Everyone knows and loves French bistros as we all know them for the lifestyle and food culture of the great European nation. The small restaurants with their most picturesque outdoor gardens invite you to rest, eat, drink and linger. In France, they are part of the French art of living. They have long since achieved the same status as restaurants. These places of food have spread there rapidly since the 1950s. After that, their numbers reached a staggering 200,000 across the country. However, economic crises have significantly reduced their number. Most recently, there were around 30,000 restaurants in France. According to a well-known legend, the Russians are responsible for the designation of the restaurants as bistro.

Slow Waiters

History refers to the year 1814 when Russian troops pursued the army of Napoleon as far as France. When they arrived in Paris, the officers ate in the numerous cafes and restaurants. But they did not like the slowness of the French waiters at all. They appreciate the simple and inexpensive dishes and drinks, but they didn’t like the pace at all. Legend has it that the soldiers are said to have yelled at the waiters several times in Russian. They used the Russian word for fast. That sounds just like bistro. That is supposed to be the origin of the name for this type of restaurant. The word for it is said to have entered the French language in a row. Since then, we use the phrase bistro for a restaurant with fast service.

Officers All Spoke French

In 1964, the tourist information centre of the Old Montmartre in Paris even put up a notice to that effect. At house number 6 on the Place du Tertre, the Bort Bistro was used here for the first time in its current meaning. But what sounds so great is just a legend. After all, the facts speak against it. First of all, there is the language. Russian officers didn’t have to yell at waiters in Russian in 1814. They all spoke French, which was a must in Russia at the time. The officers were all aristocrats; they spoke French fluently.

Officers All Spoke French
Officers All Spoke French

The Russians cannot have called Bistro because this appeared at the end of the 19th century. Scientists believe that the term came to Europe after the end of the Franco-Prussian War. Even then, the word had another meaning. Therefore, the specialists of linguistics assume that the story of the Russian officers is just a legend. They are sure that the word of ‘bistro’ comes from everyday language. There are similar words in northern France from which people derived bistro ultimately. Bistraud originally meant servant and later wine merchant. The experts, therefore, believe that Bistro has its origins there. The Russian version sounds better, but it is not particular and consequently made up. However you evaluate this, the fact is that the Bistros created a cultural heritage.