I’ll be right back
  • Aquí tienes tu comida vegeteriana– Here is your vegetarian food
  • ¡Que aproveche!– Enjoy! It is equivalent to Bon apetite
  • Qué tal la comida?–  How is the food?  OR Todo bien?- Everything going well? (In an extremely rare situation the waiter in an informal setting asks you this. Except of course you got along really well with him/her)
  • Hasta luego/ Adiós– Bye


How you should respond:

  • ¡Oiga!, ¡Oye!–  Emphatic Hey!
  • Una mesa para dos– A table for two
  • Puedo ver la carta– Can I see the menu?
  • Tienes comida vegetariana/halal?– Do you have vegetarian food/ halal food
  • Ponme una botella de agua/ A mí me pones un zumo/jugo de naranja– Give me a bottle of water/ Give me orange juice
  • Dame un solomillo de ternera, por fa– Can you give me a beef stirloin?, please
  • Me das un cafe con leche– Can you give me coffee and milk?
  • Me traes algunos churros, cuando puedas?– Can you bring me churros, when you can?
  • Es muy bueno, es para chuparse los dedos– It’s really good, Finger licking good
  • Gracias– Thank you.
  • La cuenta, cuando puedas– The bill, when you can OR me das la cuenta– Can you give me the bill?
  • Hasta luego– Bye

How to ask what’s in the food

La croqueta lleva cerdo?– Does the croqueta have pork in it?

La Margarita tiene alcohol?– Does the Margarita have alcohol in it?


Key Words

  • Comer– To eat
  • Tomar– To take/ To have or could mean to drink
  • Beber– To drink
  • Para llevar–   To take out
  • Camarero/Camarera– Waiter/ Waitress
  • Cerdo– Pork
  • Ternera– Beef
    • muy poco hecho (a)– Rare
    • Al punto– Medium rare
    • Muy hecho (a)/ Bien cocido– Well done
  • Pollo– Chicken
  • Vegetariano(a)– Vegetarian
  • Verduras– Vegetable
  • Alcohol– Alcohol
  • La cuenta– The bill
  • Vaso de agua– Literally means a glass of water but in Spain, it colloquially means tap water and it is free!!!!
  • Botella de agua– Bottle water. Not free




That’s how you order in Spanish folks!

Thank you for reading, I hope you learned a thing or two about ordering food in Spanish. 

Check out the Video version of this article: How not to order like a Guiri or Gringo

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How to order like a local- Pinterest


2018-11-17T19:37:33-06:00July 18th, 2017|LANGUAGE|17 Comments


  1. Daphne Lee July 19, 2017 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    Haha love this. Having lived in South America in 9 months, the only thing I’m confident about is ordering food! LOL

  2. Jenn July 19, 2017 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    I love your break down. I’ve said Hello, How are you? And they immediately responded with so much more than the standard responses. I’m going to have to keep these other phrases handy.

  3. Nausheen July 20, 2017 at 1:32 am - Reply

    Love this! I lived in Spain for a year, this would have been so helpful right before my move:)

  4. Jas from My Suitcase Journeys July 20, 2017 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    I’m from Canada so our schools here teach French, not Spanish like the American schools. I’ve always wanted to learn tho and this is so so soooooo useful!!!!! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Krix July 20, 2017 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Hmm.. maybe I will give this a go next time I’m in Spain! 🙂

  6. Caitlin July 20, 2017 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    I’m honestly so happy to stumble across this post! I’ll be heading off to Mexico in less than two days and these tips will definitely come in handy! Hopefully I’ll be able to remember all the phrases 🙂

    • Hijabiglobetrotter July 20, 2017 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      I’m glad you found this just in time! Just remember a few, but I assure once you utter a word or two in Spanish the waiters would be excited 🙂 Get ready

  7. tashyie July 20, 2017 at 11:05 pm - Reply

    Super helpful Spanish guide. Its super important when traveling to countries to embrace the language and the locals will appreciate it as well

  8. Amy Rebecca Krigsman July 21, 2017 at 1:20 am - Reply

    This would have been so helpful before I went to Cuba. I don’t speak a lick of Spanish. I kind of had to wing it. Haha.

  9. What's Katie Doing? July 21, 2017 at 6:50 am - Reply

    Haha I’m with Daphne – ordering food and reading menu’s is the main thing I can do in Spanish! It’s good to brush up on the formal way to do this and have the full sentences for a more polite conversation.

  10. […] Below are the Five mistakes that make us stand out as a Guiri or Gringo. The content of this video was picked up from my recent article  How to order in Spanish like a local  […]

  11. NMR2002 January 31, 2018 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    The first part of the article is quite right, but some of the senteces in the yellow card, are incorrect, ¿Qué recomendamos? is wrong the right way to ask for a recomendation would be ¿Qué me recomienda (s)? also it sounds more correct a “reserva” instead of “una reservación” and they way it instruct to address someone informally is far too informal, summoning a waiter/waitress with those Oye, oiga, borders on pure rudeness.

    • Hijabiglobetrotter January 31, 2018 at 8:50 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your response 🙂 I will soon make the edits. In regards to the informal address, Are you from Spain or Latin America? in Spain, this is a common way to get a waiter/waitresses attention. It seems crude from anyone in the Americas, I included but after awhile I realized that the way the Spaniards speak Spanish is very direct and can appear rude to someone not from there.

  12. Maria December 12, 2018 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    I don’t know where exactly have you been in Spain, but as Spanish and waitress I can say that I’ve never heard “¡oye!” to call me or my colleagues. That’s really impolite even in an informal speech.
    We use it when we are angry at someone, never as something nice.
    As infomal way you can use: “Perdona/perdone”, make a sign with the hand or even you can (when you know him/her) “jefe/a” (boss) but never “oye”

    • Hijabiglobetrotter December 13, 2018 at 1:08 am - Reply

      Thanks for your comment Maria! I actually never felt fully comfortable using “Oye”. I used to do intercambios with a Spanish man from Valencia and he told me that if I wanted the waiter to respond to me on time, “Oye” was appropriate especially in those busy tapa bars where the waiters/waitresses are attending to a million people. So, I thought that if I local suggested that, maybe that was the norm. However, you are right I would change it to something more polite.

  13. Sandra February 3, 2019 at 4:13 am - Reply

    Hello from Bolivia…this is a grate help for Spanish learners. But a little observation when you order something to eat is not necessary to put the verb tomar this word doesn’t have the same use as have in English, that’s exclusively for drinks. In the case of Oye, it is true that is way to colloquial specially in some Bolivian cities as La Paz,Oruro or Potosí, but is also used in aggressive sentences or with hard notes of voice when you need to get attention from someone or with disciplinary intentions. Hope being helpful! Bye!

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