à la carte

The phrase à la carte is a loan word from the French. We will examine the definition of à la carte where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

The phrase à la carte means that dishes in a restaurant may be ordered separately from the menu. For instance, one may choose an appetizer, a main course, a salad, side dishes or dessert separately according to one’s tastes. The term à la carte comes from a revolution in restaurant fare that occurred sometime around the turn of the nineteenth century. Before this time, a restaurant would offer its meals table d’hôte, which describes a meal that is preselected and served to everyone partaking, with no options other than to eat what is put before you. The phrase table d’hôte translates as “table of the host”. The expression à la carte translates as “according to the card”, which in this case, refers to the menu. Today, almost all restaurants in English-speaking countries serve a menu that is à la carte. The term came into the English language during the 1820s, and has evolved to refer to things that are not associated with eating, restaurants or menus. For instance, cable television services that allow the patron to choose which channels to buy, rather than offering service to all channels for a set price, is called à la carte. Though properly rendered with an accent mark above the first a, the term is often spelled without the accent mark as in a la carte.

Examples

Instead of an a la carte menu, Kobayashi only offers the chef’s choice each night, which he said he prefers because he knows what tastes best and what he wants to cook. (The Daily Emerald)

The pitch appears to be falling flat, with customers preferring to simply stream content on Netflix as opposed to buying things on an a la carte basis. (Variety Magazine)

As Discovery’s CEO answered that question, he opened up about the possible future of an a la carte direct to consumer option. (Cord Cutters News)

Order à la carte favorites like lobster hash and polenta waffles, or opt for the three-course tasting that closes with a lemon ricotta cookie ice cream sandwich. (Las Vegas Magazine)