The Ultimate Guide on How to Order Food in Mexican Spanish


Usually, when learning Spanish with a book or a course, one of the topics that teachers use to measure the new students’ progress is ordering food in a restaurant. Although this is actually a very good situation to practice, the reality is that books only provide you with generic phrases. Therefore, when most of the students go to restaurants, they find out that the things they learned weren’t really helpful.

Since it’s crucial for you to start feeling confident about your Spanish and to practice as much as you can, we wrote this Ultimate Guide on How to Order Food in Spanish. In this post, you’ll find useful phrases and vocabulary that native speakers actually use when going to a restaurant. That way, you will be able to have a smooth conversation with the waiter. Unfortunately, as you may know, Spanish is very different depending on the country you are, so this post will be more Mexico-centered. However, if you use them in other Spanish countries, you are going to be okay. After all, we Mexican use them when going to another country.

Facing the Menu: Ask for Recommendations and a Dish’s Ingredients

If you have come to Mexico, you probably noticed that communicating in English with your waiter is not always possible. Although it’s true that some menus may have pictures of the dishes they offer, they are not going to be helpful if you are not familiar with Mexican food. As a result, you need to be ready to ask some questions.

Asking for recommendations

Usually, when people don’t know much about a subject, they ask for suggestions or help. The same thing happens when you want to try a foreign cuisine. Even though Mexico is known by their tacos, when going to a restaurant, you’ll find dishes you probably have never heard before. So, if you want to try a new dish but you can’t decide which one, the best thing you can do is to ask the waiter for recommendations. The following questions are going to be very helpful if you don’t know what to order or if you don’t eat some ingredients. Here’s how you do it:

  • ¿Qué platillo me recomiendas? What dish would you recommend?
  • ¿Cuál es la especialidad de la casa/de hoy? What is the specialty of the house/today?
  • ¿Qué platillo crees que debería probar? What dish do you think I should try?

These are very general questions that you can ask your waiter if you don’t know what to eat. However, feel free to add some extra information if you don’t eat or like a certain type of food. For instance:

  • ¿Qué platillo me recomiendas que no tenga carne? What dish would you recommend without meat?
  • ¿Qué puedo comer que no tenga lácteos? What can I eat with no dairies?
  • ¿Qué puedo comer que no tenga lácteos? What can I eat with no dairies?

If we pay attention to the structure, we will be able to see that the only thing we add is:

Question + que no tenga + ingredient

Mexican speakers also use the following structure. However, it can be considered a little bit informal:

¿Me recomiendas un platillo + sin + ingredient?

¿Me recomiendas un platillo sin carne? Would you recommend a dish with no meat?

What is in the ‘enchiladas? – Asking for ingredients

Although asking for recommendations is a nice way to start trying new dishes, sometimes you are just going to read the menu and choose for yourself. However, if you want to make sure you understand what you are going to eat, the best thing is to ask about the ingredients your dish contains. To do so, Mexican speakers use the following question:

¿Qué + lleva + name of the dish (singular name)?

At this point, you have to keep mind that, in Spanish, is very important to mark the singular and the plural form. This structure is not the exception since some Mexican dishes’ names can be plural or singular. So make sure you conjugate the verb accordingly.

¿Qué + llevan + name of the dish (plural name)?

¿Qué llevan los chiles rellenos? What’s in the chiles rellenos?

One thing that is very confusing for new Spanish speakers is that we use the verb ‘llevar’ in this context. However, you have to keep in mind that is very usual that some words mean different things depending on the context you are using them. Llevar is a good example of this. And even though we use this verb for many things, when talking about a restaurant, ‘llevar’ is used to ask about the ingredients in a dish.

In fact, the full question would be ‘¿Qué ingredientes lleva el mole?’. Nevertheless, Spanish speakers remove the word ‘ingredientes’ to make the sentence shorter. With this in mind, it’s up to you using one or the other, just keep in mind that both questions mean the same.

Asking for an ingredient in particular

In the previous examples, you learned how to ask about the ingredients in general. While this is very useful, sometimes you just need to know if the dish you want to try contains one specific ingredient. As a result, you’ll need to use the following structure.

¿Dish (plural name) + llevan + ingredient?

¿Los sopes llevan carne? Do the sopes contain cheese?

¿Los sopes llevan carne? Do the enchiladas contain cheese?

Notice that in this situation we are also using the verb ‘llevar’. Therefore, you want to follow the singular and plural rules we established before.

¿Dish (singular name) + lleva + ingredient?

¿El pozole lleva carne? Does the pozole contains meat?

Just remember: a plural name requires you to conjugate the verb in its plural form. A singular name requires you to conjugate the verb in its singular form.

Time to Order

So now that you know how to ask about the ingredients in a dish, it’s time for you to learn some expressions to order. Although you might have seen some of the following phrases, it’s very likely that some of them will be new for you. Since the main purpose of the guide is to give you the most common phrases Mexican speakers use when going to a restaurant, don’t hesitate to use them. Even if you haven’t seen them on your books.

