Lyon, a lovely old town in the Rhone Valley, is arguably the French capital of food. Which means an essential pit stop for any self-respecting foodie.
First of all, Lyon is blessed to have access to excellent produce brought from all directions (as seen in the packed markets on Sundays). Second, Lyon is proud to be the birthplace of many French chefs (Paul Bocuse anyone?) and of equally many French cuisine classics (quenelles, andouillettes…). Third, what do you think about when you hear “Cotes du Rhône“, “Beaujolais“, or “Bourgogne“? Yes… all within an hour drive. Do we really need to say more?
It’s worth getting lost in the city’s little streets filled with terrasses, shops, fine or rustic restaurants, and make sure you don’t just stick with the old Lyon. With more than 2000+ restaurants in town, we had a seriously hard time to pick where (and what) to eat, but we’re glad that (almost) all places we tried were ridiculously good. So, instead of writing a gigantic article about this food paradise, we decided to do it justice by writing three equally massive ones over the next few weeks. Yes, with loads of photos, as usual.
So in this first article, we’ll focus on the “Bouchons” (meaning “corks”), the quintessential Lyonnais restaurant serving homey, cozy, and very pork-ey food. Usually small and family-run, those pittoresque eateries provide a very affordable option to sample the classics of real home French cooking. Meat – especially pork – is the star in most dishes, and the head-to-tail philosophy is well alive in bouchons, so you better be up for sampling offal in all shapes, colours, and textures (beef tongue, tripe, sausages, pork cheeks). If you’re vegetarian, on a diet, or simply prefer a delicate piece of sea bass with chervil and airy avocado mousse, you might want to skip the bouchons. Otherwise, this is as homey, authentic, and delicious as it gets! Don’t be afraid to order the house wines too, they’re better than you’d expect.
One of the best bouchons in town, the food is robust and sparkles in your mouth. The pork jaw in its sauce was even melting like a ripe Saint-Marcellin (a regional specialty cheese). If you speak French, act as if you didn’t, so you’ll receive the English version of the menu by the chef, a very fun and lovable character. Everything is damn good here!
Le Musée, 2 Rue des Forces, 69002 Lyon
La Mère Jean
Cute any cosy with delicious food. Another institution, the food is excellent and the menu meal is the real deal. Absolutely a must visit! The flank steak with melted Saint-Marcellin cheese was amazing and the marinated herrings were perfect.
La Mère Jean, 5 Rue des Marronniers, 69002 Lyon
Chabert et Fils
A few meters next to Mère Jean you will find Le Chabert. The food is pretty good (nothing compared to the others above), but they are one of the few bouchons open on Sundays and their menu offers a little more variety than the others (read: less meaty, so you can actually go with your vegetarian friends). The fish soup and skate wing were actually excellent.
Chabert et Fils, 11 Rue des Marronniers, 69002 Lyon
Yes, that’s just a few in many many more (and we certainly missed the better ones). We’re sad we couldn’t try them all… and that’s another very good reason to come back! We heard many good things about those other bouchons:
- Chez Mounier, 3 Rue des Marroniers, 69002 Lyon
- Café Comptoir Abel, 25 Rue Guynemer, 69002 Lyon
- La Tête de Lard, 13 Rue Désirée, 69001 Lyon
- Au Petit Bouchon Chez Georges, 8 Rue du Garet, 69001 Lyon
- Many more here (local food guide – in French)
And a few more great articles about Lyon’s bouchons and traditional cuisine:
- Lyon Gastronomy (via French Moments)
- Why Lyon is food capital of the world (via Guardian)
- Cuisine Lyonnaise (Wikipedia page – excellent article)
Our next article in this series will cover the best restaurants we tried in Lyon. There are many ahead, so stay tuned!