A Quick Guide to Types of Parisian Eating Establishments

Richard Nahem, an ex-New Yorker living in Paris, leads private insider tours showing visitors the Paris most of them never see on their own (www.eyepreferparistours.com), and also writes a popular insider's blog www.eyepreferparis.com.

la jacobineVisitors to Paris are sometimes confused by the different kinds of eating establishments in the city and the hours and times they keep. Here is a simple guide to the different categories. 


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The most common establishment, the leisurely café, is where most people linger while drinking coffee, tea, wine, and beer, and many now have cocktails and Happy Hour. Cafes are open all day and night serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner and the same menu is served throughout the day, with more casual fare of sandwiches, croques, omelets, and salads. Most cafes have sidewalk terraces, which open all year round, with heat lamps in winter. Cafe de Flore, Cafe de la Paix, Les Deux Magots, and Le Fouquet's are some of the most well known in the city. 


A brasserie is a restaurant that serves the same menu all day, sometimes with a few daily specials called the plat du Jour. The cuisine is classic French with dishes like charcuterie, plats de mer, steak tartare, onion soup, and confit de canard.  Brasserie means brewery and many serve a good selection of beer on tap. Some of the top Parisian brasseries include Brasserie Lipp, Bofinger, Vaudeville, and La Coupole.


A bistro is a small, intimate, neighborhood restaurant with simple food, usually with a single owner or chef-owned. Bistros are open at set times, usually 12PM to 2 or 2:30PM for lunch and 7:30PM to 10:30 or 11PM for dinner and most of the time closed either Sunday or Monday, or both. There’s an urban legend that how the bistro got its name is when Russian soldiers were at La Mere Catherine restaurant in Montmartre on Place du Tertre in 1812, their food was too slow in coming, so they yelled "Bistrot! Bistrot!” which means quickly in Russian. Some favorite bistros are Le Reminet, Chez Janou, L' Atelier d'Antan, and Chez Dumonet.

Salon de Thé

In category of it own, a salon de thé specializes in cakes and pastries along with tea and coffee. They are usually open from morning to early evening and sometimes serve light lunches and small dishes. Popular salon de thé's include Ladurée known for their mouth-watering macarons, Carette, Mariage Freres, which is inside a tea shop, and Angelinas, which is known for its legendary hot chocolate.