My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels). This may also occur if the character is nearsighted, and in bad cases what they try to order from is not even the menu.
Alternatively, the character could order an actual dish, but add a provision that indicates they have no idea what it is they have just ordered. When Played for Laughs, often involves the waiter bringing back a heaping helping of the region's finest Foreign Queasine. Compare Is It Something You Eat?. In that case, they at least ask before attempting to order the wifi or the pageone. See also Wrong Restaurant, in which the character orders something from an entirely different establishment than the one they're visiting.
- A TV ad had a young woman driving the advertised car, following along to a "Learn Italian" tape when a distinguished man pulls up next to her. He talks to her in Italian; she breezily replies in Italian (subtitled) "Good toast, waiter. I would like a slice of suitcase!" and drives off. Hopefully she picks up a bit more before her trip to Italy.
- McDonald's had a commercial on Finnish TV where a Finnish boy goes to an obscure restaurant in an even more obscure Banana Republic and phones to his friend in Finland, asking: The menu says 'culebra'. Is it edible? The friend answers: Yes, it is just the ordinary chow. Go for it!. The commercial continues: "It wasn't ordinary chow. was it? In McDonalds you know what you get."note
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: When stopping in Hong Kong, Joseph claims that he's been there enough times to be able to order from the menus. Yet, when the food arrives, it's not quite what he expected. A downplayed example, as it turned out that the mistakenly ordered food was still quite delicious - the trope is in play to poke fun at Joseph's ignorance on foreign matters.
- Jasper Carrott has a routine about visiting Hong Kong with friends and visiting a restaurant where people ordered by pointing at animals in cages. An animal would disappear into the kitchen and a little later would reappear cooked on a plate. Carrot noticed a scruffy dog sniffing around the street tables. His friend nudged him and said "For Christ's sake don't point at it!"
- Steve Martin's 1977 comedy album Wild and Crazy Guy had a routine about how attempting to order in a foreign language could lead to this.
The problem with trying to order in French, is that the waiter thinks you speak [fluent] French, and goes, [French-sounding gibberish] and you go, "...Yes!" And he brings you a shoe with cheese on it. And you also told him to force it down your throat. "I'll have a shoe with cheese on it, force it down my throat, and I want to massage your grandmother, okay?"
- Archie Comics:
Betty: I heard that when Archie took you out to that fancy restaurant last night, he placed his order entirely in Chinese! I'll bet you were surprised!Veronica: (fuming) You bet I was! It was an Italian restaurant!
- Archie takes Veronica to a fancy, Middle-Eastern restaurant which is so authentic the staff doesn't speak English. Archie assures Veronica that he ordered lamb, but Veronica says it doesn't taste right. Archie flags down a waiter, points to the meat, and asks, "Baa baa?". The waiter replies, "No! Hee-haw, hee-haw!"
- This one-page gag:
- In one Belvedere strip Belvedere and his owner are sitting in a fancy restaurant while two waiters bring in a platter containing a cooked elephant.
Owner: Do you have to order in French?
- Carl Giles: When the family is in France, every attempt by would-be intellectual Henry to order steak and chips in French ends up with the family being served frogs legs.
- The Mr. Magoo comic strip has Magoo and Waldo at a Mexican restaurant. Magoo asks if the "Alvarados" are good, only to be informed that is the name of the proprietor. Magoo tetchily changes his order to hamburger.
- One Pearls Before Swine strip had Guard Duck on a date with Maura, ordering "The chateaubriand, cooked medium well, and a glass of your finest pinot noir". Although the actual strip wasn't an example, Stephan Pastis said this about the strip in the "Pearls Sells Out" commentary:note
Stephan Pastis: I really don't know what chateaubriand is. It just sounded like something fancy you'd order in an expensive restaurant. I'm hoping it is actually a type of food.
- One Gahan Wilson cartoon shows a patron with an inedible pile of ashes on his plate, while a snooty waiter says, "It's a burnt telephone book. We gave it a fancy French name and you ordered it."
- Zits manages both forms in one strip. Attempting to impress Sara, Jeremy orders the radicchio, "medium rare, of course". The waiter informs him that the raddichio is a salad and the chef prefers to serve it raw. As Sara and Connie dissolve in laughter, Walt attempts to make Jeremy feel better by saying that when he and Connie were dating he once ordered "jackets required".
- Project Management for Beginners:
Harry: So, what other challenges has your father done?
