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Order Like A Gourmet: The Trickiest Dishes On The Menu In New York City

We all know how it feels to crave bœuf bourguignon at a swanky restaurant but not know how to pronounce it. Here, our experts show you how.

Illustration by Sheree Domingo

"I’ll have the foiz… the fwah… I’ll have the burger, please." Have you ever shied away from ordering an exotically named international dish during a date or important dinner, for fear of mispronouncing it? If so, don’t despair — you’re not alone.

We’ve teamed up with the New York City Hospitality Alliance, the association for NYC’s restaurants, bars, and hotels, and polled its community to explore whether diners avoid certain items on the menu for fear of pronouncing them incorrectly.

Amazingly, nearly half of the restaurant and bar staff we surveyed — 41% — believed that they had witnessed diners avoiding ordering certain items on a menu for fear of mispronouncing them. We also asked the NYCHA’s members about which country-specific cuisines they think are the trickiest for diners to pronounce.

French cuisine is widely believed to be the most intimidating for diners to order (44%), with cassoulet, mille-feuille, and French wines such as Beaujolais cited by NYCHA’s professionals as particularly daunting for customers. Italian dishes were said to be the second most challenging to pronounce (22%).

New York City has an incredible diversity of cuisines, boasting food from every corner of the world. Here are the dishes, selected by restaurants around town, that New Yorkers find hardest to tackle on their menus — as well as audio files with correct pronunciations, so you can order like a gourmet.


Still too nervous to order the dish you desire? Send us a photo of the menu item that is giving you trouble, and, if viable, we’ll email you back an audio file with the correct pronunciation. It’s free and completely anonymous (so no one ever has to know you got a little help). Photographs of menu items can be sent to Babbel via dishes@babbel.com


Mieke Dikkers of Le Bistro Provencal in Westchester County shares the hardest items to pronounce on their French menu:

Bœuf bourguignon (Burgundy beef)

Soupe au pistou (vegetable soup with pesto)

Chocolate pot de crème (chocolate custard dessert)

Escargots à la Bourguignonne (Burgundy snails)

Steak au poivre (pepper steak)

Moules poulette (mussels with poulette sauce)



Maribel Araujo of Caracas Arepa Bar in Manhattan & Brooklyn cites the hardest items to pronounce on their Venezuelan-Spanish menu:

Arepa de pabellón (cornmeal patty stuffed with pulled beef, black beans and fried plantains)

Arepa reina pepiada (cornmeal patty stuffed with chicken and avocado)

Arepa la pelúa (cornmeal patty stuffed with shredded steak and cheese)

Tostones mochimeros (fried plantains with mojito mayo sauce)



According to Mandy Oser of Ardesia in Hell’s Kitchen, the hardest items to pronounce on their mixed European menu are:

‘Nduja (spicy, spreadable pork sauce)

Pannonhalmi Apátsági Pincészet (Hungarian wine)

Pannonhalmi Tricollis (Hungarian wine)

Châteauneuf-du-Pape (French wine)



Amber Urban of the Schnitzel Haus in Brooklyn shares the hardest items to pronounce on their German menu:

Schneckenpfännchen (snails)

Schweinshaxe (pork shanks)

Bayrischer Bauernschmaus ("farmer’s feast")

Geräucherte Bratwurst (smoked bratwurst)

Schwäbische Käsespätzle (Swabian macaroni and cheese)

Reibekuchen (potato pancakes)



According to Evan Xenopoulos of The Mill in Manhattan, the hardest items to pronounce on their mixed European delicatessen menu are:

Prosciutto (Italian smoked ham)

Porchetta (Italian pork roast)

Soppressata (Italian dry salami)

Mortadella (Italian luncheon meat)

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