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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 As Example Items
Appetizers Appies, Finger Food, Combo Platters, Snacks, Starters Garlic Bread, Cheese Plate, Nachos
Salads (and Soups) Garden Fresh, Greens, Light Fare, Lighter Favourites, Low Calorie Choices, Low-fat Selections Tossed Salad, Caesar Salad, Soup of the Day
Sandwiches Burgers, From the Deli, From the Grill, Lunch Menu, Wraps Grilled Chicken Sandwich, Veggie (Garden) Burger, Steak Sandwich
Italian Noodles, Pasta, Pizza Spaghetti, Pepperoni Pizza, Fettucini
Main Course Entrée, Dinners, Main Dish, Main Event New York Steak, Chicken Stirfry, Hearty Stew
Sides Accompaniments, On the Side, Side Dishes French Fries, Rice, Grilled Veggies
Seafood Catch of the day, Fish, Fresh from the Sea Fish and Chips, Battered Shrimp, Smoked Salmon
Mexican South of the Border, Tex-Mex Fajitas, Nachos, Enchilladas
Specialties Signature items, Favorites, Pleasers, 5 Stars BBQ Ribs, Hot Wings, Chicken Cordon Bleu
Desserts Sweets, Treats, For the Sweet Tooth Apple Pie, Mocha Cheesecake, Banana Split
Beverages Drinks, Non-alcoholic beverages, Refreshments Soda Pop, Juice, Milk
Wine and Beer Coolers, Draft, Liquor, Specialty Drinks, Spirits, From the Bar House Wine, Jug of Beer, Peach Cider
Kids Menu Juniors, Kids Stuff, Little Tikes, For the Munchkins Spaghetti 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.

Description Meaning Example item
available with Guests 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.
chunky
many large pieces of meat or vegetables A steaming bowl of chunky vegetable soup
coated in, glazed covered in a sauce (often before cooking) Breast of chicken coated in teriyaki sauce
crispy makes a crunchy sound when you chew Caesar salad with fresh lettuce and crispy croutons
drizzled with a small amount of liquid poured over top Apple pie and vanilla ice cream drizzled with butterscotch
finished with final step of the food preparation A generous portion of spaghetti and garlic tomato sauce, finished with homemade meatballs
fresh just off the farm/ out of the garden/ All omelettes are made with three fresh egg whites.
garnished with decorated with Our dinners are garnished with fresh parsley and seasonal fruit.
generous portion, heaping, loaded with a large amount of All sandwiches are served with a generous portion of fresh cut fries.
home style, homemade, made from scratch from a recipe (not a package) Try our chef's homemade chili with fresh baked bread.
juicy with liquid remaining for taste Garden salad with juicy tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions
lightly breaded, battered rolled in bread crumbs, eggs, or other mixture and cooked Our fish is lightly battered in beer.
marinated in left in fridge to soak up sauce/juice/flavoring Our steaks are marinated in a rich peppercorn sauce.
medley variety, mixture A vegetable medley tossed in olive oil and served over rice
mouth watering appearance causes mouth to salivate Finish your meal off with one of our mouth watering desserts.
on a bed of on top of a layer of A ginger chicken stir fry served on a bed of rice
seasonal produce varies at different times during the year Ask your server about our seasonal fruit pies.
seasoned with herbs and spices added Roasted chicken seasoned with fresh basil and oregano

Matching Exercise

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

1 Dessert a Big Daddy's Hamburger with fresh cut fries
2 Starters b Homemade Iced Tea
3 Specialties c Junior Spaghetti and Meatballs
4 Refreshments d Peach pie a la mode
5 Seafood e Mouth watering garlic cheese toast
6 Sides f Loaded mashed potatoes
7 Kids Menu g Chef Brian's homestyle chili
8 Sandwiches h Lemon and herb glazed Salmon
9 Spirits i Seasonal tossed greens
10 Salads j 1/2 litre house white

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

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