You won't find much difference in the way things are done in Spanish (or Latin American) restaurants from the way they are done in the USA. You wait for a server. You're seated, menus are given. They ask what you'll drink (bebidos) and if you want appetizers (tapas). In some places the tapas come free with the drink. The server brings bread or tortillas, and appropriate condiments, takes your order, and then you're served. You ask for la cuenta (the bill) and then you return it with payment (plus 10% tip).
In some countries it is customary to use a phrase to say something before or after a meal in a "good eating" or "to your health" fashion. For example, in some Central American countries you say "buen provecho" when you serve the food to someone, and in some it is customary for the one dining to say "buen provecho" or "muchas gracias" after the meal. In Spain it is customary to say "que aproveche" or "buen provecho" before the meal when serving, and the response by the guests (or diners) would be "gracias".
Because much of the Spanish speaking world is Catholic it may be customary for a prayer or blessing over the food be offered- in a family setting. In a restaurant, however, it is just as unusual as it is in the US to find someone praying over or blessing their food publicly.
About the Cuisine
There are dishes that are customarily served during certain holidays that are unique. Some are unique to specific countries, or regions, too. Here are a few examples:
Paella is served in Spain during the springtime festival, Las Fallas. It has rice, meat or fish, saffron, paprika, and a variety of other spices.
Churros are served most commonly as breakfast and snacks in Spain. They are a fried pastry in stick (or twisted) shape. Some are filled with fruit or chocolate, like the USA version of a jelly-filled doughnut.
Mantecados and polvorones are almond cakes, and turrón is candy made from almonds and honey. All are Christmas tradition in Spain, specifically in the southern regions.
Tortillas are more like omelettes in Spain, compared to the fried flatbread we're used to hearing about from Mexico (or other Central and South American countries).
Jamón serrano is country ham and has varieties that are sweet, spicey, or slightly pink (raw).
Flan in the USA is a kind of tart, but in Spain and much of the rest of the Spanish speaking countries it is a custard desert with soft caramel on top.
Gazpacho is a cold Spanish breadsoup. There are several varieties of gazpacho- all depend on the tradition of the area or family. Sometimes it has tomato as an ingredient, but not always. It is usually served with meat or a hard-boiled egg.
Horchata is a drink made with either almonds or rice. It is usually served warm (not chilled, but at room temperature).
Tamales aren't Spanish in origin. Tamales are Native American in origin. They are made of steam cooked cornmeal wrapped in corn husks or platanos skins. Depending on the availability, tamales will have some meat or chili inside. Sweet or desert-like tamales will have raisins or other fruit added.
Plátanos are servered in Central and South America. They are relatives of the banana but are starchier. Usually they are fried and served as a side dish.
Burritos are from Mexico made with flour tortillas wrapped around refried beans, rice, meat, fish, cheese, tomatos, chili, or other fillers. The USA version isn't much different, but is very popular.
Some external links to sites about Spanish cuisine:
|tazón||bowl (big cup)||sal||salt||apio||celery|
|el café||coffee||la fruta||fruit||chorizo||sausage|
|el jugo||juice||la manzana||apple||mariscos||seafood|
|la leche||milk||banana (plátano)||banana||pescado||fish|
|el agua||water||uvas||grapes||comer||to eat|
|el vino||wine||melocotón||peach||beber||to drink|