Both cafés and bistros serve food, coffee, and provide a place to seat yourself to enjoy a date or time with your friends. But, what constitutes the difference between a bistro and a café?

What is a bistro

Well, simply put, bistros are a smaller type of restaurant that offers a casual setting for heartier meals. Meaning, you’ll enjoy a more homestyle meal off a bistro menu rather than a pastry or bagel. It provides affordable meals for lunch and dinner and usually opens for a period during those dining hours. A chef typically owns the bistro and creates the cuisine on the menu. Depending on the style of cooking, the meals could range from several regions like France, Italy, Spain, or even the United States. Coffee and wine are also known to be served in addition to the meals.

Aren’t cafés like bistros?

Cafés are more casual, providing a place to stop, grab a coffee and a pastry on the go or for a quick get together with friends or a date. They are usually open for extended periods, sometimes 24 hours and offer fast style food like bagels, pastries, and simple breakfast sandwiches. The menu hardly changes from previous days and usually serves the same items. It’s utilized more for a social atmosphere rather than a restaurant atmosphere. You can order at the counter and have your coffee and food within minutes while at a bistro is more of a sit-down experience.

So, are they the same?

All in all, the two can almost be used interchangeably. Some cafés can serve more of a robust menu, and a bistro can serve made to order food for a quick in and out service. The things that do set them apart, however, is the formality, the meal itself, and their historical use across the world.