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From Prix Fixe to Cold Tea: A Glossary of Popular (and Obscure) Restaurant Terms

Everyone knows what a bistro is...right? And a la carte is a term that even a fifth grader knows...well, maybe not. And what exactly does smart casual mean? There are so many words and terms in the En...

Everyone knows what a bistro is...right? And a la carte is a term that even a fifth grader knows...well, maybe not. And what exactly does smart casual mean? There are so many words and terms in the English language that are taken for granted, including those used in the restaurant industry. In a public service to diners from Boston to Bakersfield, Boston's Hidden Restaurants presents a glossary of useful, as well as totally useless, restaurant terms. (Note: This page is part of our restaurant features section.)

A La Carte
A term used by more upscale, expensive restaurants that means each item is separate. If a restaurant says that bread and water are a la carte, flee as quickly as you can.

Bar Pizza
A type of pizza served in bars (duh!) that is smaller in diameter (usually about 10 inches) and greasier than pizzas found in restaurants or sub shops. Bar pizza tends to taste better with beer, and MUCH better after many beers.

A small restaurant, usually informal, that typically has a decent wine list. If a place that calls itself a bistro does not have a wine list, it is simply known as a "small restaurant."

An employee at a restaurant who supervises the waitstaff and typically seats patrons. These people used to be called "hosts," but for some reason, many restaurants now call them "captains." Some restaurants include a place on the bill for tipping captains. If you see this, flee as quickly as you can.

Typically, the chief cook of a restaurant staff. Don't ever call a chef a cook; he or she will not like that and may put some extra MSG in your food.

Cold Tea
A term used, usually late at night, that means beer. This term is fairly common in Chinese restaurants that stay open after the bars close. The serving of cold tea is often illegal and unethical, and we at Boston's Hidden Restaurants do not condone the ordering of cold tea. But our view on that may change from weekend to weekend.

Food that conforms to Jewish dietary laws and rituals. Pork and shellfish are never kosher, nor is meat mixed with dairy products. If you see a restaurant named "Ralph's Clam Shack and Rib House," chances are, it is not kosher.

Prix Fixe
A full meal, typically with between three and seven courses that is offered at a set price. Often, that set price will drive a person to drinking lots and lots of cold tea once his or her credit card bill comes in the following month.

Smart Casual
A dubious restaurant dress-code term, typically meaning, "no jeans and sneakers, but don't wear with a suit and tie, either." In other words, dress like you are playing 18 holes of golf (but don't wear metal spikes). George Costanza on "Seinfeld" coined this term. 'Nuff said.

Special of the Day
Whatever didn't sell out the night before.

A restaurant, usually informal, that serves simple, old-fashioned Italian meals. If a trattoria also has a decent wine list, another name for the place would be bistro (see). But a bistro cannot be a trattoria unless it serves Italian food. However, if a bistro does serve Italian food but does not have a decent wine list, then it is no longer a bistro. It is a trattoria. Actually, it may be best to just forget the whole thing. Both are restaurants. OK?

Copyright 2005Science Articles, Boston's Hidden Restaurants. All Rights Reserved.

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Boston's Hidden Restaurants is a restaurant guide that features top little-known dining spots in Boston and New England. The original glossary of restaurant terms page can be found on our site.

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