Hermione: Well, the longest one was when he built a model railway in the attic; that took ages because he made all the scenery and platforms and passengers by hand. When I was five, he built a small rowing boat from reclaimed wood and some scrap metal from a local junk yard, then he successfully rowed it across Derwentwater. Oh, and a few years ago we booked a holiday to Italy and Dad decided to learn Italian before we went. He only had four months to study it, so his target was just to become fluent enough to ask directions and order meals out and so on. Dad's grasp of spoken Italian was rather good for the most part, although I do remember one day in a Milanese bistro when I asked him to order me a glass of orange juice and a cheese sandwich for my lunch, and what showed up was a cup of coffee and a steak pie. And that was quite a surprise really, because Dad had told us it was a vegetarian restaurant!
- Played With in Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown: Charlie Brown, Linus, Marcie, and Peppermint Patty stop to eat in a British pub while en route to France. However, being Americans, they're clearly not familiar with British cuisine as they are forced to ask the waiter for help in deciding what to eat. This doesn't help either as not one of them can understand the waiter's British English.
Charlie Brown: What did he say?
Marcie: Perhaps I should have studied English, not French.
- The Jerk: Marie gets the escargot at a fancy restaurant after she and Navin become rich.
Navin: You would think that in a fancy restaurant at these prices you could keep the snails off the food!
- English version in Komaa: Hassan doesn't understand even basic English and attempts to order a "coffee shop".
- In Mr. Bean's Holiday, when he decides to dine at the Le Train Bleu in the Gare du Lyon, he winds up ordering a langoustine (Norway lobster), which he doesn't eat. Of note is that the paltry amount of spending money that was part of the prize was barely enough for his meal, forcing him to complete his journey without being able to buy anything.
- Passport to Paris does this in a strange way. One of the twins, who is learning French at a high-school level, accidentally orders fish (poissons) when she wanted drinks (boissons).
- In Way of the Dragon, Bruce Lee's character goes into a restaurant in Italy and accidentally orders every soup on the menu (which later makes him have to pee a lot).
- There is an Urban Legend, where a girl sees some Chinese characters on a menu that "look pretty", so she has them tattooed on herself. Later on, someone from China sees her tattoo, and laughs hysterically; the characters actually read "cheap, but tasty".
- Joke example:
Customer: [poring over the menu] I'll have the... [italian-style pronunciation] pageone, please.
Waiter: That's not a dish, sir, that's "Page One".
- A joke that went around during the Bush administration, probably a holdover from Bill Clinton's years, too. A young lady came out to take the president's dinner order:
George W. Bush: [poring over the menu] I'd like a quickie, please.
Dick Cheney: That's "quiche"!
- A man walks into a Georgian restaurant and orders a bunch of "your finest akhvlediani". The waiter answers: "It's our manager's last name, not a dish."
- A guy dining at a fancy restaurant is horrified to see some kind of bizarre or unappealing meal on the menu (such as deer horn or walrus blubber) and complains to the waiter, who goes and castigates the chef: "You forgot to translate the menu into French again!"
- In one The Baby-Sitters Club book, Claudia goes out with a guy she likes to a French restaurant. The guy is a very smart/intellectual type, and Claudia is trying to keep him from realizing she's not. She figures hey, she's not a picky eater, so she picks something on the menu at random. The "something" in question turns out to be escargot, or snails. Which she then forces herself to eat to keep up the pretense.
- Dave Barry explained in his column "The Evil Eye" that he was getting too nearsighted to read restaurant menus, so he just points randomly at something which turns out to be his napkin, and tells the waiter, "I want that medium rare." This joke also appears in Dave Barry Turns 50, with a medium-rare order of "We Do Not Accept Personal Checks."
- A very slight case, similar to the Pearls Before Swine example below: Michel Houellebecq fed one of his characters chervil, and admitted that he has no idea how chervil tastes and just thinks it's a pretty word.
- In Our Dumb World's entry on Burkina Faso, there's a joke about the very low literacy rate of that country when one of their diplomats tries to order a notice that an extra gratuity may be charged for large groups.
- A Paul Jennings short story has an illiterate boy as its protagonist. After being embarrassed when he tries to order "the ladies' room" with sauce at a fast-food restaurant, he simply resorts to saying "Same again" after the person before him orders. This backfires once when he gets given 15 cheeseburgers because the woman before him was a youth worker ordering for a social group.
- The Andy Griffith Show: while in Mount Pilot, Andy & Barney go to a fancy French restaurant. Andy isn't too proud to say he can't read the menu and just orders a steak. Barney points to menu items and gets stuff he never thought of as food.
