What is an A La Carte Menu?

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A la carte menu refers to when a diner orders one type of dish that is separate from a plate of an original menu. The term carries the meaning of going opposite of the menu. It came into English in the 1830s. It is the opposite of the word table d’hote, which means according to the menu. At times, the side dish may be missing or it could be offered separately from the main menu. Although the type of restaurants you dine in may play a part, the choice of your a la carte menu solely depends on your unique tastes and preferences. This article gives insights regarding what an a la carte menu entails.

Individual Pricing

Since an a la carte menu is a separate dish from the plate of a main menu, it, therefore, means that the pricing will also be individual and different from that of the main menu. In most cases, the pricing will be lowered because the amount of ingredients is also reduced. At other times, the price may be increased beyond that of the original menu because of two reasons. One is the fact that it may require special ingredients for preparation. The second reason is that an a la carte menu may require special expertise and take longer to prepare.

Side Dishes

Sometimes a patron dining in a particular restaurant may decide to have a side dish offered as a separate dish from the main menu. Alternatively, the side dish may be missing, which means that you will have to negotiate with the management. For example, you could decide to have fish alone, instead of a plateful of fish and some vegetables and slices of fruits. You could also decide to have the fish alone, and then later have a separate plateful of salad. The side dish may be from the original menu, or would still come from a different menu in the same restaurant.

High-End Restaurants

A la carte menus are not offered in just any restaurant; they are mostly offered in high-end restaurants. The menu may sometimes require the special expertise of a chef who may not be present at a restaurant. The menu may also require special kinds of ingredients that may be hard to find or cost more money. In addition, the menu may take longer than usual to prepare, hence rendering it unusual in most restaurants. For these reasons, some restaurants may be unwilling to compromise, while most high-end restaurants have highly skilled chefs and almost every ingredient needed to prepare your a la carte menu.

Preparation Time

Depending on the nature of the a la carte menu, the time taken to prepare it may differ with the normal time. If the dish is simple, it may take the chef less time to prepare the dish. However, if the dish is complex or special, it may take longer to be prepared. For these reasons, the restaurant may increase the price of the menu or lower rate, depending on the amount of time it will take the chefs to prepare the menu. If the dish takes longer to prepare, this calls for lots of understanding and patience on the part of the diner.


While some restaurants may be unwilling to accommodate a la carte menus, they may still offer them at some point in the year, due to change of seasons. For example, a restaurant that does not offer a la carte menu may accommodate such menus in the festive season around December. They may do this to make more money since this season involves a lot of merrymaking and the catering business is experiencing a boom. If a patron booked a restaurant for a corporate or a private event, they may negotiate with the caterer and have their menu taken care of.

Since an a la carte menu is a deviation from the normal menus, you should be prepared that the meal may take a little longer to prepare and it may even cost you more than you may have thought. You should also have an open mind that even your most favorite restaurant may not be ready to offer you an a la carte menu. It, therefore, calls for your understanding and lots of patience. You should also take the responsibility to research the restaurants that offer this kind of a menu so that you are not overcharged. Once you find a good restaurant or local caterer that offers an a la carte menu, stick to it since looking for such joints is not easy.