They say that Lyon has the best food in France and has produced some of the greatest chefs of all time, and we wouldn’t dare disagree. Almost unavoidably, our short stay in Lyon was decidedly food-focused.
Lyon is beautiful, each street more charming than the one before it. Two rivers run through the city, which provide the star-struck tourist plenty of photographic opportunities. There are cathedrals, parks, gardens, museums, and so many food shops. We mostly walked and ate, which really is a wonderful way to pass a few days I f you can arrange it.
And now to the notes. What to do/eat if you find yourself in Lyon!
Les Halles de Paul Bocuse. Where Barcelona’s Boquería was loud and wild, Les Halles de Paul Bocuse is calm and refined. All of the food is exquisitely displayed, impeccably crafted and absolutely delicious. After wandering around for an hour or two admiring everything on display, we chose some bread, an assortment of cheeses, foie gras paté, fruit and a passionfruit tartlet for dessert. The phrase “Je ne parle pas français, mais j’aime le fromage” will get you quite far in these circumstances, I found. We took everything to Parc de la Tete d’Or, a large park about a 20 minute walk away, and had the most perfect picnic.
Le Bouchon des Filles. A bouchon is a traditional Lyonnaise restaurant. Historically, the bouchon was run by the women of the family—a big departure from the male-dominated haute cuisine—and typically served the secondary or offal cuts of meat. The dishes are hearty, the atmosphere homey, and you leave positively stuffed. The typical bouchon dishes we tried at Le Bouchon des Filles were lentil salad, herring with pickled vegetables, beef tongue, blood sausage and crawfish canelle. It’s a marathon. The waitress offered to let us take a walk before we had our dessert course. It’s probably advisable.
Le Bistrot du Potager. The busy, drop-in bistrot next to Potager’s much more high-end, 16 seat restaurant. If it’s summer, you’ll probably sit outside, sharing a bench with some lovely french women who the waitress will have insisted stand up so you could scoot into the last two available outdoor seats. Like many menus in France, the menu was handwritten on a chalkboard. We could barely read it, and so we guessed. Good news: It’s hard to go wrong even if you guess. We ended up with a charcuterie plate including mortadella, speck, chorizo and at least two other types of cured sausage, a salad of haricot vert, peaches and herbs, baked salmon with creme fraiche, piment and arrgula, and probably a few other things I cannot quite remember. Fresh, seasonal and a lovely contrast to dinner the night before at the bouchon.
C. Reynon Charcuterie. The master of charcuterie, at least according to Anthony Bourdain and Daniel Boulud. Have you noticed the theme of Lyon? Charcuterie. If you’re a tourist and it’s tragically not practical to buy an entire hunk of cured meat, you can ask them to cut you a few slices to take to go. Have it with some rosé back at your rented apartment and feel very great about your life.
Terre Adélice Glace. More ice cream! Jordan chose salted caramel, I chose fresh mint. I enjoyed this place because they have a wide variety of both classic and modern flavors and it wasn’t too sweet. What’s more enjoyable than walking along the river eating an ice cream in France on a warm summer night? Probably nothing.
So Lyon. Go there! Such wonderful food, not many tourists, great weather, beautiful streets—everything any reasonable, food-loving human wants out of France. And we barely scratched the surface.