AskDefine | Define cafe

Dictionary Definition

cafe n : a small restaurant where drinks and snacks are sold [syn: coffeehouse, coffee shop, coffee bar]

User Contributed Dictionary



Alternative spellings


  1. A coffee-shop; an establishment selling coffee and sometimes other drinks or snacks, with a facility to consume them on the premises.


Extensive Definition

A café (also spelled cafe, or /kæˈfeɪ/) or coffee shop is an informal restaurant offering a range of hot meals and made-to-order sandwiches. This differs from a coffee house, which is a limited-menu establishment which focuses on coffee sales. Depending on the jurisdiction, a café may be licensed to serve alcohol. The term can also refer to bistro or a restaurant facility within a hotel. In some countries, however, a café is synonymous with a coffee house.
In small towns the local café is often the central gathering spot for conversation and meetings. Such cafés are especially popular for breakfasts. In central business districts (CBD) of larger cities cafés and coffee shops are often open only for breakfast and lunch, since their patrons leave the area after business hours.
In France, a café also serves alcoholic beverages. French cafés often serve simple snacks such as sandwiches. They may have a restaurant section. A brasserie is a café that serves meals, generally single dishes, in a more relaxed setting than a restaurant. American cafés may or may not serve alcoholic beverages, and the serving of coffee is incidental to the serving of food. British cafés, however, do not sell alcohol. In Europe, cafés often have an enclosed or outdoor section extending onto the sidewalk.
In the Netherlands, a café is an establishment selling liquor, as opposed to coffeeshop, which sells soft drugs (cannabis and hashish) and is typically not allowed to sell liquor.
A "café" can also refer to a small informal public discussion. Science cafés are an increasingly popular form, and involve a conversation between a scientist and the general public. These events take place in casual, open venues like coffeehouses and pubs. Find out more at, or Cafe Scientifique.

Spelling and pronunciation

The most common spelling café is the French spelling, and was adopted by English-speaking countries in the late 19th century . Café can also be spelled caffè (the Italian spelling), In southern England, especially around London in the 1950s, the French pronunciation was often shortened to [kæf] and informally spelt caff .
A long history of lack of support for accented characters in (first) typewriters and (later) computer OSs (which can be explained principally by the fact that these technologies were largely pioneered by people whose native language, English, generally did not require diacritical marks) has guaranteed that the spelling cafe has also become common.


cafe in Russian: Кафе
cafe in Turkish: Kafe

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

alehouse, automat, bar, barrel house, barroom, beanery, beer garden, beer parlor, bistro, blind tiger, buffet, buvette, cabaret, cafeteria, canteen, cantina, chophouse, chuck wagon, cocktail lounge, coffee shop, coffeehouse, coffeeroom, cookhouse, cookshack, cookshop, diner, dining hall, dining room, dive, dog wagon, dramshop, drinking saloon, drive-in, drive-in restaurant, eatery, eating house, fast-food chain, gin mill, grill, grillroom, groggery, grogshop, hamburger stand, hash house, hashery, honky-tonk, hot-dog stand, kitchen, local, lunch counter, lunch wagon, luncheonette, lunchroom, mess hall, nightclub, pizzeria, pothouse, pub, public, public house, quick-lunch counter, rathskeller, restaurant, rumshop, saloon, saloon bar, smorgasbord, snack bar, speakeasy, taproom, tavern, tearoom, trattoria, wine shop
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