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I want to use entree dishes in some metaphor. Essentially I want to oppose having just the bare main element of the dish, to having it with thick sauce or dressing, or alternatively, with many side dishes.

What I'm looking for is colloquial or "colorful" phrases for the ends of the spectrum on both these options. In other languages, you can hear terms such as a dish being served "with nothing" as opposed to "with everything" (literal translation), or a dish being served "dry" as a term for not having any sauce, even if it's not at all dry and can be rather moist.

Note: Phrases which apply only to one kind of dish, e.g. a cut of meat, or pies, or stews or what-not are also potentially relevant.

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I don't have a phrase for a bare meal, but if the dish is served with extras you can say

With all the trimmings.

Merriam-Webster has

all the other foods that are typically served with something
a feast with turkey and all the trimmings

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  • I would suggest 'simple' or 'naked' for the opposing statement of being the bare main. There was a dish in a restaurant in the UK called 'Simply Chicken' which was basically just a piece of chicken (no sauce) with a baked potato.
    – Smock
    Aug 2 '19 at 12:41
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A phrase for an entree without sides is à la carte:

[Merriam-Webster]
: according to a menu or list that prices items separately

// Fleming’s specializes in a la carte dining, serves high-end steaks, and offers private rooms.
— Marc Bona, cleveland.com, "Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse closes in Woodmere," 1 July 2019

In short, you could have this dialogue:

"I'll have the burger."
"With fries?"
"No, à la carte."

Or:

"I don't want the combo meal. Can I get the sandwich à la carte?"


It's a fancier way of expressing on its own.

But in restaurants, if you ask if something is available à la carte, it generally means what you're asking for is to have just that single item and also at a lower price. Normally if you simply say you don't want fries (or anything else) with your burger, you pay the full amount. But if it's specifically available à la carte, that means you pay less for it than you would if you got it with the fries.

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  • Though in many restaurants the menu has obligatory sides and ordering a la carte is either not possible or more expensive. You can always ask them to leave off something, but you'll be paying for it anyway. Aug 2 '19 at 14:15
  • @JohnLawler I rarely ask for meals without fries (or salads or vegetables or whatever comes with them), mainly because I feel like I'm losing money if I'm paying for something I'm not getting. It's rare to find a place that specifically provides à la carte, even though that would suit me better. Aug 2 '19 at 14:26
  • Haven't come across that usage of à la carte before (asking for a burger without fries). Is it specific to North America? In UK/Ireland, I've only ever heard it in contrast to table d'hôte — as in, ordering by the course vs a set meal. Aug 2 '19 at 17:38
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    @anotherdave Lexico (Oxford) also lists it, and doesn't specify it as being US-specific, so, I don't think it's a regional term. Aug 2 '19 at 18:10

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