The bistro refers to a type of French coffee shop that was popular at the turn of the last century. Such a venue is associated with underground art movements, the writing of great novels, the discussing of philosophy and new ideas and innovations. In France in the late 1800's and early 1900's the bistros were where the great thinkers of the time came together in order to share ideas and stretch one another's minds.
The bistro table is a stylized piece which is generally quite tall, and quite small. This is often paired with a set of tall chairs. The entire effect gives the illusion of space, without actually taking up much space in a restaurant. This is because bistros were often crowded, with owners having to put table sets out on the sidewalk in order to be able to accommodate all of their customers.
The style of the bistro is so symbolic and iconoclastic that it is now quite popular as a home decorating style for people looking for a small kitchen or outdoor table. These pieces can range in quality, from simple wrought iron pieces, all the way up to elaborate scroll work designs which are crafted in a variety of materials.
The general nature of a bistro table is at its heart utilitarian, with these pieces being used as a way of complimenting the functionality of a space, giving it more surface area to work on, and more social space to interact across.
The nature of the bistro table that you choose should be matched to the style of the environment where it will be placed. This means that if you have a very simple setting, you will want a table that matches that simplicity with a rustic, rugged hardiness. By contrast a fancy, upscale décor may do better with a polished marble, or mosaic stone table top that will match the decorative beauty of the area.