I am confused about the different categories of eating establishments

9 Replies

I am confused about the different types of eating establishments in Paris. I know that a restaurant only serves lunch and dinner, has more formal service (whatever that means) and may be more expensive. What confuses me mostly is the difference between a café, a bistro and a brasserie. I know they usually have "service continuu", have less formal service, all seem to serve alcohol  and have lower prices than restaurants, but what distinguishes one from the other?

Featured Classified


camille-72237 1353418240

Rather good definition from Wikipedia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bistro scroll down for more info on cafés and brasseries. I am not sure that the definitions are as rigid as they once were though...

rail 1353420923

Dave C you wil find that these names are common throughout France, they are not unique to Paris - you should probably throw "auberge" into the mix too

Tigger-459388 1353438490

Historically speaking.  

A Cafe is just that.  It will serve simple food, it will often be open all hours, and it will make it's money from the sale of coffee and alcoholic drinks.  

A Bistro (The word comes from Russian and means "quick") is a restaurant, but was never Haute Gamme.  You would expect the food to be decent, inexpensive, and the environment to be congenial.  

A Brasserie used to be a venue that sold beer.  It is now expected to be a restaurant that sells good, classically French, food at non-exorbitant prices, while beer is no longer the predominant feature.  Normally, service is continuous and, frequently, a good selection of seafood is on the menu.  The Flo group have taken over several brasseries in Paris and are frequently complained about.  However, both "Bofinger" and "Terminus Nord" are owned by the Flo group and they are seriously excellent.  Many places that have "banquettes" (benches) call themselves Brasseries, and many restaurants that do so are not worthy of the name.

Of course, you can find exceptions to every rule.

Bon Appétit!

BrianH-84873 1353440574

Brasserie literally means brewery. I thik that they used to brew beer, for sale, on the premises. That's long gone of course, and now as Tigger says, they just sell good value food. 

Cheers !

DaveC-379895 1353463659

Thanks for the information, Tigger. My favorite place in Paris has the words café, bistro and brasserie on the awning and the owner calls it a restaurant. The food is inexpensive but excellent and there is a full bar. That is where my confusion came in; trying to figure out how it could be all three. I guess I'll just continue to call it my favorite restaurant in Paris.

franc 91 1353505252

If you look at the fr.wikipédia article about Bistros/Bistrots you will see that the popular legend that the word comes from Russian cosaque soldiers asking to be served quickly, as mentioned on the plaque outside 'La Mère Catherine' in Montmartre, is far from certain and if Alain Rey doesn't agree with it 'for chronological reasons,' then that dispels any doubt on the subject. Of course, if you really want to use Parisian or Parigot words for a café-bar, apart from bistro, there's un zinc, un troquet, une rade and un estaminet - though the last one has become quite dated. Une auberge really means an inn and further South in France they used to use the word cabaret - though this often meant a bar where they went to have singsong. 

Tigger-459388 1353516593

Hi DaveC

You recomend a place where you like to eat.  There is only one problem, you didn't tell us what it's called, or where it is? :-)

Do share, please.

DaveC-379895 1353531049

Le Village Monge, 98, rue Monge, Paris 5e

They have service continuu from 11h to 23h, every day. They have two plats du jour and home made desserts which change daily as well as a full menu and full bar. You can get a plat du jour, glass of wine, cheese, dessert and café crème for around 25 to 30Euros. The price of the plats du jour.are 11Euro to 13Euro. The staff are very nice and welcoming. The decor is simple with floor to ceiling windows on two sides which give lots of light and makes people watching better and there is a terrasse. Feel free to tell the man who rents it, the tall man with a buzz haircut, that David the American teacher recommended it. There are very few non-French customers. None of the staff speaks to me in English, so I do not even know if they speak English.

Tigger-459388 1353598495

Merci beaucoup, Dave, et Bon appétit!

Join the discussion