Bistro — what is it?


Bistro was the word that I recently encountered.

Of course, I have heard the term and been to eateries that bill themselves as bistros.

In my other blog about businesses in Loveland, Colorado, I recently wrote about a restaurant that was called a bistro.

In this case, Sofia’s Bistro has recently changed its name and menu. It is now La Casa, a Mexican bar and grill.

In chatting with the owner (the place did not change hands) he gave a couple of reasons for the switch.

He felt that many people stayed away from his eating establishment because they perceived a bistro as being an expensive place.

This perception is held locally in part because there is a place in a nearby town that is called Jay’s Bistro.  It is in fact high-end.  I call places like this “anniversary restaurants” because I only frequent them on special occasions.

If people did their word research on the term bistro, here is what they would find.

A bistro is a small, modest, European-style restaurant or café.  It can also be a small nightclub, bar or tavern.

Another definition I found says a bistro is a small or unpretentious restaurant.

Wikipedia gives this etymology of the word bistro

The origins of the word bistro are uncertain. Some say that it may derive from the Russian bistro, “quickly.”

According to an urban legend, it entered the French language during the Russian occupation of Paris in 1815.  Russian officers or cossacks who wanted to be served quickly would shout “bystro.”

However, this etymology is not accepted by several French linguists as there is, notably, no occurrence of this word until the end of the 19th century.[3] Others say the name comes from a type of aperitif, called a bistrouille  (or liqueur coffee), served in some reasonably priced restaurants.


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