Have you found yourself ordering food in Spain and not knowing how to do it? Are you planning on going to Spain and enjoy their culinary culture? Or do you just want to learn more about the Spanish culture and improve your vocabulary in Spanish?
If any of the answers are yes, this post is right for you.
For you to enjoy the food culture in Spain, here is a complete guide to learn how to order food.
Where to Order Food in Spain?
In Spain, there are a lot of places where you can enjoy food.
The first place is at home. Here, you can enjoy la comida casera (homemade food), normally with fresh ingredients bought from the stores. However, you can go out and find all sort of establishments where they serve homemade-like food.
The most typical places you can get food when you are outside are: restaurants, bars, churrerías, coffee shops and cafeterías panaderías (literal translation: coffee shop bakeries).
In our last post about coffee in Spain we described all these places.
When to Order Food in Spain?
It is well known that Spaniards have a different schedule when it comes to eating.
When ordering food in Spain you should take into account the mealtimes to avoid finding a closed restaurant.
The first meal of the day is el desayuno (breakfast), which most people have around 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at home.
Then, el almuerzo (mid-morning light lunch) comes between 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
La comida (full lunch) is the third and most important meal of the day. It is usually at 2 p.m., but it can go until around 4 p.m.
The fourth meal is called la merienda (evening snack) that is eaten between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
And finally, they eat la cena (dinner) approximately at 9 p.m. or even later! It is a meal that Spaniards generally eat at home during the weekdays.
What Food to Order in Spain?
Normally, each meal has its own menu. However, there are always exceptions. In addition, people tend to eat differently during the workdays, mostly due to the lack of time.
Spaniards usually eat a light breakfast.
A common breakfast consists of a cup of coffee and/or juice and some pastas (pastries), such as a croissants or cookies or toast with butter and/or jam.
Others choose a healthier breakfast and drink their coffee with toast with olive oil and sometimes, spread with tomato (pà amb tomaquet). Also, some people eat cereals with milk and some fruit.
In addition, there is the typical churros con chocolate (or coffee) breakfast. This is mostly a meal that people eat on the weekends or holidays.
El almuerzo is also not a very big meal.
People usually eat a bocata (sandwich) or some pastries and/or fruit. Also, it is the custom to go eat tapas at a bar. Furthermore, it is the typical time for a coffee break.
This is the main meal of the day and therefore, it is not light.
Normally, a common comida made at home during weekdays consists of a main course, with sometimes a dessert and coffee. However, during the weekends and holidays la comida is even more elaborated and larger.
If people go out to eat, they typically order el menú del día (literal translation: menu of the day). El menú del día consists of a first plate, a second plate, and a dessert and/or a cup of coffee. The first plate is usually a salad, vegetables, pasta or soup. Furthermore, the second plate has typically more meats and fish. Additionally, all menus come with bread and water or wine. However, usually you have to choose between a dessert or a cup of coffee. The dessert is normally some fruit or something sweet.
La merienda is another light meal.
It usually consists of a bocata, pastries, cookies, fruit or yogurt.
Also, it is the time for some Spaniards to meet their friends and eat some churros con chocolate or some tapas.
The last meal of the day is typically lighter than la comida. It generally consists of a main dish, such as a salad or soup and a dessert like fruit or yogurt.
Things to Know When Ordering Food in Spain
There are a few things you need to know when ordering food in Spain:
- In general, when you eat at a restaurant, water is not for free. They don´t usually serve tap water, but serve bottled water instead.
- Compared to American meal portions, the portions are smaller in Spain.
- In some parts of Spain, when you order a drink, they give you a tapa or a pincho for free!
- When you pay the check, they don´t take your card away from the table to swipe it, they bring the card reader to your table.
- You have to ask the waiter/waitress to bring you the check. In order to get the waiter’s/waitress’ attention, you wave at them.
- Spaniards enjoy their meals calmly without rushing. Thus, it is very common to have a sobremesa. The sobremesa is the time you spend at the table after finishing eating. This is the time to have a good chat, drink coffee and drink some shots of alcohol. The BBC published an article that talks about this unique custom.
- Tipping is optional and not very common.
- Normally, you don’t need to wait to be seated in a restaurant. You can enter the restaurant and choose the table you want to sit down at.
