How to Order Food in a restaurant in Spanish
Learn how to Order food in Spanish in a Peruvian restaurant. When traveling in Peru you want to use your Spanish while ordering meals in a café or restaurant in Peru. But, of course, in the tourist places in Peru, especially in Cusco, some people speak English, but not consistently and not very well. And it’s much more fun to practice your Spanish, communicate with the locals, and learn how to order food in Spanish in a Peruvian restaurant.
Knowing how Order Food in Spanish will help your self-confidence when speaking Spanish. Speaking Spanish, you’ll connect with the Peruvian people to follow their recommendations and learn about Peruvian food and its local ingredients. This is a great practise when learning Spanish in Peru: talk to the people, order the food you want, ask questions, order the bill, and much more.
Let’s start with the most important numbers.
|The Numbers in Spanish|
|One – un, uno o una*||six – seis|
|Two – dos||seven – siete|
|Three – tres||eight – ocho|
|Four – cuatro||nine- nueve|
|Five – cinco||ten – diez|
|Twenty – veinte||Fifty – Cincuenta|
|Hundred – cien||Thousand – mil|
If you want to make an appointment (for dinner), you can use the numbers with ‘a las’.
|At 7 o’clock||a las siete|
|At 8 o’clock||a las ocho|
If you want to add half an hour (e.g. 7.30 pm), you add: y media.
|So “at 7.30 pm’ is:||a las siete y media.|
|At 1 o’clock||a la una|
What are the local meal times in Peru?
Similar to the meal times in many other countries, Peru has three main meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner*. Breakfast is served from 7.00 – 9.30 in local restaurants, and a bit later in tourist restaurants. Lunch is the main meal in Peru, and it’s warm. The best time for lunch in a Peruvian restaurant is between 13.00 and 14.00. After this, many dishes and certainly the menu of the day will be agotado (sold out). The waiter will say: Ya no hay.
Dinner in Peru is between 7.00 and 9.00 pm, more or less. In Cusco, many locals do not have a big dinner but rather have something small: maybe a leftover from lunch, a soup, or a sandwich. This is partly because, due to the altitude in Cusco, digestion is slow, and it’s not good for your stomach to have a heavy meal late at night. Therefore, in most restaurants in downtown Cusco, the kitchen will close around 21:30.
How are the meals called in Peru?
|Breakfast =||el desayuno|
|Lunch =||el almuerzo (this is a warm meal)|
|Dinner =||la comida|
NOTE: in Spain, dinner is called ‘la cena’ while ‘la comida’ refers to the lunch.
Arriving at the restaurant
Many tourist restaurants in Cusco will have someone at the door to welcome you (or better said, “to lure you in’ with special offers like a free pisco sour or others). So what do you say if there is no one when entering a restaurant?
You could start with “Buenos dias/ buenas tardes o buenas noches” and add:
“Hay una mesa?”
If you want to add the number of people:
“Hay una mesa para dos/tres/cuatro etc.”?
The answer will be either “yes” or “no” and if you have to wait, you will be asked to esperar.
How to order drinks in Spanish
Having a drink is a great way to pass the time while deciding what to order and chatting. The waiter will likely ask you if you’d like a drink: “Quiere pedir algo para beber*?” If you order a bottle of wine, the waiter might ask, “Quiere probarlo?” (if you want to try it).
Another question the waiter could ask is: “Quiere el vino de la casa?”
It’s always safe to say : si” (unless of course, you want something special. If you would like to order a glass of wine (instead of a bottle), ask for a “vaso de vino”.
*in Peru, many people use ‘tomar’ en vez de ‘beber’, both meaning: to drink
Drinks in Spanish
|red wine =||vino tinto (and not: vino rojo)|
|white wine =||vino blanco|
|beer =||una cerveza|
|a cusco beer –||una cusqueña|
|water –||agua mineral|
|soda –||una gaseosa (coke/ sprite/ fanta etc.)|
Three typical Peruvian drinks:
Inca Cola – a soda similar to the other sodas, yellow, with gas and very sweet
Chicha morada – a beverage originated in the Andean regions but is currently consumed at a national level. The base ingredient of the drink is purple corn which is abundantly grown and harvested along the Andean mountains
Pisco Sour – a typical Peruvian cocktail composed of pisco, lemon, simple syrup and raw egg white
(Remember: preguntar = to ask; pedir = to order)
How to order food in Peru
If the waiter asks “Quieren pedir?”, you can say “si” when you’re ready.
Instead of using complicated tenses you’re not (yet) familiar with, you can ask politely yet very simply order using “Por favor”… + whatever you like would like to order”.
Por favor, una sopa
Por favor, una coca cola
Por favor, un arroz con pollo
This sounds perfectly bien in Spanish and is very easy to remember.
You can also add “para mi” or “para el” or “para ella” (for me/for him/for her). Many Peruvians would use this structure to order.
Por favor, una sopa para mi, or
Para mi una sopa por favor
Food vocabulary in Spanish:
|La entrada –||starter|
|El segundo* –||main course|
|La sopa –||soup|
|El Postre –||Dessert|
|Plato –||plate/ dish|
|El plato –||the dish/ the course|
|Agua –||glass of water|
*or: el plato principal
If you are not sure what to order, ask the waiter “Qué me recomienda?” to get some advice.
