Are you the sort of person who gets hung up over a name? Do the different names and terms of eating establishments confuse you? Well in this blog we attempt to clarify which sort of French dining establishments are called what and the differences between them. In France of course you have restaurants, brasseries, cafes, bistros and salons de tea. Each place is rather different than the other and will serve different types of food and drink in different ways.
A restaurant is somewhere that caters for formal dining, it will offer a large selection of food from a comprehensive menu and have an extensive wine cellar. It is the most expensive way of eating and the décor and service is normally at a very high standard. Some restaurants cater for a particular cuisine such as seafood, or steakhouse, and some serve just one country’s cuisine i.e. Italian, Mexican, French etc.
A French brasserie is a type of restaurant the has the same menu all day, this is occasionally augmented with a plat du Jour. A brasserie usually serves classic French cuisine featuring dishes such as, steak tartare, onion soup, charcuterie, and confit de canard. Brasserie can also mean brewery and the restaurant will most likely serve a selection of good beers as well as wines.
Bistros are informal small restaurants, normally just serving simple local food for a particular neighborhood. Dishes are often cooked home-style using a few ingredients and cooked slowly. Popular bistro dishes are things like, hearty stews and vegetable soups perhaps made from leftovers of other dishes. Normally bistros will be chef owned and small businesses, that are affordable and give great value for money.
A cafe can be a twenty-four-hour affair and is the most common type of place to eat in France. A cafe’s forte is the drink selection it offers which normally includes, coffee, tea, beer and wine. Cafes will open for breakfast and continue serving simple dishes for lunch and dinner. Normally the same dishes are served throughout the day and the menu does not change, dishes could include sandwiches, croques, omelets, salads, baguettes and fast food items. Quite often a cafe will have tables and chairs outside, and in Paris they have heat lamps for the colder parts of the year.
Salon de The
A Salon de the is the most informal dining establishment in France, this type of establishment specializes in drinks more than food, especially tea. Cakes, pastries and sandwiches are available to go with a selection of teas and coffees. Some of these places also provide a small selection light dishes and usually the owner is the cook, waiter and general bottle washer. France is a fairly organized society and especially when it comes to food. The French are a serious foodie nation and like everything in its place, they will quite happily travel for miles for a particular dish or a type of food rather than have inferior somewhere local. That is why they have so many categories of dining establishments, so each place specializes in a particular thing, be it food or drink. It can be confusing to many people such as Americans or English who mainly call eating establishments either restaurants, diners or cafes.