The Different Types of French Eateries

Unclear about the difference between a bistro and a bouchon? We break it down for you.


photograph by jared sych

La Boulangerie exterior.

In North America, terms for French restaurants are often used interchangeably, but, in France, there is a definite difference between a brasserie, a bistro and a bouchon. Here is a quick glossary of French eateries.


Bistros are intimate, usually family-owned restaurants that serve traditional fare and French wine. You’ll find casual menu items that also show up in brasseries, as well as tartes, braises and stews.


Specific to Lyon, bouchons are independent, casual dining spots that typically serve decadently high-fat items like pts, offals and roasts.


A bread shop. Dedicated boulangeries usually don’t dabble in pastries or cakes.


The name translates to “brewery,” so a brasserie is a French version of a pub: beer and cider are usually served in a loud, bustling space. Typical brasserie meals include steak frites or mussels (also with frites, please!).


In France, a caf is where you go for your coffee, and perhaps a light snack or lunch in the form of a croque monsieur or a meal-sized salad.


A bakery specializing in cakes and sweets. This is where you’ll find your eclairs, macarons and petit fours.

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