Reading a Menu in French (Without Knowing French)

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How to make sense of all those French Words

How to make sense of all those French Words

We just returned from our France trip and although mostly everyone in France speaks some English (and Spanish and German and Italian and it seems at least a bit of every language on the planet) once in a while you will find that one amazing restaurant where English is just not spoken.

This is where you can get into a little trouble. As intimidating as French menus may seem to you, a lot of the food served in France has been adapted in the US. For example; a croque monsieur is a hot ham and cheese sandwich. Not so scarry, right? Then again, you could end up with calf brain on your plate.

We’ve already given you a set of basic tips for eating in France and now here is a very (and I mean very basic list) of words and phrases that will make your trip just a little easier.


Carte: Menu, to aks for it, just say “La carte s’il vous plait”

Déjeuner: Lunch

Dessert: Well, dessert

Dîner: Dinner (easy enough so far)

Entrée: First course (the entrance to your meal – unlike the US where the entree is the main course)

Petit Déjeuner: “Little lunch” or breakfast

Plat Principale: Principal plate (main course)


Andouille/Andouillette: Sausage made from pork or veal tripe

Assiette de crudités: Raw vegetables with dressing (any time you see “assiette” it means a “plate of”.

Beurre: Butter, the French love butter. They put it on their sandwiches instead of mayonnaise for amazing results.

Bouillabaisse: Fish soup that originated in Marseille. The soup starts off with a boil and then goes onto a lower temperature. Absolutely delicious.


Carpaccio de Boeuf

Carpaccio de Boeuf

Confiture: Jam

Bifteck (bleu/saignant/ à point/bien cuit): Steak (nearly raw/very rare/medium rare/well cooked)

Boeuf: Beef

Cassoulet: Stew, usually made with pork or lamb and beans, this originated in the south of France.

Cerveaux: Brains, usually from a calf. Delicious if you have the guts for it. Not so common in menus, but you will see it in Lyon.

Charcuterie: Cold meats

Choucroute: Sauerkraut with sausage and other prepared meats (Alsatian origin)



Canard at Les Halles

Confit de canard: Duck cooked in its own fat (usually served hot)

Coq au vin: Chicken in wine

Côte: Pork or lamb chop

Croque-monsieur: Hot ham and cheese sandwich (usually Emmental)

Croque-madame: Croque-monsieur with a fried egg

En croûte: In pastry

Entrecôte: Rib steak

Escargot: Cooked snails (usually in butter and garlic, but it can also be done in a wine sauce)




Foie gras de canard: Duck liver paté

Frites: French fries

Gâteau: Cake

Gigot d’agneau: Leg of lamb

Glaçe: Ice cream

Gratiné: Grilled with cheese on top (As in soup a l’oignon gratinée – or French onion soup)

Grenouille: Frog, usually as in Cuisses de Grenouille which are frog legs. Absolutely worth trying.

Haricots verts: Green beans




Huitres: Oysters

Jambon: Ham

Lardon: Chopped bacon (you’ll often see it in salads, but pick some up and use it in omelets)

Moules: Mmmmmmussels (Moules frites: Mussels and Fries)

Moutard: Mustard

Pain: Bread (one of the best things about France is their bread, leave your fear of carbs behind and indulge)

Pommes de terre: Potatoes


Delicious French Bread

Delicious French Bread

Potage: Soup

Potage aux legumes: Vegetable soup

Poulet Rôti: Roast chicken (you will find this in fancy restaurants and corner shops all over France)

Salade Verte: Green salad

Saucisse/Saucisson: Sausage

Saumon fumé: Smoked salmon

Soupe à l’oignon gratinée: Onion soup


Steak Tartare

Steak Tartare, not for the faint of heart

Soupe du jour: Soup of the day

Steak tartare: Raw minced meat, marinated in wine, spiced with onion and herbs and sometimes served with a raw egg

Sucre: Sugar


Bière: Beer

Café: Coffee

Café au lait: Milky coffee

Café crème: Espresso with steamed milk


Cafe Noir

You can get some seriously good coffee in France

Café crème: Espresso with steamed milk

Café noir: Espresso

Carafe d’eau: Jug of tap water

Cidre: Cider

Eau: Water

Eau minerale (plate/gazeuse/pétillante): Mineral water (flat/sparkling/sparkling)

Jus de pomme: Apple juice

Jus d’orange: Orange juice


Kir Royale


Kir: White wine with cassis or black currant syrup

Kir Royale: Champagne and cassis

Lait: Milk

Pastis: Anise-flavoured liqueur

Thé: Tea

Vin (rouge/blanc): Wine (red/white)


Pouvez-vous nous conseiller un bon restaurant?: Can you recommend a good restaurant?

Je voudrais réserver une table pour…personnes: I’d like to book a table for… people

…pour ce soir à dix-huit heures: for tonight at 18 hours (6pm). France uses military time.

Une table pour deux: A table for two, please

Avez-vous une carte en Anglais?: Do you have a menu in English?

Vous avez choisi?: Have you decided?

Qu’est-ce que vous voulez manger/boire?: What would you like to eat?

Est-elle faite avec des (crustacés/noix/milk)?: Is it made with (crustaceans/nuts/milk)?

Je prends la formule, s’il vous plait: I’d like the set menu, please

Je voudrais…:  I would like…

Avec/Sans: With/Without (eg avec sucre: with sugar)

Un verre de vin rouge (blanc) s’il vous plait: A glass of red (white) wine, please.

L’addition, s’il vous plait: Can I please have the bill

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Blanca Valbuena
I am one of the co-founders of FriendsEAT. Obviously, I love to eat. Other passions include A Song of Ice and Fire, Shakespeare, Dostoyevski, and Aldous Huxley.
Blanca Valbuena
Blanca Valbuena

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