Typical French Restaurant Vocabulary: How to Order in Paris

Words and Phrases You'll Need to Eat Out

Learn basic restaurant vocabulary for eating out in Paris.
Most restaurant staff speak basic English, but knowing some French can make eating out in Paris more interesting. Photo courtesy of Brasserie Gallopin.

Are you a bit nervous about eating out in Paris or elsewhere in France, worried you may not be able to get by without fluent French? 

The truth is, most waitstaff at restaurants in the French capital know at least some basic English, so ordering or paying is rarely a problem if your French is nonexistent. Still, to really embrace the "when-in-Rome" spirit, why not learn a few useful words and phrases commonly used in restaurants? You'll have a more interesting experience if you can use some of this basic Paris restaurant vocabulary, and may find the staff to be even warmer when they see you're making an effort to wield some French.

Use this guide to learn basic expressions and understand most signs and menu headings at restaurants in Paris.. Also see our top 5 tips on avoiding unpleasant service in Paris -- and to learn how to distinguish between truly rude behavior and basic cultural differences that can lead to misunderstandings. 

Basic Signs to Learn and Watch for at Paris Restaurants:

(Table) reservée: Reserved (table)
Terrasse chauffée: heated patio (seating)
Toilettes/WC: Restroom/Water closet
Prix salle: Prices for seated customers (as opposed to bar or takeout prices)
Prix bar: Prices for customers ordering and sitting at the bar (usually applies only to coffee and other drinks)
Prix à emporter: Prices for takeout menu items. Note that many restaurants in Paris do not offer takeout. See sections below for information on how to ask.
(Restauration) libre service: Self-service (dining)-- usually found in buffet-style restaurants
Horaires d'ouverture/ferméture: Opening/closing times (usually found on the door outside). Note that many restaurant kitchens in Paris close after 2pm and 10pm and restaurants often close their doors entirely between 3 and 7 pm.
Service continu: Continuous service (indicates a restaurant that serves food between "normal" meal times, generally between 2pm-7pm.
Défense de fumer/Zone non-fumeur: No smoking/non-smoking zone. (Note that in Paris, smoking has been entirely banned in all public spaces since early 2008).

Read related: How to Tip at Restaurants and Cafes in Paris?

Arriving at the Restaurant: Basic Words and Expressions

Use these basic expressions when you first arrive at a restaurant, to help ask for a table, see the menu or inquire about daily specials.

Table for one/two/three, please: Bonjour, une table pour une/deux/trois personnes, s'il vous plaît (Uhn tahbluh poor....seel voo pleh)

Do you have a table near the window, please?: Avez-vous une table vers la fenêtre, s'il vous plaît? (Ah-vay voo oohn tahbl-uh vehr lah fuhn-ehtr-uh, seel voo pleh?)
(Can we have) the menu, please?: La carte, s'il vous plaît? (Luh kart, seel voo pleh?)
Where's the restroom, please?: Où sont les toilettes, s'il vous plaît? (Oo sohn lay twah-leht, seel voo pleh?)
What are today's specials? Quels sont les plâts du jour, s'il vous plaît? (Kell sohn lay plah doo jour, seel voo pleh?)
Do you have fixed-price menus?: Avez-vous des menus à prix fixes? (Ah-vay voo day meh-noo ah pree feex?)
Do you have a menu in English?: Avez-vous un ménu en anglais? (Ah-vay voo unh meh-noo ahn ahn-glay?)
Is it possible to order take out? Est-ce possible de prendre des plats à emporter? (Ess poh-see-bluh duh prawn-druh day plaugh ah ahm-pohr-teh?)

Read related: How to Use the Toilets in France

Reading and Ordering from Menus at Restaurants in Paris

These expressions can be helpful for decrypting some of the more culturally particular aspects of dining in France.

La Carte: menu

Menu/s: (fixed-price) menu/s

Service compris/non compris: Service tax included/not included (restaurants generally have "service compris")
Apéritifs: before-meal drinks
Entrées: Starters
Plats: Main dishes
Dessert: Dessert
Fromages: cheeses (often presented along with dessert items)
Digestifs: after-dinner drinks
Viandes: meat dishes
Légumes: vegetables
Poissons et crustacés: fish and shellfish
Plats d'enfant: children's dishes
Plats végétariens: vegetarian dishes
Boissons: drinks/drink menu
(Carte de) vins: wine (menu)
Vins rouges: red wines
Vins blancs: white whine
Vin moussant: sparkling wine
Vins rosés Rose/blush wine
Eau minérale: mineral water
Eau pétillante: sparkling mineral water
Eau plâte: still water
Carafe d'eau: Pitcher of (tap) water
Jus: juice/es
Bière/s: beer/s
Café: espresso
Café allongé: espresso diluted with hot water
Café noisette: espresso with small dollop of milk

Read related: Vocab You'll Need to Order Bread and Pastries in French Boulangeries

Ordering and asking for extras

I'll have (x), please/I'd like (x), please: Je prendrai (x), s'il vous plaît/Je voudrais x, s'il vous plaît (Zhuh prahn-dreh (x), seel voo pleh/Zhuh voo-dreh (x), seel voo pleh )
What are today's specials? Quels sont les plâts du jour, s'il vous plaît? (Kell sohn lay plah doo jour, seel voo pleh?)
I didn't order this. I had (x item): Je n'ai pas commandé çà. J'ai pris (x) (Zhuh n'ay pah koh-mahn-day sah. Zhay pree (x))
Can we have salt and pepper please?: Du sel et du poivre, s'il vous plaît. (Doo sehl eh doo pwahv-ruh, seel voo pleh?)

Read related: How to Order Bread and Pastries in Parisian Bakeries 

Asking for the Check and Leaving Tips

Use these expressions at the end of your meal. Be aware that servers will almost never bring you the check without your asking for it, as it is considered rude to do so in France.

Check, please?: L'addition, s'il vous plaît? (Lah-dee-sy-ohn, seel voo pleh?)
Do you take credit cards?: Acceptez-vous des cartes de crédit? (Ahk-septay voo day cahrt de creh-dee?)
Can I get an official receipt, please?: Je peux avoir une facture, s'il vous plaît? (Juh peuh ah-vwah uhn fak-tuh-ruh, seel voo pleh?)
Excuse me, but this bill isn't correct: Excusez-moi, mais l'addition n'est pas correcte (Ek-skew-zay mwah, may lah-dee-sy-ohn n'ay pah ko-rekt.)
Thank you, good bye: Merci, au revoir (Mehr-si, oh ruh-vwah)

How to Leave a Tip? 

Not sure how much to leave after your meal? The customs may well differ from those in your home country. You can see more about tipping in Paris here.