Monday, July 16, 2007


Ah, Lyon, where to begin? I have read that people who knew the old Paris before the war say that Lyon is where that Paris has gone to. I only know that Lyon has all of the charm of a large French city with less of the sense of hurry and more of a smile than Paris. For us Lyon is primarily about eating, as it has been for legions of gourmands for centuries. Once the capital of Roman Gaul, there are wonderful Roman ruins to be seen, great museums (one of costume and cloth), and a delightful Old Town to be explored.

Lyon sits astride the confluence of two great rivers, the Saone and the Rhone, as it rushes down from the Swiss Alps on its way to the Mediterranean. The old joke is that Lyon is “watered by three rivers”, the third being “the Beaujolais” because just to the north are the vineyards of the Beaujolais villages and the large fields of Gamay grapes from which wine flows into the pots de Lyon (the odd blown-glass wine bottles) of the Lyonnaise bistros (called there bouchons).

A bouchon (the name is derived from the handful of straw once used as a stopper in a jug of freshly poured wine) is the local term for a small restaurant specializing in regional favorites. These include tripe, both as a stew and as a grilled dish, great sausages like the Rosette de Lyon (which is the local verson of a salami) and the Cervelas (a large garlicky pork sausage sliced thin and served with lentils), Quenelles of pike meat formed into oval dumplings, poached, and blanketed with Nantua sauce (a crayfish-butter béchamel), "Salade Lyonnaise" (green salad with bacon, croutons and a poached egg), Andouillette (more tripe), Petite Salé (brined pork shoulder in a lentil stew), duck liver salade, Coq au Vin with the famous Bresse chickens, Onion Soup (it was invented in Lyon to feed hungry silk workers cheaply), saucisson en brioche (a large garlic sausage cooked in a pastry shell or a bread dough), various crayfish preparations, and fantastic St. Marcellin cheese.

Because the name bouchon became overused and abused in order to lure tourists, there is now an official association, L'Association de Défense des Bouchons Lyonnais with the purpose of inspecting and approving places where the true dishes and old-style preparations can still be found. These places are allowed to display this sign:

We have eaten in several of them (on one trip to Lyon we became so stuffed with rich food that on our last night there, the plates hit the table and we both just stared at them, unable to eat another tiny morsel of food. It was a terrible shame…) and here is a list of some of our favorites so far. This is not comprehensive, it is merely the ones that we know about. There are so many great joints in Lyon that I think it could be a lifetime before you had actually eaten in all of them.

Places to eat in Lyon:

Paul Bocuse (one of the great restaurants of France; it will cost you at least $350 for two, but as a splurge, it is worth it.) He also has several spin-off bistros around Lyon but the one we ate in, Le Sud, was mildly disappointing because it was trying so hard to be international that it wasn’t a very local-feeling experience. Next time I would try Le Nord instead for a more Lyonnaise menu.

Café des Negociantes - great lunch spot, very beautiful old place, bustling and happy. Great food and art deco atmosphere.

Brasserie Georges – built 1836, vast art deco palace of great inexpensive food. A must.

64 Rue Mercière
69002 Lyon - France
Tel : – Belle Époque décor, traditional food, inexpensive, flexible menu.

Le Enfant Terrible, Rue Mercière – little bustling family bistro, perhaps our current favorite eating spot. Great traditional dishes, reasonably priced wine. Great experience.

LE MERCIERE Restaurant, Café-Comptoir_56 Rue Mercière_69002 Lyon_Tel :

Café comptoir Chez Abel (25/35 €)
25 rue Guynemer - 69002 Lyon
Tél. (fermé sam & dim, 25 Déc & 1 Jan)

The Best Chocolate in France: SA BERNACHON
42 Cours Franklin Roosevelt
69006 LYON – France

, rue Jean Larrivé

, rue des Marronniers

, rue du Major Martin

Bon Apetite! - Joe Gracey

preparing to stuff...

Salade de Foie de Canard