Meals and Menus

French meals and menus
Share / Tweet / Pin Me!

Repas et cartes

France is famous for its cuisine, but navigating French menus can be a bit tricky due to both language and cultural differences. Here’s everything you need to know about the different types of French menus and the most important meal(s) of the day.

Repas – Meals

Like most people, the French generally eat three times a day.

1) Petit-dĂ©jeuner – Breakfast

In France, breakfast might be smaller than what you’re used to. The foundation is a hot beverage (coffee, tea, or hot chocolate) and some kind of bread (croissant, day-old baguette), probably with butter and jam for the baguette. There might also be some fruit or a glass of juice, and/or some yogurt. Restaurants catering to tourists might offer more, but generally speaking, breakfast is pretty simple.

2) DĂ©jeuner – Lunch

Traditionally, lunch was eaten at home en famille (as a family), which was easy enough for most people thanks to a 2-hour midday work break. Nowadays, it’s much more common for city dwellers to eat in restaurants.

3) DĂ®ner – Dinner

Dinner is typically eaten en famille.

 GoĂ»ter – Snack

Children usually eat a small snack around 4pm, generally consisting of something sweet (cookies, cake, bread with chocolate) and a drink, such as water or milk.


French meals can be simple, or they may include a number of different courses, the order of which might be different than what you’re used to.

1.   un apĂ©ritif / apĂ©ro   cocktail, pre-dinner drink
2.   un amuse-bouche / amuse-gueule   snack (one or two bites)
3.   une entrĂ©e   appetizer / starter*
4.   le plat principal   main course
5.   la salade   simple green salad
6.   le fromage   cheese
7.   le dessert   dessert
8.   le cafĂ©   coffee
9.   un digestif   after-dinner drink

 Note in particular that coffee is served after dessert, not with it.

 * Be careful with entrĂ©e – it’s a faux ami. In France, une entrĂ©e is an appetizer, but "entree" generally refers to a main course in the US.

Le Menu

The most important thing to know is that the word menu is a semi-faux ami. Le menu, which may also be called la formule, refers to a fixed-price,** multi-course meal, usually for lunch, that may or may not include options within each course. It’s generally a very reasonable price, and for smaller restaurants may be the only meal available.

Par exemple…

French menu

So the key takeaway is that le menu (or la formule) is a fixed-price meal with limited options: You choose one item from each of the three courses and the price is always 25 euros. But there are variations within this system.

✔️ A drink, such as a glass of wine or cup of coffee, might be included.

✔️ There may be several menus with different options at different price points – un menu 25 â‚¬, un menu 30 â‚¬, etc.

✔️ Especially for lunch formules, you might have the option to have just two of the courses:

entrĂ©e + plat + dessert   25 â‚¬
entrĂ©e + plat   20 â‚¬
entrĂ©e + dessert   18 â‚¬
plat + dessert   20 â‚¬

The waiter might hand you a sheet of paper with menu options, or they might be written on a board (l’ardoise). More options are found in la carte – when you order from this menu, you’re ordering Ă  la carte. Sometimes the menu is included on the first page of la carte.

 ** In French restaurants outside of France, le menu is often called le menu fixe or le prix-fixe to avoid confusion.

Types de menu – Menu Types

Le menu dégustation is a tasting menu, which lets you try a bite or two of a variety of dishes. (Déguster means "to taste.")

Le menu enfant is a kids’ menu, with smaller servings and sometimes special dishes only for children.

Le menu gastronomique is a big, structured meal often enjoyed for festive occasions. It starts with an apĂ©ritif, then offers several dishes in the order listed under Courses, above, and ends with a digestif. It’s likely to be accompanied by a series of specially selected wines that pair perfectly with each course.

Le menu végétarien is a vegetarian menu.

La carte des boissons is the drinks menu.

La carte des vins is the wine menu.

Vraies cartes – Real Menus

Get a taste of different types of restaurants with real menus turned into listening practice.

 Related lessons

 Share / Tweet / Pin Me!

Au restaurant : repas et cartes

Stay up to date with Lawless French

Questions about French?

 Visit the Progress with Lawless French Q+A forum to get help from native French speakers and fellow learners.

More Lawless French

 Subscribe to my twice-weekly newsletter.

Support Lawless French

  This free website is created with love and a great deal of work.

If you love it, please consider making a one-time or monthly donation.

Your support is entirely optional but tremendously appreciated.

Leave a Reply