Speak English Around Town » LESSON 5 - Ordering at a Restaurant

Ordering at a Restaurant

Tanya and John go to Carmen's Bistro for dinner. It's Saturday night and the place is packed! Finally, Kevin, their waiter, comes to take their order.

Tanya: I hope the waiter comes soon. I'm starving!

John: Me too!

Tanya: Why don't we flag him down?

John: Waiter, waiter!

Kevin: I'll be right with you! ... Sorry for the hold up. We're packed to the rafters tonight.

John: We noticed!

Kevin: I'm Kevin, and I'll be your server tonight. Can I start you off with some drinks?

John: I'd like the Sam Adams Summer Ale.

Tanya: Make it two.

Kevin: And did you decide on some appetizers?

John: We're going to skip the appetizers tonight. What do you recommend for a main course?

Kevin: We're known for our seafood. The salmon with black bean sauce is our most popular dish.

Tanya: Okay, I'll try that.

Kevin: Excellent choice. And for you, sir?

John: I'm having trouble deciding. I'm in the mood for steak, but I know you pride yourselves on your seafood.

Kevin: How about trying the surf and turf? That way, you get the best of both worlds!

John: Okay, let's go with that.

Kevin: I'll be right back with your drinks. They're on the house because you had to wait so long to order.

  • (the) best of both worlds
    the advantages of two things
    Example: Waitressing in the evenings gives Sue the best of both worlds: she can attend classes during the day and still earn money.
  • Can I start you off with ____?
    Would you like to start your meal with ____?
    Example: Welcome to Amici 's. Can I start you off with some drinks?
  • (to) decide on
    to choose
    Example: "Did you decide on a main course yet?" asked the waitress.
  • (to) flag down (the waiter/waitress)
    to get the attention of the waiter/waitress
    Example: You want another glass of wine? Let's flag down the waitress.
  • hold up
    delay; long wait
    Example: We ordered 20 minutes ago. What's causing the hold up?
    NOTE: See Lesson 23 for the verb "to hold up."
  • I'll be right with you
    I'm coming in a minute
    Example: "I'll be right with you," said the waitress when she saw me waving to her.
  • I'm starving
    I'm very hungry
    Example: When we asked Jim why he ordered two steaks, he said, "I'm starving."
  • in the mood for
    to want; to have an appetite for
    Example: Let's go to a seafood restaurant. I'm in the mood for fish.
  • known for
    famous for; having a reputation for
    Example: Chicago is known for its delicious pizza.
  • let's go with
    I'll take; let's proceed with
    Example: You recommend the Chardonnay? Okay, let's go with that.
  • make it two
    I'll have one too; I'll have the same thing (as the other person just ordered)
    Example: "I'll take a cappuccino." - "Make it two."
  • on the house
    free; paid for by the restaurant
    Example: The waitress offered us after-dinner drinks on the house.
  • packed to the rafters
    really crowded
    Example: Beth's Bistro is always packed to the rafters on Saturday nights. If we want to go there, we'd better make reservations.
  • (to) pride oneself on
    to be known for; to be especially proud of something
    Example: San Francisco prides itself on its fine restaurants.
  • (to) skip the appetizer(s)
    to not order appetizers
    Example: We're not that hungry, so we're going to skip the appetizers.
  • surf and turf
    a meal containing both meat and seafood
    Example: The waiter said, "Tonight, our special is the surf and turf. It comes with a lobster tail and a New York strip steak."
Practice the Expressions

You are a waiter (or waitress) at Anita's Restaurant. Choose the appropriate replies to your customers (remember: be polite - you like your job and want to keep it!):

