Reading the menu in a French restaurant can be a little tricky, and not just due to language difficulties. There may be important differences between restaurants in France and in your own country, including what food is offered and how it is prepared. Here are some food terms to help you find your way around a French menu.

Typical French and regional dishes

  • aïoli – fish/vegetables with garlic mayonnaise (Provence)
  • aligot – mashed potatoes with fresh cheese (Auvergne)
  • le bœuf bourguignon – beef stew (Burgundy)
  • le brandade – dish made with cod (Nîmes)
  • la bouillabaisse – fish stew (Provence)
  • le cassoulet – meat and bean casserole (Languedoc)
  • la choucroute (garnie) – sauerkraut with meat (Alsace)
  • le clafoutis – fruit and thick custard tart
  • le coq au vin – chicken in red wine sauce
  • la crême brûlée – custard with a burnt sugar top
  • une crêpe – very thin pancake
  • un croque-madame – ham and cheese sandwich topped with fried egg
  • un croque-monsieur – ham and cheese sandwich
  • une daube – meat stew
  • le foie gras – goose liver
  • ___ frites (moules frites, steak frites) – ___ with fries/chips (mussels with fries/chips, steak with fries/chips)
  • une gougère – puff pastry filled with cheese
  • la pipérade – tomato and bell pepper omelette (Basque)
  • la pissaladière – onion and anchovy pizza (Provence)
  • la quiche lorraine – bacon and cheese quiche
  • la (salade de) chèvre (chaud) – green salad with goat cheese on toast
  • la salade niçoise – mixed salad with anchovies, tuna, and hard-boiled eggs
  • la socca – baked chickpea crêpe (Nice)
  • la soupe à l’oignon – French onion soup
  • la tarte flambée – pizza with very light crust (Alsace)
  • la tarte normande – apple and custard pie (Normandy)
  • la tarte tatin – upside-down apple pie

Unusual food

There are many French foods that might not be to everyone’s taste, so if you’re picky, you might want to watch out for these. On the other hand, if you’re an adventurous eater, here are some things you might like to try:

  • des abats – giblets, offal
  • des algues – seaweed
  • une andouillette – chitterling sausage
  • des béatilles – assorted organ meats
  • le boudin – blood sausage/pudding
  • la cagouille – snail
  • la cervelle – brains
  • des civelles – spaghetti-like baby eels
  • le civet – game stew thickened with blood
  • la crête de coq – rooster’s comb
  • des cuisses de grenouille – frogs’ leg
  • un escargot – snail
  • le foie – liver
  • le gésier – gizzard
  • la langue – tongue
  • le pied de cochon – pig’s foot
  • le pieds paquets – tripe and trotters
  • le ris – sweetbreads (not be be confused with le riz – rice)
  • le rognon – kidney
  • le sang – blood
  • le steak tartare – made with raw, mashed beef
  • la tête – head
  • des tripes – tripe (stomach lining)
  • le veau – veal
  • la viande de cheval – horsemeat