Lyon is regarded as a food mecca for those seeking out traditional and rustic French cuisine. As with any urban city, there is always a high possibility of being fonted. What is fonted you say? Well, it’s a self-invented term: this verb, in the past tense, is used when someone has paid too much money after being lured into an eating establishment by classy font on a sign or a visually appealing interior that gives a false impression that the food is good as well.
So do your research and get reservations to avoid it!
It doesn’t take long to realize that Paul Bocuse runs this foodie town. The upscale indoor market, Les Halles de Paul Bocuse, is filled with tiny gastronomic-centric restaurants; vendors selling prepared French specialties, wine shops and produce stands. It’s frequented by Lyonnaise chefs, local foodies and tourists who appreciate top quality and, sometimes, rare products. If you are visiting Lyon, I highly recommend visiting Les Halles, grabbing a picnic and heading to La Tête D’Or Park on rented bikes.
Going beyond his fame for Michelin rated restaurants and establishing his renowned Institut Paul Bocuse cooking school, Monsieur Bocuse, is a pioneer in making haute cuisine more affordable and less stuffy with his Brasseries. Many refer to this concept as ‘Bistronomy’, however, French chefs cringe at this word. They like to think of it as a natural progression of dining in France as opposed to a trend. The Bistronomy movement is making tasty dining more affordable by reducing the fanciness. Place settings, service and décor are minimized compared to Michelin starred restaurants and, although, the dishes are more casual, the overall integrity of the food is kept. Chris and I ate dinner at Bocuse’s reputable Le Sud restaurant and were disappointed with everything from the bread to the dessert. I almost feel guilty saying it but I can’t recommend it! He has plenty of others to try if you’d like the Bocuse experience. Dinner at his Brasseries runs around €100 for two.
Possibly more famous than Paul Bocuse, are the Bouchon restaurants serving traditional Lyonnaise food. These establishments originally catered to the working class French; offering cheap meals. Traditional Cuisine Lyonnaise is centered around less desirable cuts of meat like tripe, pigs feet, veal muzzle, you name it, and cooking them to perfection. Bouchons have simple menus with little choice but the food is well prepared. There is an official symbol to identify classified bouchon restaurants that is often times visible on the restaurant windows or door. Many restaurants attempt false advertising to mislead tourists. After eating all the above animal parts and noticing that most menus were similar I lost my desire to seek out more. The food is rich, mostly proteins, and I personally felt €25 euros per person, no wine included, for lunch is a little steep (contrary to the original purpose of affordable meals). We tried A Ma Vigne (23 Rue Jean Larrive, in the 3e), which is popular among locals and will certainly give you the full bouchon experience. And although I haven’t tried either, Chez Georges and Canut et Les Gones, are two bouchons that reputable sources have endorsed.
And although Lyon is sought out for its rustic food, Fusion cuisine has also gained traction with its trending success stemming from Paris over the past decade. Chris and I tried Mama Shelter (3 Rue Domer, in the 7e), which is a happening spot to grab a bite and take in the scene. It is the sister restaurant and hotel of the one located in Paris. If you’re craving fusion fare I’d recommend checking it out. The cocktails are mixed to perfection. Speaking of cocktails, Le Florian (address: 4 Place de la Baleine) in the old city is worth a visit for a drink.
It’s important to point out that we’ve been on the road for 7 months and have mostly resided in smaller cities or the countryside. So when we hit Lyon, a larger city that has more cuisine variety, I bee-lined it to the Asian restaurants for a little spice. I stumbled on a yummy Banh Mi place in the 7e called Nam (12 Place Raspail, in 7e) which is an excellent option if a quick sandwich or noodle salad is needed for a picnic. Bon appétit!