Despite the huge number of expressions we have to order in a restaurant, the most common one is:

Para mí, va a ser + dish

Para mí, va a ser un pozole y unos tacos I’ll have a pozole and tacos

Notice that even if in English you say ‘I’ll have’, in Spanish, we say ‘Para mí va a ser’. Although this a very common phrase, you can also use one of the followings:

  • Yo quiero… I’ll have…
  • ¿Me das…? Can I have…?
  • ¿Te puedo pedir…? May I have…?

If you decide to use one of the previous ones, just make sure to add the dish, dessert or beverage you want to order. For instance:

Yo quiero una limonada I’ll have lemonade

¿Me das el filete asado? Can I have the roast beef?

¿Te puedo pedir el pay de queso? May I have the cheese pie?

Ordering for Other People

Imagine this situation: you come on vacation to Mexico with your family and friends. At some point, you guys decide to go to a restaurant, and when it’s time to order, you realize that the waiter doesn’t speak English and you are the only one who can speak Spanish. As a result, you have to order for all the people at the table.

Although this may seem a little daunting, the truth is that it is more simple than you can imagine. You just have to use the same expression that we saw before: ‘Para mí, va a ser’. Of course, there are some small changes you need to make when talking about other people’s order. For instance:

SpanishEnglish
Mesero: ¿Están listos para ordenar?
Tú: Sí, gracias. Para mí, va ser un filete asado. Para ella, va a ser un pozole y para ellos 4 tacos de chorizo.
Waiter: Are you ready to order?
You: Yes, thank you. I’ll have roast beef. She’ll have a pozole and they’ll have 4 chorizo tacos.

Notice that the only thing that changes is the pronoun and the rest of the phrase remains the same. Even though this the most common expression Mexican people use when ordering for someone else, you could also use the verb ‘querer’. Just make sure you use the right conjugation.

SpanishEnglish
Mesero: ¿Están listos para ordenar?
Tú: Sí, gracias. Yo quiero un filete asado. Ella quiere un pozole y ellos 4 tacos de chorizo.
Waiter: Are you ready to order?
You: Yes, thank you. I’ll have roast beef. She’ll have a pozole and they’ll have 4 chorizo tacos.

Ordering Drinks

Even though sometimes people order their dish and beverage at the same time, in Mexico is very common that first, the waiter writes down the food and then he’ll ask about the drinks. The good news is that you can use one of the expressions for ordering that we saw before. However, you may want to learn some vocabulary to order your drink the way to really want it.

  • Al tiempo Room temperature
  • Con leche With milk
  • Con hielo With ice
  • Sin hielo Without ice
  • Sin azúcar Without sugar
  • Con agua mineral With mineral water
  • Con agua natural With natural water

If you are still having issues with your fluency in Spanish and you want to avoid a long conversation with the waiter, one thing you can do is to say what you want in advance. That way, you don’t have to deal with more questions. A good example of this is when you are ordering your drink. Instead of waiting for the waiter to ask you how do you want your drink, you can save time and say it since the beginning. For instance:

Ella quiere un café sin azúcar She wants a coffee with milk

Para mí, va a ser una limonada con agua mineral I’ll have lemonade with mineral water

When ordering coffee, one thing that you need to keep in mind is that in English you have the phrase ‘double, double’, to express that you want two measures of milk and two measures of sugar. However, in Mexico, we just say milk and for the sugar, we say ‘dos de azúcar’.

Can I have the Check?

There’s no doubt that asking for the check is one of the most important things when going to a restaurant. Just as many examples, you can’t translate word by word the English phrase ‘Can I have the check’ into Spanish. Even though the waiter may understand you, the phrase wouldn’t be correct. So if you are in Mexico, these are the phrases you want to use to ask for the check. Keep in mind that all of them are a synonym of ‘Can I have the check?’.

  • ¿Me puedes traer la cuenta, por favor?
  • ¿Me das la cuenta, por favor?
  • ¿Te encargo la cuenta, por favor?

All these phrases are perfect if you are eating in a restaurant. However, if you are in a stand eating tacos, you could simply ask:

¿Cuánto es? How much is it?

¿Cuánto va a ser? How much is it going to be?

As you can imagine, the interaction is no the same when you are eating in a restaurant than eating in a tacos stand. So if you are looking to order tacos as a native, you should read this post.

The Other Side of the Coin: The Phrases of the Waiter

So far you have learned some useful phrases you can use to order both food and drinks in a restaurant. But what about the phrases that you are going to hear from the waiter? Even if this part of the conversation doesn’t seem like a big deal, the truth is that if you are not aware of them, you are going to have a hard time placing your order. After all, in order to answer, you need to be sure about what they are asking you. So here are some of the most common phrases waiters are going to use.

  • ¿Está listo para ordenar? Are you ready to order?
  • ¿Qué desea ordernar? What would you like to order?
  • ¿Necesita unos minutos más? Do you need a few more minutes?
  • ¿Qué sería para usted? What would you have?
  • ¿Desea ordernar las bebidas primero? Would you like to order the drinks first?
  • ¿Qué va a ser para tomar? What would you like to drink?
  • ¿Quiere que le traiga un vaso con hielo? Would you like me to bring you a glass with ice?
  • ¿Su bebida sería con agua mineral o natural? Do you want your drink with mineral or natural water?
  • El platillo del día es… Today’s special is…
  • ¿Desea acompañar su platillo con algo más? Would you like to add something else to your meal?
  • ¿Está todo bien? Is everything okay?
  • ¿Le puedo ofrecer algo más? Can I offer you something else?
  • ¿Desea un postre? Would you like to order a dessert?
  • ¿Le gustaría ver el menú de postres? Would you like to see the dessert menu?

