Have you ever been to a bistro? What is the difference between a restaurant and a bistro anyway? Both words are similar but there are some differences between an establishment that call itself a bistro and one that uses the word restaurant.

French Cafe Bistro

The word bistro comes from the French language. If you go to France, you will find many street corner bistros where people typically stop by to have a cup of coffee and eat croissants for their breakfast. Most bistros have outside seating and you will see a lot of people reading their newspaper or simply watching passersby. It is not unusual to see people going to the bistro by themselves.

Bistros are also busy towards the end of the afternoon as people go there to get a drink after work. It is not unusual to see groups of friends meeting at the bistro or to see groups of colleagues relaxing after a long day at work. Most bistros also have counter seating and you will usually find that most bistros are decorated with a specific theme such as sports.

There are establishments called bistros everywhere in the world and this word is often used to refer to this atmosphere that is very typical of French bistros. Some chefs use this word because their establishment mostly serves French dishes. Typically, if a place is called a bistro, you should expect a fairly small establishment with a friendly atmosphere and outside seating.

Berlin Restaurant

On the other hand, a restaurant is usually more formal. Few people go to restaurants to grab a cup of coffee, a drink or a snack and most restaurants are not open for breakfast. A restaurant usually has a much wider selection of foods as well as a selection of wines, beers, and cocktails.

Some restaurants offer a specific type of cuisine or have a theme while bistro usually has more hearty food. However, the word bistro is also used to refer to French fare, which means you will find bistros that resemble classy restaurants. These bistros are typically decorated in a style that is inspired by French restaurants.

The opening hours of restaurants and bistros can be different. A bistro is usually open for breakfast, lunch and dinner but will not stay open late since this doesn’t be people would go for an evening out. A restaurant might be open for lunch but some restaurants only open for dinner and typically stay open late at night.

Although most bistros are family-friendly, it is common to see people go to bistros with a group of friends, some colleagues or even by themselves. Restaurant patrons often come with their family, a date or a group of friends. The atmosphere of bistros and restaurants are a little different and you might find that the noise level in a bistro can be higher than what you would find in a restaurant. Some bistros also have TVs so patrons can watch sports games.

Bistros tend to be a lot cheaper than restaurants in France and you will find some affordable and unpretentious bistros everywhere in the world. However, prices can be higher than what a restaurant would charge if you go to an establishment that is called a bistro because the chef specializes in French cuisine.

These are the main differences between restaurants and bistros. Keep in mind that the word bistro can be used in different contexts and that some chefs will call their restaurant a bistro because they want to evoke French cuisine even though their establishment does not really have the characteristics of an actual bistro with the simple menu and outside seating.