One thing that you cannot miss out on when you visit Lyon is eating at the local, traditional bouchon. These little, family-owned bistros are synonymous with the Rhône-Alps capital and cannot be found in any other French city and are the only place to taste and enjoy traditional homemade Lyonnais meals. The only thing that you need to bear in mind is that, unfortunately, more and more restaurants are calling their bistro a bouchon despite it not being an authentic, classified one. But don’t worry, I have investigated a bit, tried some out myself and I can tell you how to find a real bouchon here in Lyon:
- There are only about 21 certificated bouchons in Lyon, and two alternative lists of the reliable bouchons. One was created by the Association de Défense des Bouchons Lyonnais and the other one by the Les Bouchons Lyonnais. Try to check them out before going out for a meal.
- Before entering the bouchon, have a quick look at the menu. Make sure they serve the traditional Lyonnais meals whose translations into English can sometimes make you run away. Look out for quenelle (natural or flavoured dumpling baked in the oven); Gateau de foie (chicken liver soufflé), saucisson brioche (a pork sausage cooked in pastry), andouillette lyonnaise (tripe prepared Lyon-style), cervelle de canuts (cottage cheese with herbs, garlic and onions), bugnes (typical dessert – a Lyon fritter with icing sugar), tarte praline (praline tart), groins d’âne (literally, “donkey snout” salad), gateau de volaille (chicken liver cake), boudin noir (blood sausage, usually served with warm apples), cardon à la moelle (in bone marrow) and so on.
- Have a sneak preview of the bouchon’s indoors and outdoors decor. It might sound strange but this is true, they all have some common and unique deco. In all of them you will find the red-and-white checked tablecloths, charcuterie hanging near the counter, balloon wine glasses, bistro chairs, Lyonnais wine jugs, a wooden counter, a pig (well not a real one)…
- Make sure the wine list has the Beaujolais or Côtes du Rhône wines! Those are the local wines and a traditional bouchon will not serve anything else than this house wine!
- And now the easy and obvious one. The sign! Don’t bother to enter if you don’t see the sticker of the Marionette Gnafron. But also when you see the sticker, make sure it is a real one!
- Check if the owner is around or don’t be surprise if the casual looking guy or lady approaches you and invites you for a meal. Its their family business, they love Lyon and cooking but mostly they love to share this passion for the Lyonnais cuisine with others.
- The atmosphere! Basically, it is very friendly, family-like. You will feel like home, with people chatting louder, with getting your home made meals cooked well or a bit burned (as in a home kitchen those things happen!) and you can be put to with strangers by the table. So very spontaneous and laid back atmosphere indeed.
- Lastly and this happens… if you find yourself in a bouchon with pizza on the menu, run away!
If you want to find out more about Lyonnais cuisine and the bouchons check out Aga’s blog: J’adoreLyon by shopaholicfromhome. And if you have questions or any your own experiences with local bouchons please do share!