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Steak à la carte, with no side dish or garnish; these must be requested separately.

In restaurants, à la carte /ɑːləˈkɑːrt/[1] is the practice of ordering individual dishes from a menu in a restaurant, as opposed to table d'hôte, where a set menu is offered.[2] It is an early 19th century loan from French meaning "according to the menu".[3][4]

The individual dishes to be ordered may include side dishes, or the side dishes may be offered separately, in which case, they are also considered à la carte.[citation needed]


The earliest examples of à la carte are from 1816 for the adjectival use ("à la carte meal", for example) and from 1821 for the adverbial use ("meals were served à la carte").[3] These pre-date the use of the word menu, which came into English in the 1830s.[5][6][3]

Other usesEdit

More broadly, the term is not exclusive to food. Today, it can be used in reference to things such as television. To watch television à la carte refers to paying for a provider where the viewer can choose from an option of programs to watch (e.g., Netflix or Hulu), instead of watching from set programs.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "A la carte". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Oxford English Dictionary
  4. ^ "à la carte – definition of à la carte in English from the Oxford dictionary". Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  5. ^ Richard Bailey, Eating Words, Michigan Today, 13 May 2008. Archived 25 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Menu", The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, Houghton Mifflin
  7. ^ "A-la-Carte Cable TV Is Basically Here (It's Just Not on Cable)". The Simple Dollar. Retrieved 2 May 2016.


External linksEdit