My list of “Things to Do in Lyon” was:
2. Eat at a bouchon.
What can I say? My ambitions for a city considered to be the “food capital of the world” were simple.
For the uninitiated, a bouchon is a restaurant that specializes in traditional Lyonnaise cuisine. Think heavily meat-centric, fatty, and often involving some kind of internal organ. It’s usually decked out with red and white checked tablecloths, and the atmosphere is cheerful and sociable. There won’t be any stuffy penguin-like waiters around, but a chat with the owner of the bouchon is likely, since they’re mostly family-owned.
Historically, bouchons developed in small inns in order to provide meals to the silk workers that passed constantly through the city in the 17th and 18th century. A picture of a bunch of “twisted straw” or “bouchon,” was typically used to designate the restaurants as such.
We had lunch on the terrasse of 2 different bouchons, located directly across from each other on the Place Neuve Saint Jean.
1. Le Gourmand de Saint Jean: 4 Place Neuve Saint-Jean
Every bouchon has a Menu Lyonnais, especially in the Old Town, where Le Gourmand de Saint Jean is located. A little touristy, yes. But well worth it for the chance to try a number of traditional dishes at a reasonable price. Agri and I took full advantage of this by selecting different items for each course.
I immediately knocked 2 items off my “must-eat” list, by ordering the Salade Lyonnaise (essentially some greens, poached eggs, and a whole lot of bacon), and the pike quenelle. At Le Gourmand de Saint Jean, it was soaked in lobster sauce and served with rice. Verdict? Delicious.
Price: Menu Lyonnais: 17 euro, including appetizer, entree and dessert
2. Le Comptoir du Boeuf: 3 Place Neuve Saint-Jean
Located just around the corner of Rue du Boeuf (yeah, it’s a real street name), it specializes in, yup, you guessed it. Beef.
Agri had the Menu Lyonnais, mostly because I wanted him to order some innards of some kind, because when in Lyon, someone has to eat organs. And it wasn’t going to be me. Fortunately, he likes eating intestines, hearts, livers and all manner of absolutely disgusting things. 😉
Price: Menu Lyonnais, 17 euro
I chose the Menu Comptoir Dégustation, not because of the steaks, but because of the escargots, which turned out to be just as divine as expected. For my personal preferences, the meat was a bit dry and tough, but still tasty, with the flavour of charcoal cooked in.
In retrospect, I think it would’ve been smarter to order the escargots a la carte, and get the cheaper Menu Lyonnais, since there were plenty of entrees on that menu that would’ve made me very happy.
Price: Menu Comptoir Dégustation, 29 euro
How do I find a bouchon?
There are 22 restaurants that have been awarded the “Les Bouchons Lyonnais certification,” by the Les Bouchons Lyonnais Association, based on factors such as the quality of products, cuisine, welcome, ambiance and respect for Lyon’s history and heritage.
In reality though, there are dozens and dozens of restaurants all over the city that call themselves bouchons, certified or not. And while I’m no expert, I’d venture a guess that the good people of Lyon don’t care much about whether a particular place has been designated as an “official” bouchon or not. 😉
In other words, don’t let that stop you from walking into any place that looks promising to have a meal. That’s exactly what we did and we were anything but disappointed.
Have you been to Lyon? Eaten at a bouchon? Would you be all over the internal organs? Tell us all about your meal in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!