How to eat well in Lyon, the French food capital, for 30€ and less
Any foodie worthy of that Himalayan pink salt knows that while Paris has restaurants to satisfy even the pickiest diners, the City of Light isn’t quite the food capital of France. Lyon, in fact, has been a morning star for epicureans since chefs Eugénie Brazier and Marie Bourgeois transformed local working-class lunches into Michelin-starred dishes in the 1930s. It’s been a training ground ever since. for chefs, and the city’s culinary school, the Paul Bocuse Instituteis the only one in France to have a Michelin starred restaurant.
Lyon is clearly a foodie destination, with more restaurants per capita than any other city in France, and 15 Michelin-starred restaurants. But while it may seem like a mecca for haute cuisine, you don’t have to spend a fortune to eat well in Lyon. There are plenty of restaurants where you can eat spectacularly without breaking the bank. Just be sure to make your reservations in advance, as the best places tend to fill up quickly.
One type of restaurant you will come across frequently in Lyon is known as Bouchon. These restaurants, which started out as places where women sold home-cooked food to workers to earn extra cash, are about as traditional as it gets. The dishes are meat-heavy, and you’re going to want to do a quick Google search before ordering, as the people of Lyon are famous for using all parts of the animal. But they’ve stuck around for a reason: they’re places to eat a quality meal at a reasonable price, and many offer prix fixe menus for lunch or dinner.
Bacon’s Head is a classic Bouchon, serving dishes like Salade Lyonnaise (bacon and a poached egg on green salad) and Andouillette en Croûte (sausage made from pork intestines, cooked in a pastry shell and served in a spicy mustard). And for dessert, it’s always good to get a slice of pink praline tart, a local speciality. Enjoy a starter, main course and dessert for only 30 €, or €22 if you go during lunch time. Enjoy the cozy atmosphere with a glass of Beaujolais and get ready to eat your heart out.
The Girls Cap
If classic isn’t quite your style, you can get an update on the Traditional Stopper at The Girls Cap. This female-run restaurant is a local favorite, serving healthier, modern versions of classic Bouchon cuisine, such as a quenelle (a huge fish ball) and canut brain (cottage cheese with fine herbs). Their dinner menu is only 28 €, and comes with several small “salads”, a starter, a main course, a cheese dish and a dessert. It ends up being a lot of food, but you won’t want to waste a bite of it.
Why breakfast is the best meal of the day
If you really want to eat well while saving money, consider moving your big meal of the day from dinner to lunch. Many of the more expensive restaurants in Lyon offer a very reasonable lunch menu, with three courses for around €25. Just be aware that most restaurants have very limited hours, so lunch is only between noon and 2 p.m., and a reservation is always highly recommended.
The Blue Pepper
If you want a meal that deserves to be savored the rest of the day, or even the week, grab a table at The Blue Pepper. This minimalist with white walls restaurant is based on a philosophy of ethically sourced local ingredients, handled with care and presented in style. Their menu is as simple and fresh as possible, so only two starters and two main courses are offered per day. Have your three-course lunch for 25 €or go for a full dinner for €34.
The Cork of the Cordeliers
Another old school cap, The Cork of the Cordeliers is a multi-story, red-checkered tablecloth-like establishment that straddles the perfect line between kitsch and fine dining. They offer a three course lunch menu from Tuesday to Friday at 28€ called their “Menu des Canuts”, named after the silk workers who supplied Lyon’s largest industry. But you can always leave à la carte for dinner if you wish, with main courses averaging €18.
Less formal, more options
Sometimes you don’t need the ceremony of a sit-down restaurant to make a meal worthwhile. The food speaks for itself Food Traboulé in Old Lyon, a Food Court for gourmets. The name refers to the secret passageways, or traboules, found in Lyon’s oldest quarter. Spread over three levels and seven spaces, the Food Traboule allows everyone to order a quality meal from the restaurant of their choice, from the chef who interests them that day. Most dishes cost between €13 and €15 and offer a “Happy Midi” lunch menu from Monday to Friday with 10€ mealor 13 € if you want lunch and dessert.
Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse
This famous covered market supplies all of Lyon and is the first stop for all the chefs in the city every morning. Whether fish, cheese, meat, fresh produce or specialities, you will find everything on your shopping list at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. Bbut it’s not just a place to go for groceries because there are several restaurants in the market too, most of which are only open until 2 p.m., making Les Halles an excellent stopover for a gourmet lunch without pomp and circumstance. Restaurant Hallfor example, offers a dish of the day at €11.50 or a three-course lunch at €18.
To eat lunch
The kitchen is ideally located between two major Lyon universities, so it is a popular place for students at any time of the day. Although it looks like a brunch bar, the restaurant doesn’t actually serve brunch, but they do a fantastic breakfast until 11am. Get a coffee and pastry for €4 and take advantage of the trendy blue and gold decor, or splurge “The total” which is accompanied by a hot drink of your choice, a pastry of your choice, a juice of your choice (including apricot and apple-quince), and a bowl of yoghurt-muesli with fruit, all for 14 €. Definitely the best place to start your morning. Their lunch is excellent but more expensive, €35 for a three course meal. If you slept late and missed breakfast, you can always come back before 6:30 p.m. for their “dessert bar”, which includes a great assortment of pastries.
Catherine Rickman is a professional writer and Francophile who has lived in Paris, New York and Berlin. She is currently on a road trip through France, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman.