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Understanding the Menu

If you are going to be working in a restaurant, it is important that you understand the menu. Different menus use different words to mean the same thing. They also use certain words to make food sound more delicious. It isn't just the server who should know the menu. Hosts, bartenders, and bussers may also get asked questions about the menu from the guests. Cooks have to know the menu inside-out as well. After all, if an item says it is smothered in mozzerella cheese it can't just have a sprinkling of cheddar.

Most menus are divided into sections. You may need to help a guest find the entrees, or desserts. A guest might call a drink a beverage or a refreshment. Learn the different terms that are used so that you can understand and serve your guests promptly and accurately.

Menu Section

Also Known AsExample Items
AppetizersAppies, Finger Food, Combo Platters, Snacks, StartersGarlic Bread, Cheese Plate, Nachos
Salads (and Soups)Garden Fresh, Greens, Light Fare, Lighter Favourites, Low Calorie Choices, Low-fat SelectionsTossed Salad, Caesar Salad, Soup of the Day
SandwichesBurgers, From the Deli, From the Grill, Lunch Menu, WrapsGrilled Chicken Sandwich, Veggie (Garden) Burger, Steak Sandwich
ItalianNoodles, Pasta, PizzaSpaghetti, Pepperoni Pizza, Fettucini
Main CourseEntrée, Dinners, Main Dish, Main EventNew York Steak, Chicken Stirfry, Hearty Stew
SidesAccompaniments, On the Side, Side DishesFrench Fries, Rice, Grilled Veggies
SeafoodCatch of the day, Fish, Fresh from the SeaFish and Chips, Battered Shrimp, Smoked Salmon
MexicanSouth of the Border, Tex-MexFajitas, Nachos, Enchilladas
SpecialtiesSignature items, Favorites, Pleasers, 5 StarsBBQ Ribs, Hot Wings, Chicken Cordon Bleu
DessertsSweets, Treats, For the Sweet ToothApple Pie, Mocha Cheesecake, Banana Split
BeveragesDrinks, Non-alcoholic beverages, RefreshmentsSoda Pop, Juice, Milk
Wine and BeerCoolers, Draft, Liquor, Specialty Drinks, Spirits, From the BarHouse Wine, Jug of Beer, Peach Cider
Kids MenuJuniors, Kids Stuff, Little Tikes, For the MunchkinsSpaghetti and Meatballs, Cheeseburger, Chicken Fingers

Descriptive Words and Expressions on a Menu

Menus often contain special language to make items sound delicious. These words and expressions can also convince the guests to order more food, such as appetizers or dessert. It is useful for servers to learn these expressions in order to sound more knowledgable and achieve better sales. In many English speaking countries, especially North America, having higher sales means earning better tips.

DescriptionMeaningExample item
available withGuests can have this food served a different way.All burger selections are available with whole wheat buns.
bottomless (free refills)Guests can have more without paying.Coffee and tea is bottomless.
many large pieces of meat or vegetablesA steaming bowl of chunky vegetable soup
coated in, glazedcovered in a sauce (often before cooking)Breast of chicken coated in teriyaki sauce
crispymakes a crunchy sound when you chewCaesar salad with fresh lettuce and crispy croutons
drizzled witha small amount of liquid poured over topApple pie and vanilla ice cream drizzled with butterscotch
finished withfinal step of the food preparationA generous portion of spaghetti and garlic tomato sauce, finished with homemade meatballs
freshjust off the farm/ out of the garden/All omelettes are made with three fresh egg whites.
garnished withdecorated withOur dinners are garnished with fresh parsley and seasonal fruit.
generous portion, heaping, loaded witha large amount ofAll sandwiches are served with a generous portion of fresh cut fries.
home style, homemade, made from scratchfrom a recipe (not a package)Try our chef's homemade chili with fresh baked bread.
juicywith liquid remaining for tasteGarden salad with juicy tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions
lightly breaded, batteredrolled in bread crumbs, eggs, or other mixture and cookedOur fish is lightly battered in beer.
marinated inleft in fridge to soak up sauce/juice/flavoringOur steaks are marinated in a rich peppercorn sauce.
medleyvariety, mixtureA vegetable medley tossed in olive oil and served over rice
mouth wateringappearance causes mouth to salivateFinish your meal off with one of our mouth watering desserts.
on a bed ofon top of a layer ofA ginger chicken stir fry served on a bed of rice
seasonalproduce varies at different times during the yearAsk your server about our seasonal fruit pies.
seasoned withherbs and spices addedRoasted chicken seasoned with fresh basil and oregano

Matching Exercise

Match the menu items with the menu section they belong in.

1DessertaBig Daddy's Hamburger with fresh cut fries
2StartersbHomemade Iced Tea
3SpecialtiescJunior Spaghetti and Meatballs
4RefreshmentsdPeach pie a la mode
5SeafoodeMouth watering garlic cheese toast
6SidesfLoaded mashed potatoes
7Kids MenugChef Brian's homestyle chili
8SandwicheshLemon and herb glazed Salmon
9SpiritsiSeasonal tossed greens
10Saladsj1/2 litre house white

ANSWERS: 1d, 2e, 3g, 4b, 5h, 6f, 7c, 8a, 9j, 10i

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