Other Useful Phrases for a Restaurant in Spanish

Although learning the phrases you and the waiter are going to exchange is really helpful when going to a restaurant, it wouldn’t hurt you to be prepared for other situations that sometimes you need to handle in a restaurant. Adding these new phrases to your vocabulary not only will help you improve your fluency but also will make you feel confident about your Spanish.

Asking where is the bathroom

Even though some restaurants will have clear signs to show you where the bathroom is, sometimes you will need to ask the waiter for instructions. To do so, you could use one of the following expressions:

  • ¿Me puede decir dónde está el baño? Can you tell where is the bathroom?
  • ¿Dónde está el baño? Where is the bathroom?
  • Disculpe, ¿y los baños? The literal translation is: excuse, the bathroom?

Still not ready to order?

There’s no doubt that if you are getting familiar with both the Mexican dishes and the Spanish Menu, you are going to need a little a bit of time to make your choice. However, most of the times the waiters come to take the order when we are not ready yet. So the following phrases are going to help you to tell the waiter that you are still no ready to order.

  • Todavía no estoy listo I’m still not ready. Although this expression may seem a little bit rude, you can actually use it as a response when the waiter asks you ‘are you ready to order?’.
  • ¿Me puedes dar unos minutos? Can you give me a few more minutes? This phrase is very good when you want to be polite. However, keep in mind that if there are more people on the table, you should change it for ‘¿nos puedes dar unos minutos?’.

Is there a mistake with your order?

No matter how good the restaurant is, we all make mistakes. As a result, there’s a chance that, for some reason or another, your waiter makes a mistake with your order. Since is better safe than sorry, we are going to give you some phrases that will help you to point out the mistakes in your order.

Disculpa + te pedí + dish/drink

Disculpa, te pedí las enchiladas con queso Excuse me, I ordered the enchiladas with cheese

If you ordered a dish/drink with or without a certain ingredient, you could use the following expression:

Disculpa + dish/drink (plural name) + eran + con/sin + ingredients

Disculpa, las limonadas eran con agua mineral Excuse me, I asked the lemonades with mineral water

Be aware that of the Spanish rules about singular an plural: if the dish’s name is singular, then, you need to conjugate the verb in its singular form. The same thing happens with dishes or drinks in the plural form.

Disculpa + dish/drink (singular name) + era + con/sin + ingredients

Disculpa, el café era sin leche Excuse me, I asked my coffee without milk

Although there is no doubt that you could simply say ‘Yo no ordené esto’ (I didn’t order this), the previous phrases kill two birds with one stone: you express that the order is not correct and you also remind the waiter the dish or drink you wanted. As a result, you are avoiding to have a longer conversation.

Conversation Example: Waiter and Customer

So far in this post, you have seen a lot of expressions that both you and the waiter are going to exchange in a restaurant. In the following conversation example, we are going to recreate a conversation between a customer and a waiter. That way you can how to use the expressions you already learned.

ActionSpanish phraseEnglish translation
WaiterWelcome you to the restaurant. The menu.Bienvenidos, buenas tardes, les dejo el menú. En un momento estoy con ustedes. Welcome, good afternoon, here’s the menu. I’ll be with you in a few minutes.
YouThe waiter combes back to take your order and you ask about recommendations and ingredients.¿Cuáles son los especiales del día?What are the specialities of the day?
WaiterEl especial de hoy es la sopa azteca. The specialty of the day is the Aztec soup.
You
¿La sopa azteca lleva chile?Does the Aztec soup contains chili?
WaiterSí, la sopa lleva chile.Yes, the soup contains chili
YouPlacing your orderBueno, para ella, va a ser una sopa azteca y para mí, enchiladas sin crema.Okay, she’ll have Aztec soup and I’ll have enchiladas without cream.
WaiterThe drinks¿Les ofrezco algo de tomar?Can I offer you something to drink?
YouDos cervezas, por favor.Two beers, please
YouThe waiter brings you your food and you notice that something is not rightDisculpa, las enchiladas eran sin cremaExcuse me, I asked the enchiladas without cream
WaiterPerdone, ahorita se las cambioI’m sorry, I’ll change them right away
WaiterAsking for the bill¿Le ofrezco algo más?Is there something else that I can offer you?
YouSí, la cuenta, por favorYes, the check please

Wrapping Up

Although learning Spanish might be fun, many new speakers find that communicating is not as easy as they thought. This situation is very common when going to a restaurant. However, after reading this Ultimate Guide on How to Order Food you will feel more secure when going to a Mexican restaurant. Remember that the best way to improve your Spanish is by practicing. So the next time you have to interact in Spanish with a waiter, don’t hesitate in using this guide.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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