When it comes to dining establishments, one word that has been cropping up everywhere the past few years and in some places even long before that is the concept of a “bistro.” Bistro is really a french word that has entered the English language recently as a useful word to describe a type of restaurant that did not really have a good word to describe it before. In France, a bistro is considered to be an establishment where the quality of the food is very high and the dishes are on the forefront of modern cuisine and cooking, and the service is excellent and attentive, as opposed to a traditional restaurant – known in various places as a tavern, pub, or inn – where the food is usually good but traditional and rustic, and the service is often unreliable because the place is family run. They are two very different experiences that you might want at different times, so it is highly important to know how to differentiate between them.


In America, before the spread of bistros, most restaurants outside of large cities were of the second type, even if they were fairly expensive. This does not mean that the food was of lower quality – many traditional American restaurants have been lauded for their delicious and high-quality dishes, but they frequently are closer to comfort foods than haute cuisine and do not have French-trained chefs or anything like that. However, as Americans have been elevating their tastes across the whole country, and additionally having fewer and fewer kids, which really makes fine dining much more affordable, bistros have been popping up everywhere, even in some pretty rural places. These restaurants offer a unique fine dining experience, where you can sample the latest advances in culinary techniques and ingredients that have been made.

But what really makes a place a bistro, and what really makes a dish an example of bistro food? It is a complicated question, and the answer really depends on who you ask. Some people might tell you that bistro food is just smaller versions of normal restaurant dishes, but the people who say that kind of thing simply cannot tell the difference. While a traditional restaurant might list everything on the menu that people expect to find at an Italian restaurant or a Mexican restaurant or whatever kind of place they are no matter how well they can cook that dish in reality, a bistro will limit its menu to a small selection of dishes that their chefs have done their best to refine and perfect. As a result, you will not have as many choices at a bistro as you might have at a diner or a pub, but all of your choices are guaranteed to be delicious – that is, you don’t have to worry that you’ll order a dish they rarely make that they’ll throw together in a hurry with whatever they have around.

As a result, the dishes served at bistros are usually very high quality. Bistros also usually seat fewer customers at each time, which means that they can focus on the perfection of each dish that is ordered every night. This draws a stark contrast to typical restaurants that try to maximize seating space in order to take in as much money as they can. As a result, every bistro dish has been cooked to perfection by an expert chef, and you don’t have to worry that they called in the dishwasher to grill your burger because of the huge crowd that night.

bistro guest tableAll of this means that dishes served at bistros are of the finest quality that you will be able to find. Taking a grilled pork chop as an example, at a traditional restaurant, several pork chops will be thrown on the grill and left there while the overworked chef attends to the rest of his duties – maybe it will be turned over once or twice and seasoned with salt and pepper if you’re lucky. In comparison, at a bistro, your grilled pork chop would be given careful attention for the entirety of the cooking process, from start to finish. Because of this, you will not get as much food at a bistro, but really what’s happening is that traditional restaurants tend to compensate for poor quality food by serving a lot of it. Instead, your bistro pork chop, even though it might be small, has been carefully selected as a high-quality cut by the chef, and has been lovingly tended and turned as it cooked, with each seasoning added at just the right time to impart its flavor in the most effective way. This is just one example of the care that is taken to make sure that the food is top notch at a bistro.