Differences between Bistro, Brasserie and Restaurant

Differences Between Bistro, Brasserie and Restaurant

If you have ever been to France, or are a fan of French cuisine, for sure that you might have been lost between the Bistro, Brasserie, Café… troquet, boui-boui, bouchon and even more terms…so many options where you can eat and/or drink in France that it gets confusing!

To answer these questions, we’ll need to look at some differences between them. Let’s make clearer the differences between the types of French restaurants. 


A brasserie is an establishment that serves food in large portions, often accompanied by beer or wine.

Why is it called brasserie?

The word “brasserie” has been used in English since the late 19th century. It comes from the French word for a place where food and drink are served.  Think of them as restaurants that serve throughout the day, till sometimes very late at night, and have a larger menu, with usually very traditional French cuisine. Brasseries are very traditional French cuisine restaurants: they can be pricey, and although popular with business people, so somewhat on the casual side, they can be quite upscale. Brasseries are not the best choice for a romantic dinner for two. They are usually a bit noisy, often being held in the large, high ceiling, open (and luxurious) rooms. 

What is served at a brasserie?

You are likely to find the same dishes in many different brasseries, mostly classic French dishes:

  1. choucroute garnie
  2. steak tartare
  3. boeuf bourguignon
  4. coq au vin

What is the difference between a bistro and a brasserie? The term “bistro” has been around for quite some time, but it was only in the early 1990s that the word became widely used. The French have had their own version of this type of restaurant since the late 19th century when they began to open up restaurants called brasseries. It wasn’t until the 1980s that these two words started to be confused with each other. Provided that you are a fan of both, it is easy to see why this has happened. Then again, if you are not familiar with either one, then you might think that bistros and brasseries are completely different types of establishments.    


The bistro is a style of restaurant found mainly in France, which serves simple meals. Bistros are typically small, informal places serving wine or beer, with a limited number of choices. They tend to be inexpensive, and there is no need to book ahead. 

Bistros are generally located near train stations, airports, and tourist attractions. They are often family-run businesses and are frequented by locals.

You can think of them as a pretty casual neighborhood restaurant that offers typical French cuisine.

Depending on where they’re located, bistros can range from “low-key” to “upscale.” Some are even “very high end,” but most aren’t.

In addition to offering reasonably priced food, bistros also offer a wide variety of wines and beers. They may also serve coffee, tea, pastries, sandwiches, salads, and desserts. While they don’t always have menus, they do have chalkboards listing what’s available.

In summary, a bistro isn’t necessarily cheap; however, it tends to be less expensive than an average restaurant.

French food has been around since the beginning of civilization. It was only after the fall of Rome that the cuisine began to change and evolve. The Romans brought their knowledge of farming and cooking over to France, where they were met with a delicious blend of ingredients and spices.

Today, there are many different restaurants serving authentic French food, but there are also many restaurants offering American-style food. Here are five dishes that you should try while dining in a French Bistro.

Beef Tartare

Tartare is traditionally made with chopped raw beef. When you eat tartare, you’re eating the raw meat itself. This dish is served cold and accompanied by a variety of sauces.


Chateaubrization is a steak cooked slowly over low heat until it becomes very tender. Chateaubriand is typically served medium-rare.

Coq au Vin

Coq au vin is chicken braised in red wine. Coq au vin is a classic French dish that is perfect for a romantic dinner.

Foie Gras

Foie gras is a liver that has been cured and fattened before being eaten. Foie gras is considered an aphrodisiac because it contains a high amount of vitamin A.

Gratin Dauphinois

Gratin dauphinois is a cheesy potato casserole that is served warm. Gratin dauphinois pairs perfectly with a glass of wine.


In Paris alone, there are more than 5,000 restaurants, from the fancy to the rustic. Restaurants are only open at certain times of the day, for lunch and dinner service for instance, and are normally closed one day of the week. You would be able to order from a classic printed menu, and waiters and waitresses are trained and knowledgeable professionals. By law, a prix-fixe menu must be offered, although some more luxurious establishments try to conceal this. 

Restaurants and bistros serve lunch and dinner at fixed hours. The hours may differ but usually, it’s 12:00 till 2:30-3 PM for lunch, 7:30 PM till about midnight for dinner. 

Un restaurant ( or “un resto” or “resto” in short) serves any kind of food. It may be more or less chic. Prices and ambiance very very much as well depending on the kind of restaurant…

The ambiance and setting of restaurants in France can vary tremendously. We do have American-style fast food but the French equivalent would be “ un restaurant ouvrier ” – nothing in common really, but food served fast and in a very relaxed setting, for a very good price.

French food has been around for centuries, and there are many different dishes that come from France. It is also very popular worldwide, especially in North America.

However, there are some dishes that are not commonly found in restaurants outside of France. Apart from the ones we’ve pointed above for Brasserie and Bistro, there is another one you should try on your next visit to France, or to a french restaurant abroad.

Boudin Blanc

Boudin blanc is a white sausage made from pork, veal, chicken, and/or turkey. The meat is ground and mixed with breadcrumbs, milk powder, egg yolks, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, thyme, bay leaves, and sometimes bacon.

It is traditionally served either hot or cold and is usually eaten with mustard sauce.


Apart from those three types of restaurants we’ve just pointed above, there are actually plenty of others where you can grab or have some food. Perhaps, among those, the most common are actually cafés.

What Food Can You Get in a French Café?

The best thing about the French cafés is that they are not just for eating. They have some of the most interesting and creative food items, from simple croissants to elaborate desserts.

The café culture has been around since the Middle Ages when it was common practice for people to meet each other at these places for coffee or tea. These days, you can find a café almost anywhere in Paris or throughout France. Some of them are very old-fashioned while others are modern and trendy.

There may be a limited food menu, with Croque Monsieur, salads, moules-frites. Cafés usually open early in the morning and close to nine in the night.

Essentially, don’t go here if you are looking for a proper and fulfilling meal, they are best just to serve you coffee, tea, or drinks.