Spanish Words That Every Tex Mex Lover Should Know

Posted in History

Today, we’re going to discuss some Spanish words and phrases that commonly appear on the menus at Tex Mex restaurants.  But since long lists of facts can be a bit boring, we’re going to spice things up a bit.  Get out a writing utensil and a piece of scratch paper, because it’s time for a multiple-choice vocabulary quiz!

This test isn’t for any kind of prize or contest, so you don’t need to be anxious about it.  But no cheating; try to answer the questions without using Google!  We’ve included solutions in the second half of this post, so you can give yourself a score once you’re finished.

Here we go:

1.) “Sopa & Ensalada” can be translated as…
A.) “Soup & Salad”
B.) “Soup & Sandwich”
C.) “Soda & Salad”

2.) If a dish has “con carne” in its name, that means that it contains…
A.) Corn
B.) Gravy
C.) Meat

3.) Though it usually refers to meat, beans, and/or other ingredients wrapped in a tortilla, the word “burrito” actually means…
A.) “Little blanket”
B.) “Little donkey”
C.) “Little snack”

4.) If you’re craving chicken, you should look for the word…
A.) “Pollo”
B.) “Gallo”
C.) “Cerdo”

5.) The phrase “à la carte” is…
A.) Spanish for “On its own”
B.) Italian for “On the cart”
C.) French for “According to the (menu) card”

Bonus Question: At Mattito’s, we have a section on our menu entitled “Comida Para Amigos.” What does this phrase mean?

A.) “Food for friends”
B.) “Feed your friends”
C.) “Make your friends stop whining”


Are you satisfied with your choices?  Are you sure?  This is your last chance to change anything!

Alright, here are the correct answers:

Question 1 = (A) “Soup and Salad”
We started out with an easy one!  Not only does “Sopa & Ensalada” look and sound similar to “Soup & Salad,” but it’s also a very common meal combination on restaurant menus.  Whether you’re in a French bistro, a country brunch kitchen, or a Tex-Mex eatery, “soup and salad” is usually a great way to sample two entrées for the price of one.

Question 2 = (C) Meat
Chili con carne, queso con carne, enchiladas con carne…whatever the entrée, the phrase “con carne” is your indicator that a meal is not vegetarian!  Now, in most instances, the meat in question will be beef, but that’s not always the case.  So if you have concerns (either due to an allergy or a dietary restriction), feel free to ask your server to clarify what, exactly, is in a specific dish.

Question 3 = (B) “Little donkey”
This one may throw people off, because burritos really don’t really look like donkeys.  They’re also not typically made out of donkey meat.  However, they do bear a striking resemblance to the bedrolls and packs that donkeys in Mexico traditionally carry for their owners.  So, the next time you eat a burrito, imagine laying it across the back of a teeny, tiny donkey and going on a leisurely journey through the countryside.  Cute, huh?

Question 4 = (A) “Pollo”
The other two options do often appear on Tex Mex menus, but in different contexts.  “Gallo” specifically means “rooster,” and you’re far more likely to see it as part of the phrase “pico de gallo” (literally, “beak of the rooster”) than as an entrée on its own.  “Cerdo” means “pork.”  You might be more familiar with “carnitas,” though, which is a specific kind of pork-based dish.  Either way, if you want chicken, scan your menu for “pollo.”

Question 5 = (C) French for “According to the (menu) card”
Okay, maybe it’s cheating to put a question about a French phrase on a quiz about Spanish words and terms.  But many folks see “à la carte” on Tex Mex restaurant menus so often that they mistakenly assume that it’s a Spanish term—which is incorrect.  In this case, your clue should have been the appearance of the accent mark over the word “à.” In Spanish, tildes always go from the lower-left to the upper-right. An accent marking that goes from the upper-left to the lower right is indicative of a different language, like French or Italian.         

Bonus Question = (A) “Food for Friends”
Most of you probably recognized the word “amigos” as Spanish for “friends.”  And most of you probably also knew instinctively that the answer was not Option C, since that statement comes across as a bit crass.  In all seriousness, though, our “Food for Friends” section includes a loaded cheeseburger and chicken fried steak—entrée options for folks who may prefer more traditional “American” food over Tex Mex fare.  Hey, even good friends don’t have to like all of the same things!


How did you do on our little exam?  Did you actually know more than you thought you did?  Or were you surprised by many of the answers?  If you weren’t happy with your score, don’t sweat it too much.  Like many things Tex Mex, this quiz was really just for fun!  We do hope, however, that we’ve managed to take some of the challenge out of ordering Tex Mex food.

At the end of the day, you don’t have to be fluent in Spanish to know that a certain dish is delicous.  And you should never hesitate to ask your server a question—or tell them what you know you like and then request a recommendation.  Mattito’s has something for everyone, whether you’re a fan of pollo, enchiladas con carne, or even hamburgers!