One of the most rewarding things to learn in another language is how to order out. And the more interesting the cuisine, the more rewarding it can be! So we put together this guide for eating out in a Korean restaurant.
In most languages, this interaction is limited to understanding how to ask for a suggestion, request something, and pay.
But Korean makes it more complicated with its formality levels and different words that people use when being polite. There are different words for “to give”, “to eat”, and even “restaurant” — all critical words to use when eating out!
Below is a quick guide to eating out in Korean, with some Korean restaurant phrases and quick explanations. These were things we learned while we stayed in Korea for a few months working on our Korean.
Korean Restaurant Phrases — Overview
In most parts of the world, I find phrases for dining at restaurants quite simple.
But it gets complicated in Korean. Because of Korean formality levels, multiple things change when speaking to a Korean restaurant staff member. They don’t just change the way they speak — they even use different verbs for everyday actions like eating.
On top of that, a few examples of quite complex Korean grammar are evident in simple everyday phrases.
An example of all of the above is how a Korean restaurant staff member may ask you whether you’re dining in or taking away, and the way in which you respond.
The most common question you’re asked is “드시고 가세요? 아니면 가져가실래요?”
This sentence alone carries with it formal verbs and a complicated structure used for “to take”.
And to respond that you want to dine in (supposedly), you say “먹고 갈게요.” — a different verb altogether.
This is just a snapshot of the complexity of dining out in Korea and how you learn to need partially a new vocabulary just to make it work.
Arriving at a Korean restaurant
The first thing that happens at a Korean restaurant is that you are greeted. This might be in English, but you can switch to Korean by simply saying hello and the number of people — or you want to order takeout.
One of the things that I do to instantly set the tone is to announce myself in Korean with a bright and clear “안녕하세요!” This states that I speak Korean, and the rest of the interaction can be in Korean (until I run out of words, anyway).
|How many people?
|One person / 2 people /
한 명 / 두 명 / 세 명
|Will you dine inside or
실내에서 드실 건가요, 실외에서 드실 건가요?
|Inside please / outside
실내로 해주세요 / 실외로 해주세요.
|This way, please.
Asking for suggestions
Below are some useful phrases for asking for recommendations in a Korean restaurant.
The first one was my go-to!
Korean restaurant staff are always happy to recommend something, but they often ask if you can eat spicy food.
|What is the most popular dish here?
여기에서 가장 인기 있는 요리가 무엇인가요?
|Can you please recommend something?
추천해주실 수 있나요?
|What do you recommend?
|Can you eat spicy food?
매운 음식을 드실 수 있나요?
|Yes, I can eat spicy food / No, I can’t eat spicy food
네, 매운 음식을 먹을 수 있어요 / 아니요, 매운 음식을 먹을 수 없어요
|Are there any specials?
스페셜 메뉴가 있나요?
Asking for items in Korean is the easiest part (but it’s not over yet).
Usually, I’d refer to an item, once mentioned, or pointing at it, with
So it’d usually go
Eat In or Take Away?
Eat in or take away was, surprisingly, the most complicated part of ordering food in Korean!
Unless I made a request, they’d use any of the following phrases to ask if I wanted to dine in or take away.
Usually some will ask two questions, one after the other, like
There are a few key words to hear. The most important thing is to understand the question, and make one of the simple statements at the end about whether you’re dining in or eating out.
|Will you be dining in? (formal)
|Will you be dining in?
드시고 가시는 건가요?
|Will you take it to go?
|Shall I pack it for you?
|Is it for takeout?
|I will eat here.
|Please pack it for takeout. (Most common)
|It’s for takeout.
(Most often used in fast food or chimaek places)
The most complicated part is that when someone asks you a question, you have to respond using different words.
So if a waiter asks you if you’ll dine in with “드시고 가세요?” you respond “네, 먹고 갈게요.”
Asking for the bill
Like everywhere else in the world, you can usually ask for the bill in Korea using a hand gesture from a distance.
If necessary, you can mouthe the words “계산서 주세요!”
Eating out in a Korea restaurant — or getting takeout — is rewarding for the food alone. If you’re learning Korean, then using Korean language to eat out makes it even more fun.
If you ever get stuck, staff in big cities will normally speak enough English to help you get by. Don’t be afraid to switch (here are some ways of dealing with it), and keep practising for next time.