A Glass of Your Finest Scream Water, Please: 10 Useful Spanish Phrases for Dining Out in Madrid

Authored by:
Chloe H.

Chloe H.

For the record, I considered myself to be proficient in Spanish for the majority of my adult life. Spanish was my minor in college, and after studying in Bilbao, Spain, I felt like I was on the cusp of becoming fluent. Then the pandemic hit, and I completely fell out of practice. After over two years of not practicing Spanish, I arrived in Madrid with a false sense of confidence that my Spanish skills would miraculously come back to me. I felt like an entire language was on the tip of my tongue. I found myself fumbling through every conversation, grasping for words I once knew and wracking my brain trying to conjugate verbs. 

During orientation week, I thoroughly made a fool out of myself while out to dinner. In Spain, and most of Europe, water is not served with your meals. You either have to purchase a bottle of water, or specify that you’d like a glass of tap water, agua de grifo. When the waiter greeted us and took our beverage orders, I looked at him and said, with a glazed-over smile on my jet-lagged face, “Agua de grito, por favor”. He stared at me, confused, and I stared back. “You want… scream water?”. Grifo means tap. Grito means scream. Go figure. If your Spanish speaking abilities are embarrassingly insufficient like mine were, here are 10 useful phrases for dining out in Madrid. 


  1. A table for #, please: Una mesa para #, por favor. In many restaurants in Madrid, it’s expected that customers seat themselves. However, in a more formal restaurant, you’ll need to ask for a table. 
  2. Can I have the menu, please?: La carta, por favor
  3. A glass/bottle of red/white wine, please: Una copa/botella de vino tinto/blanco por favor. 
  4. A glass of draft beer, please: Una caña, por favor. This will get you a half pint of beer. If you’d like a full pint glass, you’ll say: un doble, por favor.
  5. A glass of tap water, please: Agua de grifo, por favor. Not agua de grito. Scream water does not sound appetizing. 
  6. A coffee with milk, please: Un café con leche, por favor. The barista will likely as you, "calentito?", which means warm, and can respond with a confident .
  7.  You give me…: me pones… This is how I order almost anything, which is viewed as slightly more polite than just listing off what you’d like.
  8. The check, please: La cuenta, por favor, or me cobras, por favor
  9. In cash/by card: En efectivo/ con tarjeta
  10. Thank you, it was delicious!: Muchas gracias, ¡estaba muy rico!


Before brushing up on my Spanish, I found it difficult and anxiety-inducing to venture out to restaurants and bars in Madrid. Unfortunately, practice is the best way to improve. These phrases are very useful and versatile, but there are lots of resources online to give yourself a more solid foundation. I recommend joining Facebook groups like Eat Out Madrid for restaurant recommendations, and browsing James Blick’s YouTube channel for tips for adjusting to life in Madrid. Lastly, remind yourself that you probably aren’t the worst customer that restaurant has ever had. They’ve probably had their fair share of rude tourists and crazy women asking for scream water — your low level Spanish isn’t as big of a deal as you think it is.

Hasta luego,

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