According to Wikipedia page on dining car, dining car is the same to restaurant carriage and diner.

While in the last paragraph it says

The U76/U70 tram line between the German cities of Düsseldorf and Krefeld offers a Bistrowagen (dining car in German), where passengers can order drinks and snacks.

It sounds like Bistro car is sort of a German-origin term for dining car. But referring to Google images, the top results look like drinking bars more than dining rooms.

So I'm wondering what Bistro car means (if it exists) and is it suitable to name a dining car (that doesn't serve alcohols) as a 'Bistro car'?

  • The term Bistro car simply means the speaker is using a (possibly second- or third-hand) translation. It doesn't have any special meaning in English as such, beyond the obvious implication that bistros are more about drinks and snacks than dining cars (where the emphasis is more on having a substantial meal). So perhaps some people might deliberately use bistro car to distinguish it from a dining car (or indeed from a buffet car where you're less likely to be able to buy alcohol), Aug 31, 2015 at 14:30
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about German usage, not English Aug 31, 2015 at 14:38
  • @FumbleFingers But where should I post this question to? I don't study German and English is a germanic language. Aug 31, 2015 at 14:55
  • I don't understand your problem. Given you don't study German, and Anglophones don't use this particular German expression, why do you want to ask about (discuss?) the usage at all? If you simply mean Is it appropriate to sprinkle unfamiliar foreign expressions into an English discourse?, I think the answer is that would be Off Topic (all a matter of opinion) here. Maybe there's an SO "Etiquette" site, I dunno. Aug 31, 2015 at 15:00
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    @FumbleFingers The question isn't about the meaning, it's about whether it's suitable/usable for naming a railroad car. I think if someone asked "Can I call this 8 foot long wood table with attached benches a bistro table?" that would be on-topic too. I just decided to do a search and it looks like Amtrak does use "bistro car" amtrakcascades.com/OnBoard.htm. Going to have to edit my answer now :/
    – ColleenV
    Aug 31, 2015 at 18:53

2 Answers 2


The English definition of bistro includes the idea of wine or other alcoholic beverages being served. I think of a bistro as a "European style" small restaurant with wine available to eat with your meal and some sort of outdoor seating, usually in the area in front of the bistro.

It turns out that at least one rail line, Amtrak Cascades, does refer to their dining car as a "Bistro Car". It does serve alcoholic beverages as well as soups, sandwiches, and snacks. I think that they used bistro instead of dining car to make it seem classy.

Also consider that a diner in the US has evolved to mean a "A small, usually inexpensive restaurant with a long counter and booths and housed in a building designed to resemble a dining car." where it used to mean just the dining car of a train.

Image of a diner

And as Karen pointed out, the primary feature of diners is a usually inexpensive, simple menu with seating that includes a counter, and not necessarily the shape of the building.

enter image description here

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    I'd suggest that diner has evolved away from the long, narrow building definition to any restaurant that has a diner style counter and a basic, American-food menu, usually inexpensive.
    – Karen
    Aug 31, 2015 at 20:04

According to Wikipedia:

A bistro is, in its original Parisian incarnation, a small restaurant, serving moderately priced simple meals in a modest setting.

So, yes, it is appropriate to name a dining car a Bistrowagen (in German) and bistro car in English.

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    Not in the context on English! Apart from anything else, we spell the second part wagon (wagen is out-and-out German). The word bistro has been pretty well integrated into English, but we call the section of a train a car or carriage anyway, so it seems to me this German expression is highly unlikely to gain currency with Anglophones. Aug 31, 2015 at 14:34
  • To be pedantic, the origin of Bistro is Russian. It is the russian for 'quickly' and was adopted by the French during the Napoleonic wars to refer to fast food.
    – Chenmunka
    Sep 1, 2015 at 14:00

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