Bistro Culture and Parisian Bistros
In Paris, there are a few things more local than a typical bistro. Bistros in Paris are more than a place where people can eat or drink, they are an ‘art de vivre‘, a way of life and a place to exchange and socialize while enjoying the traditional food in Paris.
The bistro culture has long been part of the Parisian mythology. Historic figures like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir made cafes and Parisian bistros their second homes and offices.
However, over the past few decades, this social institution has come under threat with traditional Parisian bistros being replaced by more trendy establishments, especially in the touristy neighborhoods. Around 30 years ago, bistros represented about half of all restaurants in Paris, today this has dropped to 14%.
Thankfully, some chefs and restaurateurs lead by Chef Alain Fontaine have launched a campaign seeking UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage status for these iconic Parisian institutions, along with cafe terraces throughout Paris.
If you are looking for traditional Paris food in a local atmosphere, the bistros in Paris are the place to go and are a great way to enjoy Paris like a local. Go to lunch or dinner not in search of gastronomic revelation, but rather in the hope of being well-fed in the best French traditions of culinary simplicity by people who honestly love their job.
What is a Real Parisian Bistro?
Parisian bistros are popular establishments where people can eat traditional French recipes for an affordable price.
Paris bistros have a very particular atmosphere and style of decoration. Traditionally, bistros in Paris consist of a zinc-covered bar with a coffee machine and beer taps. The furniture is simple, often dating from the beginning of the 20th century: wooden chairs and tables, red leather banquettes, with vintage mirrors and advertising signs on the walls.
The bistro menu is limited and is written on the chalkboard every day. The zinc-covered counter with its beer taps is also an active bar where locals can gather for a drink and lively conversation.
Parisian bistros are a place for sharing, not only meals but also animated conversations so they can be a little noisy. Because bistros in Paris are small, the space for eating is limited (you can easily find bistro tables just 55cm wide), and with no privacy.
Historically a place of passage, Parisian bistros are today true spaces of relaxation, discussions, debates, the kind of place where it is not unusual to stay a few hours, or even until closing time.
Bistro or Bistrot? In French, you can use both names and they are more or less pronounced the same.
The Bistro Menu
Looking for traditional food in Paris? Then the bistro is the place to go, especially for eating in Paris on a budget.
Bistro cuisine is based on traditional French recipes made with fresh, seasonal products complemented with wine from small producers. The menu is usually limited and it can change from one day to the other according to what’s available at the market.
There are often the same starters with simple, but tasty dishes, such as terrines, small salads, beef bourguignon, pot au feu, veal blanquette, or the timeless steak-frites. It is also usual to find some typical Parisian desserts like baba au rhum or a Paris-Brest.
If the wines are not grand crus, they are still very pleasant, although more and more Parisian bistros are now looking for special wines to embellish their menus with interesting bottles.
Bistro vs Brasserie
What is the difference between Parisian bistros and brasseries?
Both establishments serve traditional food in Paris. A bistro is usually a small and pretty casual neighborhood restaurant, with a limited offer, affordable prices, and specific opening hours for lunch and dinner while a brasserie is more touristy, it serves throughout the day until late at night, and has a larger menu.
The decoration and atmosphere are also different in a brasserie. The brasserie is characterized by ornate, Art Nouveau architecture and decor, linen tablecloths, buttoned-up waiters, upscale service – with the prices to match!
Bistronomie – Paris’ New Culinary Trend
A contraction of “Bistro” and “Gastronomy”, the term Bistronomie combines the cuisine worthy of great chefs with the affordable prices of Parisian bistros.
The concept of Bistronomie (aka bistronomy) was born in the 1990s when the French were tired of spending a fortune to enjoy a refined meal. Gastronomic bistros in Paris combine the chef’s cuisine and low prices (assume around thirty euros per person for a menu comprising an entrée/ main course/ dessert). If the cuisine is as tasty as in a gourmet restaurant, the service is easier and without frills.
