Do You Know All of This Slang That Waiters Use?

Allison Lips

If the waiter asks the kitchen to 86 an item, what are they requesting?

Eighty-six comes from the word nix. However, no one is quite sure where it was created. One theory involves 1930s' restaurant lingo.

When a server mentions BOH, who are they talking about?

BOH stands for Back of House, which includes cooks and dishwashers. FOH is Front of House, which includes servers, hosts, and anyone else the customer sees.

If a cook is told to "fire" an order, what are they being told to do?

When you order an appetizer and entree at the same time, you usually don't want to receive them at the same time. In these cases, the server may give the kitchen both parts of your order, but have the kitchen make one part at a time until you're ready for the next dish.

In the restaurant business, what is dead food?

Dead food is called dead because it can't be given to another customer. However, that doesn't mean it's inedible. The staff often takes advantage of a dish a customer was unhappy with and eats it themselves.

When a waiter tells the kitchen to kill a steak or other food dish, what are they saying?

While cooks hate to make killed food, there are customers who order steaks and vegetables this way. Many cooks feel that killing food removes the natural flavors of the food.

If a server tells the kitchen they need something "on the fly," what are they requesting?

If a server requests something on the fly, they need the cooks to get on it immediately. This could be the result of an order being improperly prepared the first time or the server forgetting to place part of the order.

If a waiter works a double, how many shifts are they working a row?

If a waiter is working two shifts in a row, they are working a double. You may also hear this expression outside of the restaurant business.

In the restaurant world, what is an expeditor?

They are sometimes called the wheelman. You will usually find an expeditor in the kitchen during a restaurant's busiest times, such as the lunch and dinner rush.

If waiters are eating a family meal, what are they doing?

A staff meal is usually served to all employees at once. The restaurant owner pays for it and treats it as a perk of employment.

What is different about a ghost restaurant?

Ghost restaurants may not have a physical location. They rely on orders placed on Grubhub and other online delivery services to get business.

If a server asks the kitchen for Java, for what are they asking?

The nickname, Java, for coffee comes from the island of Java. In a diner, you may also hear the drink called a Cup of Joe.

What is a glass of moo juice?

Moo juice originated with soda jerkers, who came up with creative names for what they served. Milk may also be called cow juice.

If a server tells the kitchen to wreck 'em, what does this mean?

Wreck 'em comes from 1920s' diner slang for scrambled eggs. If you don't specify how you'd like your eggs, you may hear them called hen fruit or cackleberries.

What type of meal is a yellow blanket on a dead cow?

Yellow blanket on a dead cow comes from turn of the 20th century New York diner lingo. Another phrase, walk a cow through the garden, means that the customer ordered a hamburger with lettuce, tomato, and onion.

What kind of drink is called swamp water?

Swamp water is a soda made with all available flavors. It was more common in the days of soda jerks.

What condiment is sometimes called axle grease?

There are many diner slang words for butter. Aside from axle grease, it can also be called skid grease or cow paste.

If you're in a New York diner and ask for Leo, what are you going to receive?

LEO is an acronym for lox, eggs, and onion. It is most common in the New York area.

When a server goes looking for the twins, they are looking for ...

The twins are the salt and pepper shakers. They are also known as Mike and Ike.

The phrase "burn the British" isn't literal, but what does it mean?

To burn the British means to make an English muffin. If you just want to burn one, that would mean putting a hamburger on the grill.

What did you order if the waiter tells the kitchen you'd like a butcher's revenge?

While butcher's revenge isn't the nicest way to refer to meatloaf, there's more diner slang that you probably wouldn't want to hear while eating a meal. For example, ketchup is sometimes referred to as hemorrhage and french fires as frog sticks.

If a server is waxing a table, what are they doing?

If a server is waxing the table, they are giving special treatment to a table. These people are usually very good customers or the family of a person who works at the restaurant.

What three ingredients are between the bread in a B.L.T.?

A B.L.T. is a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. If you order a B.T., you will receive only the bacon and tomato.

What breakfast dish would you receive if you asked for a "heart attack on a rack?"

If you order biscuits and gravy, you may receive what is also known as a heart attack on a rack. While your doctor probably wouldn't approve, doughnuts are nicknamed life preservers.

Why wouldn't a server like George Eddy?

A George Eddy doesn't leave a tip, which means the waiter gets stiffed.

If a server put in a request for "Adam and Eve on a raft," what would the customer receive?

Adam and Eve on a raft is two poached eggs on toast. However, if you request scrambled eggs on toast, the waiter will order the kitchen to wreck them.

While you may take home a doggy bag, you probably won't take home dog biscuits from the diner because they are slang for ....

A cracker is a dog biscuit. If you want a cracker and cheese, you could ask for dog and maggot.

If a server requested some city juice for your table, which beverage would you find in your glasses?

Water has several slang terms. You can call it city water, dog soup, or Adam's ale.

What would you receive if your server requested a radio sandwich from the kitchen?

A radio sandwich is a tuna sandwich. It comes from tuning a radio.

Why shouldn't you be alarmed if your server is giving you bird seed for breakfast?

Other slang for cereal is baled hay and Battle Creek in a bowl. The former is specifically shredded wheat. The latter comes from Kellogg's headquarters in Battle Creak, Michigan, and is used for corn flakes.

If a meal is going for a walk, what is happening to it?

If an order is for takeout, it may be called a runner. You may also hear someone tell the chef to put shoes on it.

When it's time for dessert, what would you call "Eve with the lid on"?

Eve with the lid on isn't the only colorful dessert name. Soda jerks referred to jello as shimmy, shivering Liz, and nervous pudding.

While a house boat is literally a house someone can live on, what is it in diner speak?

A house boat is a banana split. If you wanted chocolate soda with vanilla ice cream, you could order a black and white. However, in some diners, that was slang for black coffee with cream.

What will you receive if you ask for Vermont?

Asking for Vermont will get you maple syrup. Considering that Vermont is known for maple syrup, this is one of the few soda jerk slang terms that has an origin that makes sense.

If you get coffee with sand in it, what was put in it?

In soda jerk slang, sand was sugar. They also referred to a sugar bowl as a gravel train.

If you hear someone yell, 'Dupe in the kitchen,' what do they mean?

Restaurants print duplicate tickets, so that the server and the kitchen can each have a copy. A server might yell for the dupe if they need to make a change to an order.

Explore More Quizzes

Image: Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

About This Quiz

When talking about restaurant lingo, there are two types. There's the old school soda jerk jargon and the phrases that restaurant employees still use today. In a few cases, words that were coined as part of diner slang in the late 1800s and early 1900s have stuck around and entered everyday use in restaurants across the United States. For example, B.L.T is often found on menu's for a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich or requesting a Cup of Joe will get you a cup of coffee. However, not all words have staying power. 

A few soda jerker words remain known because they pop up on shows like "Diners, Drive-in, and Dives" to show how American diner workers used to talk and that there are a few places keeping that spirit alive. While you and your server are unlikely to request Adam and Eve on a raft, you may know it means two eggs on toast. 

Words and phrases used in modern restaurants are less concerned with being creative and are used as shorthand. You may hear a request to 86 an item or watch a server yell behind to inform their colleague that someone is behind them so that they don't back up. 

Do you work in a restaurant? Are you a fan of old-fashioned slang? Then take this quiz to test your knowledge of the words servers use! 

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!