- Waiters and waitress don’t come to check on you often. They let you enjoy your meals without many interruptions.
- The social aspect of eating is very important to Spaniards. They don´t just eat, they also socialize around food.
- Normally, Spaniards are at work during this meal and they tend to skip it.
- During the weekdays, some people have time to go their homes to eat la comida. This is because traditionally, they have a two to three hour lunch break to eat and take a siesta (nap). However, in big cities like Barcelona and Madrid where many people spend a long time commuting, they cannot go home during lunch time. Thus, they usually go eat in bars or restaurants.
- Normally on the weekends, this meal can go all the way until the next meal (la merienda) if the la sobremesa is followed to the letter.
- It is common for families in Spain to get together on the weekends to eat la comida. It is typical to go to your parent’s house with your partner and children.
- Normally, it is a meal for children who eat at home.
- Spaniards are among the Europeans who eat dinner the latest. BBC explores this concept in one of its articles.
How to Order Food in Spain Like a Local?
|El almuerzo||Mid-morning light lunch|
|El chiringuito||Beach bar|
|El lector de tarjetas||Card reader|
|La media ración||A portion of food (smaller than a "ración" but bigger than a "tapa")|
|El menú del día||Menu of the day|
|La merienda||Mid afternoon snack|
|El pincho||A bite of food on a stick|
|El plato||Plate |
|El primer plato|
|La ración||Big portion of food (bigger than "media ración")|
|El segundo plato||Main course|
|La tapa||Small portion of food|
|El tapeo||Eating tapas|
El bocata (colloquial)
|El embutido||Cured meat|
|El jamón||Cured ham|
|La tortilla de patatas||Potato omelet|
|El calimocho||Red wine and cola|
|La gaseosa||Carbonated water|
|El vino blanco||White wine|
|El vino tinto||Red wine|
|Almorzar||To have a mid-morning light lunch|
|Cenar||To have dinner|
|Comer||To have a full lunch|
|Desayunar||To have breakfast|
|Merendar||To have an evening snack|
|¿Me cobra/cobras, por favor?||Could you bring me the check, please?|
"Will you bill me, please?"
|¿Me podría/podrías traer la cuenta, por favor?||Could you bring me the check, please?|
|¿Me pone/pones una cerveza, por favor?||Could I have a beer, please?|
"Could you give me a beer, please?"
|¿Me puede/puedes traer la cuenta, por favor?||Can you bring me the check, please?|
|¿Me trae/traes la cuenta, por favor?||Could I have the check, please?|
"Will you bring me the check, please?"
|¿Me trae/traes un bocata de jamón, por favor?||Could I have a cured ham sandwich, please?|
"Will you bring me cured ham sandwich, please?"
|¿Qué desea/deseas comer/tomar/pedir?||¿What would you like to eat/order?|
|¿Qué le/te pongo?||What can I get you?|
"What do I give you?"
|¿Qué le/te traigo?||What can I bring you?|
"¿What do I bring you?"
|¿Qué va/vas a comer/tomar/pedir?||¿What are you going to eat/drink/order?|
|¿Qué va/vas a beber/tomar?||¿What are you going to drink/eat?|
|Me gustaría una ensalada, por favor||I would like a salad, please|
|Quiero/quisiera la sopa de verduras, por favor||I want a vegetable soup, please|
Do you want to keep learning more vocabulary? Click here to learn the colloquial vocabulary Spaniards use when talking about food.
Hopefully, you are able to better understand the proper way of ordering food in Spain.
Now, I would love to hear from you.
- Have you ever had Spanish food before?
- What meal did you like the most?
- What dish would you like to try?
Share your answers in the comment section below!
Before you leave, are you interested in Spain and its language? Then, you may find our online Spanish classes helpful. With these classes, you will practice your speaking and listening skills with a native speaker from Spain.
Hola and hi, I am Inés and I am the author of all the posts in the ConvoSpanish blog. My goal is to offer free content for people to practice their Spanish. Creating and maintaining the blog takes a lot of my free time however, due to my love of sharing Spanish with you, I will keep adding and updating the content in the blog. If you like the content of this post and believe that it helps you, please consider donating. I need coffee to keep me going while creating the posts. Aren´t they worth at least a cup of coffee? 😛 Any amount is appreciated. Donations will be used to support the free blog.