I like that a French colloquialism for a bistro, café, or bar is “le zinc” because of the classic zinc countertops that were common in pre-World War II France. Zinc countertops in cafés go back centuries in France. The revered French author, Emile Zola, in his 1873 book “The Belly of Paris” used the expression “le zinc.” The slang phrase, “Rendez-vous à ‘le zinc’,” translates as “Meet me at the café.” So common were zinc countertops that there were even special soaps for cleaning “le zinc” followed with applying a coating of beeswax to protect its patina.
Although many zinc countertops in French cafés were confiscated during World War II by occupying forces with the metal being recycled into the Nazi war industries, you can still find vintage zinc counters. It has even become fashionable for contemporary bistros looking for a historic ambiance to have brand-new “le zinc” countertops fabricated.