Menu or Dish?

One mistake I encounter time and time again is when students mix up the words menu and dish. A common sentence that students produce is “This restaurant has many menus,” but in most situations, this is not what they’re intending to say. Let’s have a look why.



menu is a list of food and drinks in a restaurant. It’s usually in the form of a small booklet, but some smaller, cheaper places hand out a sheet of laminated A4 instead. Pubs in the UK often have board menus, i.e. menus that are written on a blackboard on the wall. Remember: the menu is the booklet, piece of paper, or blackboard that contains the list of food and/or drinks. A menu is not food.


dish, on the other hand, is one food item on the menu. So when you go to a restaurant, the server will give you a menu, and you’ll probably choose one dish, like spaghetti bolognese, Caesar salad, or kimchi fried rice. Those three are all dishes.

When the restaurant has many food items for sale, what should you say? The correct sentence is, “This restaurant has many dishes.” The restaurant probably only has one menu (although some places have a separate dessert menu or wine menu, which is more typically called a wine list), and that menu has many different dishes on it.

Board Menu

So is the sentence “This restaurant has many menus” incorrect? Not exactly. If you walk into a restaurant that has a hundred menus lying next to the till, you could use this sentence. More commonly, though, that’s not what students are trying to say.

Difference Between i.e. and e.g.
Meaning of Cookie Cutter

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