The term à la carte is a French phrase meaning "according to the menu" describe how restaurants price menu items that you order. A restaurant that prices items à la carte may list those in a printed menu, on a tablet, post them on a board, or even provide the information verbally. It isn't so much about where the information is posted or how it is presented, it's a method of charging.
When you look at a regular restaurant menu you'll typically see prices quoted à la carte. In other words, each item will have a price associated with it, and you can pick and choose which items you'd like to order. You will then be charged for each item that you choose based on that item's price.
While à la carte is the most common option for dining in Phoenix, there are also plenty of restaurants that offer all-you-can-eat buffets or prix fixe meals, where there are a certain number of courses offered at a fixed price, and you may be able to choose from a few items for each course.
Where to Order À La Carte in Phoenix
Restaurants in Phoenix's trendier neighborhoods like Acadia, Central Phoenix, Chandler, and Downtown often have menus featuring à la carte pricing, but you'll often find they offer both prix fixe and à la carte options. On holidays that are popular for family get-togethers like Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day and Father's Day, you'll find all these choices—à la carte, prix-fixe and buffet.
For a weekend brunch, you might find a combination of two or even all three types of pricing at a single restaurant. For example, there might be a buffet, with a prix-fixe three-course meal and the option to order à la carte from the regular menu. Sometimes restaurants will offer a buffet with a special à la carte list of additional plated items. This might be the best of all worlds for a larger group where everyone can choose the way they like to order. Typically beverages are not included with brunch unless the menu specifically states that they are, and sometimes restaurants will automatically add a gratuity on prix-fixe or buffet meals and for larger groups.
The Sky Phoenix, Diego Pops, and Bamboo China all offer extensive à la carte menu options, while establishments like Sel Restaurant in Scottsdale offer four-course prix fixe meals whose dishes can all be ordered à la carte.
Why You Should Choose À La Carte Dining
À la carte pricing is probably best if you aren't a big eater, if you have special dietary requirements, or if you enjoy ordering several appetizers as your entire meal.
However, the total charge for a prix-fixe meal is often less than if you would order those same menu items on an à la carte (or individual) basis from the regular menu. Keep in mind that gratuity is often added automatically at restaurants where the main menu is served prix fixe, which also adds to the cost.
Still, ordering à la carte gives you more control over your meal, allowing you to choose the best dishes to curate something that pleases your palette, which may be worth the added costs. Be sure to check out reviews and recommendations before you dine out if you plan on ordering à la carte—that way, you can sample the best each restaurant has to offer.