Every year, 100 representative establishments of the Parisian bistronomy are selected by a collective of seven internationally renowned chefs, such as Stéphane Jégo and Christophe Saintagne, in an event designed to highlight the culture of Parisian bistros.
These ‘bistronomy establishments’ represent all the arrondissements of Paris and respect a charter based on French cuisine, fair prices, the importance of short supply chains, and a genuine dialogue with small producers. These best bistros in Paris are represented by their chef, always present in the restaurant, the wine list, offers, and the variety and quality of their proposal.
Best Bistros in Paris (the E-book)
This e-book is the result of many nights of good food and wine, good conversations, and our passion for our local traditions and food culture in Paris. It presents the list of 40 top bistros in Paris (2 bistros for each of the 20 districts of Paris) that we have carefully selected for visitors in Paris wishing to enjoy Parisian culture with an enjoyable meal.
We have included bistros following the concept of bistronomy, with an inventive cuisine inspired by the classics of French cuisine but also looked for a characteristic atmosphere and decoration so typical of Parisian bistros. For each bistro we give you:
- A short description
- The working hours
- The address (and the closest metro station)
- The average price. This is a calculation based on a meal starter + main or main + dessert (without drinks)
- A link to their menu online (if available)
- Why we liked it. Our recommendations can be anything from their specialty or a great dessert to other characteristics like its decoration, or atmosphere.
The e-book (pdf file, 46 pages with beautiful pictures) also includes other interesting chapters like:
» Bistro culture and all about these iconic institutions in Paris
» More about the concepts of Bistronomie, Paris’ new culinary trend and Maître Restaurateur
» Typical bistro menu and dishes (starters, meat, fish, desserts). We give you the French names with a short description in English so you know how to expect when your order arrives 🙂
» Parisian bistro vocabulary from French to English so you can also order your meal like a local 😉
Enjoy the Best Bistros in Paris by District
Who is this e-book Best Bistros in Paris for?
This e-book is for you if:
» You are interested in food culture in Paris
» You want to explore (and eat!) Paris Like a Local
» You are looking for traditional food in Paris while exploring the different districts of Paris
» You have no idea where to eat like a local in Paris
» You want to go off the most famous guidebooks’ path
» You are interested in typical establishments for eating in Paris on a budget (around 30€).
Vegetarians in Paris
None of these bistros in Paris can be considered as wholly “vegetarian”. However, we care about our vegetarian readers and we made sure to include bistros offering vegetarian recipes (specified it next to the name of the bistro).
The e-book includes 10 bistros with vegetarian dishes but if you are ok with delicious soups, and copious salads you will be fine in all the establishments we recommend. In addition, we have included a link to their menus, when available online, so you can check their offerings before you go.
Read the First Reviews for the Best Bistros in Paris E-book
***** I like how it is written by a local who knows her stuff
If you want a practical guide on where to eat in Paris – then this is it! I like how it is written by a local who knows her stuff. When I’m traveling to a new city and short on time, I don’t want to risk eating somewhere that’s not great – so this book takes the risk factor out of the equation. Looking forward to following the advice in the book for my upcoming trip to Paris.
– Melissa, Australia
***** An indispensable guide to eating in Paris
An indispensable guide to eating in Paris – There’s no doubt that finding the right place to eat in Paris can make or break your trip. This guide to the Parisian Bistro will make your trip. Not only will you find the bistros to each in each of the Paris districts, but you’ll understand what to order and why. A great addition to your trip to Paris, to truly savour the entire experience.
***** World in Paris deliver you the best places to find authentic French cuisine
What a fantastic guide on Parisian Bistros! World in Paris deliver you the best places to find authentic French cuisine in this handy reference book, to save you from having to do the hard work. This is perfect for any visitor to Paris, as it’s laid out by arrondissements, so if you’re staying in one area, but visiting another during the day, it’s easy to find the best bistro near you! I especially appreciate the inclusion of vegetarian options – as eating in France as a vegetarian can be difficult at times – and even harder to find quality, specially prepared meatless meals! This book has me excited for my next trip to Paris – I can’t wait to try some of the recommendations!
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