Or, depending on the type of restaurant you are in, you can ask “Cuál es la especialidad de la casa?” to find out what the best dishes are at that specific restaurant.
Menu del día
Many restaurants in Peru, especially the ones for the locals, offer a daily menu that includes a starter and/or soup, a main dish, a dessert, and a drink (un refresco).
You will find this ‘menu del día’ on a chalkboard at the restaurant’s entrance. You can also ask: “Cuál es el menu del día?” The waiter will tell you what the menu is. Of course, this includes names of typical Peruvian dishes, so it will not always be easy to understand. If you want to order the menu anyway, ensure the main dish is a vegetarian/ with meat/ a fish dish by asking: “Tiene (carne/ pollo/pescado?)”. Great exercise for your Spanish (listening) skills!
To be sure you will be charged the correct price when you leave, you can ask: “Cuánto cuesta el menú del día” o – the easier – “Cuánto es el menú“? The menú del día is usually a good value-for-money-deal, and it’s a great way too to try popular local food. Many Peruvians eat their (warm) lunch in restaurants instead of going home around noon), so if you see a lot of locals in a restaurant around lunch time, it’s a good sign: they will probably a good and affordable menu.
Peruvian cuisine has an excellent reputation, and Lima has been named the Food Capital of Latin America several times. Peruvian cuisine is characterized by a large variety of ingredients that grow in the many different climate zones (coast, highlands, wetlands, jungle, etc.) and are influenced by many different cultures (Inca, European, Spanish, Asian, African).
A few famous Peruvian dishes you want to try when doing a Spanish language course in Peru or when travelling:
Lomo saltado is a popular, traditiona dish in Peru. It is a stir fry with strips of beef with onions, tomatoes and French fries. The Peruvians service it rice. Lomo Saltado is as part of Chinese cuisine of Peru, though its popularity has made it part of the mainstream Peruvian cuisine.
Ají de Gallina
Aji de gallina is a classic Peruvian dish, with shredded chicken wrapped in a smooth, creamy sauce with chili, cheese and peanuts.
Papa a la Huancaina
Papa a la Huancai¬na or Potatoes from Huancayo or Huancayo style) are boiled yellow potatoes with a yellower spicy and creamy cheese sauce, and accompanied by hard-boiled eggs and black olives..
Ceviche is a very well-known and popular dish in the Spanish-speaking countries of South-America. Its origin presumably comes from the first inhabitants in the North of what is now Peru and the limes were introduced by the Spaniards. Ceviche is one of the most famous Peruvian dishes based on raw fish marinated in lemon juice.
A few dishes that won’t be served in restaurants but are part of the popular culture and can be consumed as Peruvian streetfood such as e.g. anticuchos. Anticucho is a popular and inexpensive meat dish that originated in the Andes during the pre-Columbian era. Anticuchos can be found on street-carts and street food stalls (anticucheras). The meat is be marinated in vinegar and spices and you eat it with a papa dorada.
Read more about Peruvian cuisine:
Types of restaurants in Peru
While ‘restaurante’ is a common name for a restaurant, many restaurants of cafes in Peru have a more specific name, after the type of dish they well. Think: a pizzeria sells pizzas. But in Peru there is s so much more! Here are the most common ones.
- Cevicheria (marisquería)
Vegetarian food In Peru
If you cannot eat certain ingredients because of your religion or allergies, or e.g. you are vegetarian, check the menu carefully. Vegetarian and vegan dishes are usually marked; but usually not the same as always.
If you are not sure, simply point at the dish on the menu and ask the waiter “Esto tiene….. (+ the ingredient you are worried about, e.g. ‘carne’ (meat), ‘carne de cerdo’ (pig meat), leche (milk), ‘nueces’ (nuts), mani (peanuts in Peru), ‘gluten’ (gluten) etc.
Or, you can tell the waiter before ordering: “No puedo comer _____, qué me recomienda? o ‘?qué puedo comer’??
Other Restaurant Phrases in Spanish
To prepare you for some unexpected situations in the restaurants, a short list of Spanish phrases:
|La comida está fria –||the food is cold|
|Hay un pelo en mi plato –||there is a hair on my plat|
|Estoy esperando…. –||I am (still) waiting…|
|Yo no pedí esto –||This is not what I ordered|
|Additional phrases in Spanish:|
|Dónde está el baño? –||where is the bathroom|
|A qué hora cierran/abren –||at that time does the restaurant close/open|
|Cuánto falta –||How much longer do we have to wait..|
How to ask for the bill in Spanish
To catch the waiter’s attention you can ask “Podemos pagar, por favor’ o ‘La cuenta, por favor?” You would normally add between 5 – 10% to the total amount as a tip for the waiter.
In Peru, you don’t call the waiter ‘waiter’. While waiters are called ‘mozos’ (or mozas, the feminine form of the noun) in Peru (versus ‘camareros in Spain), you don’t call them with that word. You don’t say: “Mozo, me puede dar la cuenta?”
Don’t use the Spanish over-used ‘Oye” neither in Peru, it doesn’t sound very polite nor friendly. Just try to catch his or her attention with your eyes or hand or maybe an ‘hola’ will help, or simply: “Puedo pagar?” (can I pay)? Other Spanish phrases with “Puedo” that are helpfull:
Puedo preguntar algo?
Por favor, puedo…
We hope this article will help you How to Order Food in Spanish in a restaurant.
Have a nice evening and .. !buen provecho!