À la carte

In restaurants, à la carte /ɑːləˈkɑːrt/[1] is the practice of ordering individual dishes from a menu in a restaurant, as opposed to table d'hôte, where a set menu is offered.[2] It is an early 19th century loan from French meaning "according to the menu".[3][4]

Steak à la carte, with no side dish or garnish; these must be requested separately.

The individual dishes to be ordered may include side dishes, or the side dishes may be offered separately, in which case, they are also considered à la carte.


The earliest examples of à la carte are from 1816 for the adjectival use ("à la carte meal", for example) and from 1821 for the adverbial use ("meals were served à la carte").[3] These pre-date the use of the word menu, which came into English in the 1830s.[5][6][3]

See also

  • Omakase, Japanese expression for letting the chef decide
  • Table d'hôte, the opposite of à la carte
  • Buffet
  • List of French words and phrases used by English speakers
  • Pro rata, a method of billing or other calculation based on proportional usage
  •  Business and economics portal
  •  Food portal


  1. "A la carte". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  2. "Online Etymology Dictionary". etymonline.com. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  3. Oxford English Dictionary
  4. "à la carte – definition of à la carte in English from the Oxford dictionary". oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  5. Richard Bailey, Eating Words, Michigan Today, 13 May 2008. Archived 25 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. "Menu", The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, Houghton Mifflin


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