  1. Customer: "You guys are packed to the rafters tonight."
    Your reply:
    • a) "Yes, there's plenty of seating available."
    • b) "Yes, we can seat you up in the rafters if you want."
    • c) "Yes, I'm afraid there's going to be a 30 minute wait for a table."
  2. Customer: "We've been waiting forever for you to come and take our order!"
    Your reply:
    • a) "Sorry about that. Let me get you some drinks on the house."
    • b) "You still haven't decided? I'll come back in a few minutes."
    • c) "Sorry. I was busy helping everybody who came in after you."
  3. Customer: "We're going to skip the appetizers tonight."
    Your reply:
    • a) "The calamari is our best appetizer."
    • b) "Okay/have you decided on a main course?"
    • c) "Okay, should I just bring the dessert menus?"
  4. Customer: "I hope your portions are big. I'm starving!"
    Your reply:
    • a) "Then I suggest our house salad. It's very light."
    • b) "I recommend just getting an appetizer then."
    • c) "I suggest the lasagna. It's a very large serving."
  5. Customer: "What do you suggest? I'm in the mood for fish."
    Your reply:
    • a) "Try the filet mignon. It's our best steak."
    • b) "The stuffed chicken special is excellent."
    • c) "Try the blackened tuna. It's delicious."
  6. Customer: "I hear you pride yourselves on your steak."
    Your reply:
    • a) "Yes, we're very proud of our steak."
    • b) "Yes, we do have steak on the menu."
    • c) "Yes, our customers are proud to order our steak."
  7. Customer: "I can't decide between the fish and the steak."
    Your reply:
    • a) "Then I suggest you spend more time thinking about it."
    • b) "Then· I suggest you try our vegetarian special."
    • c) "Then I suggest the surf and turf."
  8. Customer: "I've been trying to flag you down for the past IO minutes. Didn't you see me waving?"
    Your reply:
    • a) "Yes, I saw you but I thought you were just saying hello."
    • b) "No, I'm sorry I didn't notice. It's very crowded here tonight."
    • c) "No, but I saw you raising your hand."
  9. Customer: "Why did you bring us both glasses of red wine? My wife asked for white wine."
    Your reply:
    • a) "I thought she said, 'make it two' when you asked for a glass of white wine."
    • b) "I thought she said, 'make it two' when you asked for a glass of red wine."
    • c) "I thought you said, 'a glass of red wine for me and a glass of white wine for her.'"
  10. Customer: "We've been waiting 45 minutes for our meals. What's the hold up?"
    Your reply:
    • a) "Sorry. Your meals will be right out."
    • b) "There's no hold up. Everything is fine."
    • c) "You got to the restaurant late."
Answer Key
Practice The Expressions
  1. c
  2. a
  3. b
  4. c
  5. c
  6. a
  7. c
  8. b
  9. b
  10. a
Answer Key
Language Lens: Making Suggestions

These are three great ways to make suggestions:

1) Why don't we / you / I + base form of the verb*
Why don't we go out for pizza?
Why don't I drive you to the airport on Friday?
Why don't we got out to dinner on Saturday?
Why don't you call the movie theater to see what time the show starts?

* Note: The base form of the verb is the verb without any endings. Examples of verbs in the base form are: run, eat, play, go, find

2) How about + -ing form of the verb
How about going sailing this weekend?
How about inviting the Smiths over for a barbeque?
How about studying some French before our trip to Paris?
How about getting Chinese takeout* for dinner?

* Takeout is food you order in a restaurant and take with you, to eat at home, in your office, or somewhere else.

3) Let's + base form of the verb
Let's take a walk on the beach.
Let's work on the project tomorrow.
Let's wait and see how the weather is before making our plans.
Let's get tickets to a Broadway play.

Quick Quiz

Turn the following phrases into suggestions using: why don't we I how about I let's:

watch a Woody Allen movie (why don't we)
Answer: Why don 1 we watch a Woody Allen movie?

  1. eat lunch at the mall (let's)
  2. look for a birthday present for Marina (why don't we)
  3. get some burritos for dinner (how about)
  4. visit the Picasso exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum (let's)
  5. go to Martha's Vineyard in July (why don't we)
  6. get a subscription to New York magazine (let's)
  7. show me how to use Skype (how about)
  8. see a performance at Carnegie Hall (why don't we)
  9. order Korean food for dinner (why don't we)
  10. go to Italy this summer (let's)
Answer Key
  1. Let's eat lunch at the mall.
  2. Why don't we look for a birthday present for Marina?
  3. How about getting some burritos for dinner?
  4. Let's visit the Picasso exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum.
  5. Why don't we go to Martha's Vineyard in July?
  6. Let's get a subscription to New York magazine.
  7. How about showing me how to use Skype?
  8. Why don't we see a performance at Carnegie Hall?
  9. Why don't we order Korean food for dinner?
  10. Let's go to Italy this summer.
Answer Key
Favorite Books

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