What do you call the place/system where soldiers eat outside, with usually a few food carts with huge pots, and soldiers standing in line to receive food in their mess kit and eat it?

In French: cuisine de campagne, popote

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  • If the food is served from a truck, one slang term I've heard used is roach coach. One could also say chow line, but that refers to the soldiers with the plates more than to the servers with the metal pots.
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 13, 2013 at 9:20
  • Nicolas Raoul, it is more natural to ask questions like this with the wording "What do you call". Saying "How do you call" is unnatural and not really used by native speakers. The title should also start with "What to call"?
    – Tristan
    Commented Sep 13, 2013 at 12:04

4 Answers 4


The general term for that, is field kitchen. There is an article about them, here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_kitchen . It also has some other terminology for referring to them.


The term you're looking for very much depends on where it would appear.

"Field kitchen" would be widely understood but is quite formal. For example, you might read in a military history book that "many of the German field kitchens were destroyed in air attacks".

Conversely, terms like "chow line" and "chow hall" are slang terms which are more likely to be used by the soldiers themselves, but these terms are Americanisms and not used in some other nations (e.g. the British forces).

Context is everything.

  • +1 I am interested in any words that can describe it, even if these words are specific to a particular context. Thanks! :-) Commented Jan 1, 2014 at 5:19

What you are describing is a soup kitchen (even if it does not serve soup).

Soup Kitchen n.

  1. (Social Welfare) a place or mobile stall where food and drink, esp soup, is served to destitute people

  2. (Military) Military a mobile kitchen

Note however that when the food delivery is not mobile (for example, food provided on a military base, even if the base is not permanant), a term is a mess hall, especially if the food is served inside.

  • I hope you don't mind me changing your article from the to a, Matt. There is more than one term that gets bantered about. When I was in the military, we usually said "chow hall"; my daughter (who has served in the Army) almost exclusively says DFAC (pronounced D-Fac, short for "dining facility").
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 13, 2013 at 9:24
  • 1
    In the modern U.S. military, this is never called a soup kitchen. Maybe in World War II it might have been called that, but I have only ever seen the term "soup kitchen" used with the first definition given here.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 15:18

Chow line would not be used in English, only American. Field kitchen would be best if it was not meant to be context specific

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