Ordering in German

Useful German for Dining Out

Street Cafe on St. Johanner Markt Square in the Old Town, Saarbrucken, Saarland, Germany, Europe
Hans-Peter Merten / Getty Images

It is possible to travel to Germany without even knowing how to say "prost!", but learning some basic German helps you navigate the country and better understand the culture.

Take a look at these simple German phrases that are helpful when dining out in German restaurants. From asking for the menu to ordering to getting the check – here are useful German phrases for dining out during your visit to Germany.

Etiquette Rules when Dining Out in Germany

You'll find that most Germans begin the meal with a hearty Guten Appetit! Similar to Bon Appetit, it is an elegant way to phrase "Let's eat!". More informally, especially at lunch, you can expect an exclamation of "Mahlzeit!". This may be announced to the entire room when walking into a kneipe (small bar/pub) for a meal.

Note that you will need to request the check at the end of the meal as it is not common for the waiter to deliver it without asking. This allows you ample time to add to your order with a dessert or coffee. This partly explains why customer service in restaurants is so much slower and more laid-back than in North America. 

Tipping is also done differently than in places like the USA. Tips should only be around 10 percent and is given when paying the bill - not left on the table. Refer to our full guide on tipping in Germany for different situations and recommendations.

English-German Dining Phrasebook

Here are some useful phrases to help you get straight to the food, whether it be eisbein or schweinshaxe.

(You'll find the pronunciation in parentheses. Just read it out loud, the capitalized part of the word should be emphasized.)

  • The menu, please! - Die Speisekarte, bitte! (dee SHPY-se-Cart-uh, BITT-uh)
  • Waiter/ Waitress - der Kellner (dehr kel-ner)
  • Restaurant - restaurant (reh-stoh-RAH)
  • Food - Essen (EH-sehn) Also is the verb “to eat”.
  • Guest - Gast (gahst)
  • Order - bestellen - beh-SHTEHL-ehn)
  • What would you like to eat? - Was möchten Sie essen? (Vas mook-ten zee Ess-en)
  • I’ d like... - Ich haette gern... (ish HAT-uh garn...)
  • without or with - ohne (O-nuh) or mit (midd) like when ordering currywurst
  • Breakfast - Frühstück (FRUU-shtuuk). Often consists of pastry or roll, meat, cheese, fruit and coffee. However, options are expanding with pancakes, bacon, and other American-specialties becoming popular.
  • Lunch - Mittagessen (mit-TAHK-ess-en). The largest warm meal of the day.
  • Dinner - Abendessen (AH-bent-ess-en), or the traditional meal of Abendbrot (AH-bent-broht). Often a simple affair of bread, meats and cheese. Hence the name of Abendbrot, or "evening bread".
  • Appetizer - Vorspeise (FOHR-shpiy-zeh)
  • Main Course - Hauptgericht (HOWPT-geh-reeht)
  • Dessert - Nachspeise (NAHKH-shpiy-zeh)
  • Vegetarian - Vegetarier / Vegetarierin (VEG-uh-TAR-ear / VEG-uh-TAR-ear-in). To order, you can say "Haben Sie vegetarische Gerichte?" (hah-bn zee veh-ge-tah-rî-she ge-rîH-te) (Do you have vegetarian dishes?).
  • Do you have....? - Haben Sie...? ( HAB-uhn see...)
  • What do you recommend? - Was empfehlen Sie? (Vus emp-VAY-luhn see?)
  • Is this table free? - Ist der Tisch frei? (Ist dare tish fry?). It is fairly common to share tables, especially at casual establishments and beer gardens.
  • Can I please reserve a table? - Kann ich einen Tisch reservieren, bitte?
  • Plate - Teller (TELL-er)
  • Fork - Gabel (Gob-al)
  • Knife - Messer (MESS-er)
  • Spoon - Löffel (Luh-fill)
  • Napkin - Serviette (Serve-iet)
  • Glass - Glas (Glass)
  • Beer - Bier (be-ear)
  • Another, please - Noch eins, bitte (Nach einz, BITT-uh)
  • Ice cubes - Eiswürfel (Ice-werf-al). Although good luck getting them! Ice is not commonly served or even available. Beware that the German word for ice cream, "eis", also sounds deceptively similar.
  • Enjoy your meal! - Guten Appetit! (gootn Appetit!)
  • Cheers - Prost (PRO-st) 
  • Thank you - Danke (DAHN-kuh)
  • I didn’t order that! - Das habe ich nicht bestellt! (Dus HU-buh ish nisht buh-STELT)
  • Did you like the food? - Hat es Ihnen geschmeckt? (hât ês ee-nen ge-shmêkt). Hopefully, you can respond with a cheerful "Lecker !" (delicious).
  • The check, please! – Die Rechnung, bitte (dee RECH-nung, BITT-uh)
  • Keep the change - Das Stimmt (Das Schtemt)
  • Tip - Trinkgeld or “drinking money” (tRINK-geld)
  • To take away, please. - Zum mitnehmen, bitte. It is uncommon to bring home leftovers, but you can often order a meal to take-away.