- Beverly Hills, 90210. While in Paris, Brenda and Donna order "veal". Unfortunately, the English word "veal" sounds like the French word "cerveau". After being served their meal, the girls are horrified to learn they're eating. . .calf brains (a well known delicacy in France, but obviously not in the US).
- Emily in Paris: While having lunch with Mindy, Emily accidentally orders a condom with her croissant thanks to her awful French.
- Friday Night Lights: In one episode Tim Riggins (very poor, basically one step up from living in a trailer) goes to lunch at a fancy country club with his girlfriend Lyla and her father (very affluent). He is visibly uncomfortable and decides to order squab as his meal (squab is domestic pigeon meat). He then specifies that he wants it rare.
- Richie thinks he’s ordering a fruit plate in one Highlander episode but he ends up getting a seafood plate. “Fruits d’mer” is French for “fruits of the sea” and is raw seafood.
- Kenan & Kel: Kel tries to order at a Chinese restaurant, only to accidentally tell the waiter "I want to park my truck on your mother's face" in Chinese.
- There was a Mr. Bean sketch which involved him ordering Steak tartare, believing it was just a fancy steak, and the rest of the episode revolved around him trying to get rid of all the raw beef. The second movie had this when he orders the seafood platter by accident, not knowing any other French words but "oui".
- Red Dwarf: Rimmer demanded gazpacho soup served hot, but gazpacho is served cold. He never, ever lived it down.
- From an episode of Taxi: "He insisted on ordering the meal in French. My main course was ten pats of butter."
- Levelled up as the basis for the "Mongolian Restaurant" sketch in the comedy show The Two Ronnies. Typical comment / response: Ronnie: "That's disgusting", other Ronnie holding up two hands: "That's a lot of gusting".
- Ray Stevens' song "Gourmet Restaurant" is filled with stuff like this:
So I asked the waiter, "How's the beef?"
He said "Ze steak tartar is ze best you ever had."
But when he brought it, friends I thought I'd seen rare meat
But this wasn't even hurt real bad!
I can understand chocolate eggs, and chocolate bunny rabbits, But a chocolate moose? Ain't never gonna catch on...
- An Eric the Penguin birthday card had Eric in a coffee shop with a menu listing various expensive drinks, and a sign saying "Free wi-fi". So he tries to order "a free wiffy".
- Cyanide and Happiness:
- In one strip, a character orders some "lesbian cuisine." The waiter informs him that they have Lebanese cuisine. He needs some time to cope.
- In another, the character points to a sign and requests his "free wife." The waiter informs him that it's "free Wi-Fi."
- Ozy and Millie: Llewellyn goes to a Chinese restaurant and tries to place his order in Chinese. The waiter brings him a shoe and a bowling ball.
- In an episode of Garfield and Friends, Jon is at a French restaurant and tries to order in French and is served a pair of boiled athletic shoes by a French Jerk waiter. In another episode, he ends up ordering the chef's daughter with cheese on her.
- In Hey Arnold! Helga, trying to pass herself off as Arnold's French pen pal whilst in disguise and with a very rudimentary knowledge of French, attempts to make a order from the menu of a fancy French restaurant. It isn't until she's happily tucking into the dish that the waiter mentions not many kids like eating cow brain and eggs... which prompts a dart to the bathroom. Arnold played it safe with a steak and fries.
- James Bond Jr.: In one episode, the snotty rich kid takes a girl to a restaurant and orders a meal in French. On his first attempt he orders a live lobster. When the focus returns to him after cutting to Bond's adventures for a while, he's finally managed to order something edible in French - a cheese sandwich.
- On Rocky and Bullwinkle, Bullwinkle goes into a coffee shop and looks over the menu. Seeing that refills are free, he tells the waiter "think I'll have some of that there refill."
- The Simpsons: Selma takes Hans Moleman out to dinner in order to seduce him (she wants a baby, and by this time doesn't much care with who). He tries to read the menu but the waiter tells him it's the wine list. "Very good."
- What's New, Scooby-Doo?: In "Pompeii and Circumstance", Fred is continually misreading his Italian phrase book. As a result, he orders a potted plant at a restaurant.◊
- Artist James McNeil Whistler (as in Mother) reportedly went to a restaurant in France and ordered a flight of stairs. (Probably a confusion between "escalier" for "stairs" and "escargot" for "snails".)