Bouchons are small restaurants found in Lyon that serve traditional Lyonnaise cuisine. The dishes are typically rich and meat- and offal-oriented. It’s not a place for the weak or picky eater.
Nearly 20 years ago, an organization started certifying restaurants as official bouchons based on their adherence to traditions. Currently, there are approximately 20 officially designated bouchons in Lyon.
Before leaving DC, a former French co-worker of mine (that was weird to write) told me to try one when I headed to the area. I completely intended to, but hadn’t done much research on these ahead of time (this will be a theme) – even to know what times these restaurants close. We checked into our hotel at almost 9:30pm and quickly realized that my first four restaurant picks were closed. I found one option that was still open and we practically ran over there hoping we could get in.
We were extremely lucky to get in to Chez Georges and were in for quite a treat. Keep in mind, we just got off the train and were cold, hungry, and tired so a small, cozy restaurant serving rich, home-style cuisine was the perfect antidote. The place was small. The tables had red and white patterned tablecloths, the menu was only written on the wall, and it had the right amount of clutter that gives a space a homey lived-in vibe.
Despite our new goal to only eat at bouchons for the rest of the weekend, we couldn’t get into any other officially designated Bouchons (these places book up fast – reservations are often needed, which seems rather antithetical to the whole concept). However, we did head over to Le PaillerOn in the Croix-Rousse neighborhood, and had the opportunity to try some other traditional Lyonnaise dishes. Here is run down of what we tried over the weekend– we tried to hit the key specialties:
- Kir with red wine
- Rum cocktail (can’t recall the name)
- Salade Lyonnaise – green salad served with bacon, crouton, and a fried egg. Not exactly light.
- Gateau de foies de volaille (Chicken Liver cake) – Pretty much exactly what it says. Had this twice with two very different preparations. Both very good.
- Pâté de tête maison (Head Cheese) – Very good. Served with toasted bread and a surprisingly good salad.
- Rognons de Veau (Calf’s kidney) – what appeared to be a single kidney served in a creamy mustard sauce. Very good.
- Saucisson chaud braise au Beaujolais – sausages cooked in red wine. Sausage was good. This is a good safe choice for someone who doesn’t want anything too crazy.
- Quenelles de Brochet – dumpling-like dish made with fish and served in a creamy sauce. It’s good, but heavy and uniform so I probably would prefer it if were a side.
- Tripes Lyonnaises – Baked trip dish with garlic and parsley. Tripe is probably not for us. Might have been our last tripe dish.
- Saint-Marcellin cheese – creamy and a little tangy.
- Ice cream with crème de marron – simple, but delicious.
- Crème brulee – standard.
- Hazelnut-chocolate crumble – really, really good. It was like a scoop of nutella topped with a butter-sugar-flour crumble topped with whip cream.
Well, Lyon isn’t considered the capital of gastronomy for nothing. Hopefully this will give you some food inspiration to have some offal-ly good meals when you are around these parts. Sorry, that was so tripe of me.