Tips for Americans visiting England: Eating out

Some of you may be aware that my sweetheart hails from Mississippi. Over the years, we’ve compiled some tips to help ease the way of people from the Southern States when travelling to the North of England. It seems only right to pass a few of them on.

A Few Warnings

  • Gravy will be brown and we don’t put it on our biscuits.
  • You want sweet tea? It’s not good for you, you know! Drink some before you set out.
  • We strictly ration ice cubes and condiments in public places. Expect the former to be offered one cube at a time and the latter to be presented in tiny sachets. You may like to buy a bottle of ketchup as soon as you arrive and keep it with you at all times.
  • British people only eat corn three ways: sweet corn, cornflakes and popcorn. Don’t expect grits, your type of biscuits or cornbread.
  • If you want to alarm the wait staff, assure them you only ate yours to be polite.


We tend not to offer a choice of sides with entrees. We decide what is appropriate and provide that. Chili comes with rice. It’s chili and rice, ok? You want macaroni and turnip greens with a steak? We don’t think so! Steak comes with peas in England. (Only kidding – I’m not trying to destroy the tourist industry with one post: you’ll get Irish potato, onion rings, half a tomato and a rather large mushroom too). And don’t expect fish and chips to be served with broccoli, okra, corn or slaw: brace yourself for mushy peas and malt vinegar.

 Handy UK / US food translations

Food translations UK to US

Custard is Crème Anglaise; pudding can be any sweet dessert (and quite a few savoury dishes too); and semolina is a bit like grits – but don’t try it!

Where to Eat in England

If you can’t find Thai food, BBQ or Mexican in the podunk town you find yourself staying in for the night – the one with no coffee shop or gas station but with three pubs on the same corner opposite a church that dates back to the 13th Century – ask for directions to the local Indian restaurant and go for a curry. It’ll be great. Just don’t start off with the vindaloo.

If you have any observations or handy tips of your own to share, please feel free!

30 Replies to “Tips for Americans visiting England: Eating out”

  1. I think biscuits are the closest we get to Scones in the USA, But I don’t really think they taste like your scones.
    I’ve never heard of comeback sauce.

    1. According to Wikipedia ‘Thousand Island Dressing’ is American for ‘Thousand Island Dressing’… ie, it’s not a British’ name at all… as for ‘Comeback Sauce’ that appears to be a different sauce… essentially TID is the North American equivalent of the Southern US CS…

      1. You’re right – many British words have American origins and vice versa. Thousand Island Dressing is a term the British are more likely to know.

        1. I can’t say I’ve ever heard comeback sause. Thosand Island dressing is all I have ever seen in the USA. I thought it was American invented, but maybe not

  2. I wondered what kind of biscuits Americans cover with gravy, now I know. But what do they mean when they say gravy?
    You didn’t mention Aubergine/Eggplant, or any of the other differently named vegetables, but I suppose everybody knows about them.
    Great Post!

      1. That sounds OK. Dolly Parton says that in school she was ashamed to admit that she had biscuits and gravy for breakfast every day. I think I may like that once in a while, but not in the morning. I have an obsessive breakfast regime.

    1. Grits are a Southern soul food, served at breakfast. You’ll find details of how to make them online. I first tried them at a Garden Writer’s conference in Dallas after I heard people exclaiming ‘grits, grits!’ in a kind of rapture. I’ve been told the creamier they are the better (though they do have little grit-like lumps in them).

    1. That’s good to know – does it mean I’d be able to get mushy peas & vinegar with my fish & chips if I ever manage to make my way over there?

          1. Okey dokey, I understand. I had mushy peas with my fish and chips when I was there last time. Yum! But I’m not down with the vinegar. Need my tomato sauce!

  3. My greatest enjoyment while visiting England was eating at some of the hole-in-the-wall pubs that popped up where least expected while doing the tourist thing. I never knew a cucumber sandwich could be so good. Or good at all!

  4. I’m an American in Ireland and one other I thought of was buns here are muffins in USA. Also in America we would ‘offer a ride’ to someone, here it is ‘offer a lift’. Offering a ride generates a few giggles and naughty looks here in Ireland. 😉

  5. That’s a good one. Does bun mean anything to Americans? Muffin is one of the many words we have for portion sized, round, flattish bread in England (though that might raise a few giggles too). But you need translations within Britain for bread!

    Wikipedia helpfully points out that the USA type of muffin is called a fairy cake in England – though any fairy that can munch through some of the American muffins I’ve seen has my admiration!

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