I just looked for a helpful definition of <<Bistro>> because I can’t really tell the difference between Bistro(t)s, Brasseries or even (some) Restaurants. Despite the nomenclature, when lunchtime calls, where you are is more important than what the establishment is called. Look around where you happen to be in Paris at the moment. You’re likely to see several examples of Bistros, Brasseries, and other undeclared dining establishments.
Back here in California I was dreaming of lunch in Paris while I was looking longingly at my copy of Linda Dannenberg’s Paris Bistro Cooking with exquisite photographs by Guy Bouchet. The book was published way back in 1991. In the long ago 90’s I had lunch at one of the Bistros shown in the book (La Cafetière) which was located in the 6th arrondissement. I thought I’d trip down memory lane and dine there again this year. Nope. N’existe plus. I looked up five of the Bistros listed in the book that were located in the Le Sixième and found only two still operating at the moment. I’m miffed. How dare they close *my* favorite bistro. Paris should stay just the way *I* experienced it at various times over several decades. But the powers that be don’t consult me very often — make that never.
Two years ago I happily noticed the Brasserie Balzar just across the street when I needed a lunch break after a visit to the Cluny Museum. Brasserie Balzar is the place that Adam Gopnik wrote about trying to save from a corporate take over in his book Paris to the Moon. They weren’t able to save it. The Balzar and several other cherished neighborhood establishments are now part of The Flo Group chain. I had lunch at (the now corporate) Brasserie Balzar twice during my most recent stay. It might not have been the same Brasserie Balzar as Adam’s version, but it smelled, tasted and felt sufficiently Parisian to me.
So here’s my bistro quest recommendation — take the bus somewhere. Walk around a few streets. Look up just high enough to see a sign that says Bistro, Brasserie or Restaurant, y-allez, and (as Julia Child would say) Bon Appétit!