Bob and I were discussing a local restaurant the other day called the Via Birch Bay Bistro & Café, because we'd just driven past it. We have not been to it. A friend who is a lot less fussy than I about food raves about their fish & chips but warns us to tell the kitchen, should we ever go, to have them put our food on a plate instead of that little red plastic basket (ew). (No one else has recommended the food at all--they just make a face when I ask.) That's one thing I know. The other is that by reputation the restaurant is succeeding mostly on the basis of its bar scene for local singles. Nothing about either of the things I know suggests I should go there for a meal, and I haven't.
And there's one other problem: their name. "Via", Italian for 'way' I think, implies Italian food but that's not what they serve. And what's this Bistro AND Café business all about, in my book you may be one or the other but not both. Worse, albeit from a distance, this place is neither. I would call what I know of what they serve just "bar food". Uncomplicated, burger-driven, no chef required, heavily dependent on the deep fryer.
And there ensued a conversation about what the official definitions of café, bistro, and restaurant are. I had to admit that I did not know if there were any official definitions, but in my experience café implies very casual with a modest offering of reasonably priced food and a certain ambience, possibly/maybe mandatorily some outdoor seating in good weather, and in the U.S. anyway, entirely likely not to serve alcohol. Might be open for breakfast. Or even just breakfast and lunch. A bistro, I said, should be reasonably priced, casual French/European food that can be served and consumed in less time than a more formal meal. Would definitely serve alcohol, and would not be open for breakfast. Neither definition suits the restaurant we were talking about. A place that does not understand what these words mean this isn't looking for me to be a customer.
So what's a gastropub he wanted to know. Ah, the gastropub! Most exciting new restaurant type in our lifetime, I posited. Emphasis is on beer plus there's a full bar, and the food is as important as the alcohol. It's highly likely if not expected that a real chef is in the kitchen.
So having gone out on that limb, this morning I read this on eater.com: The editor of the newly-released Michelin Eating Out in Pubs Guide 2014, Rebecca Burr, is calling for an end to the term "gastropub." The gastropub — AKA a pub that serves slightly fancier fare than a traditional pub — was a trend in the UK a few years back, and the term was later imported to the US. Burr's point is that good food should be considered standard in pubs: she told the Morning Advertiser, "A pub doesn't need a makeover to serve good food, nor does it need to transform itself into a restaurant." Bold words.
So what's in a name? Does my version of these definitions match yours? Is 'gastropub' useful? Do we need more categorical descriptors?
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov