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What is À La Carte?
Meaning, Origin, Popular Use, and Synonyms

À La Carte - osam tour

What is À La Carte?

À La Carte is a term often used in the restaurant industry to describe a style of dining where customers can order individual dishes from a menu, instead of opting for a pre-set, fixed-price meal. In this dining format, patrons have the freedom to customize their meals according to their preferences and dietary requirements. The phrase originates from French and translates to “on the card” or “on the menu.”

Origins of the term À La Carte

The term À La Carte finds its roots in French cuisine and language. It was first used in France during the 19th century when restaurants began to offer diverse food choices on separate cards or menus. Before this, restaurants typically served set meals that lacked flexibility. The À La Carte system revolutionized the dining experience, allowing customers to choose individual dishes and encouraging culinary creativity.

Where is the term À La Carte commonly used?

The À La Carte concept is prevalent in many countries worldwide and is particularly popular in regions with a rich culinary tradition. Travelers can find À La Carte menus in various eateries, ranging from high-end restaurants to casual cafes. It is widely used in Western countries, such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, where dining options emphasize choice and variety. Additionally, tourist hotspots in Asia and other parts of the world often offer À La Carte options to cater to diverse tastes.

Synonyms of the term À La Carte

The idea of ordering individual dishes from a menu is not exclusive to the term À La Carte. Depending on the region and culture, you might come across various synonymous expressions, including:

  1. Table d’hôte: This is a French term for a fixed-price menu where a complete meal is offered with limited choices. It is the opposite of À La Carte.
  2. Prix Fixe: Commonly used in the United States, it refers to a fixed-price menu with a pre-selected set of dishes.
  3. Eka Pada: In Indian cuisine, this term signifies a single dish or item ordered separately, akin to À La Carte.

How to say À La Carte in other languages?

Translation - osam tour

While the term À La Carte is widely recognized internationally, here’s how you can say it in various languages:

  • Spanish: “A la Carta”
  • Italian: “A La Carte”
  • French: “À La Carte”
  • German: “À La Carte” (pronounced similarly)
  • Chinese: “点菜” (Diǎn cài) – literally means “order dishes”
  • Hindi: “अलाकार्ट” (Alākārṭa)
  • Japanese: “アラカルト” (Arakaruto)
  • Arabic: “آلاكارت” (Aalakart)
  • Russian: “Обслуживание по меню” (Obslugivaniye po menyu) – which translates to “service by the menu”
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