The 5-minute essential guide to Lyon's bouchons

Tablier de sapeur, cervelle de canuts, nappe à carreaux and mâchon... in Lyon, they don’t joke about the bouchon tradition! In this typical restaurant you can try traditional dishes in a friendly atmosphere. reveals the secrets of this institution and offers a few tips to enhance your meal at a bouchon.

A history of women

And, more specifically, mothers. In the 19th century, modest, self-taught cooks tended small, simple but hearty dishes. Their mantra: don’t spoil anything. They used the lowliest pieces of meat: shin, breast and other cuts judged less noble than fillets. Among the most famous were Mère Fillioux, made famous by her truffled poultry, or Mère Brazier, who learned the basics with Mère Fillioux before launching her own restaurant and becoming the first woman to receive three Michelin stars.

A garnish of baby onions

A counter, red and white checked tablecloths, wooden furniture, closely arranged tables, hanging copper pots and old posters, not to mention the noises and smells of cooking that make your mouth water... at a bouchon, conviviality and simplicity take precedence on the plate as well as in the dining room. Add to that a charismatic owner and authentic dishes – and the experience is complete!

Do you speak bouchon?

The menu – or rather the chalk board – at a bouchon can be a little confusing for those who don’t speak Lyonnais. Whet your appetite with grattons, crunchy pieces of browned pork fat. Continue with a Lyon sausage, cured with pistachios. Then come the dumplings, a pâté called ‘panade’ of poultry meat, veal or fish, or the tablier de sapeur, a speciality with beef tripe. The cervelle de canut, despite its name, is a kind of cheese dip with herbs and onions. Finish with the pink praline pie, as beautiful to look at as to taste.

By the way, why ‘bouchon’?

The term ‘bouchon’ originates from the bunches of twigs cabaret owners hung on their doors to advertise their establishment. But according to the association Les Bouchons Lyonnais, it’s best to ask each one for its own version of the story…

Conviviality, authenticity and excellence!

In bouchons, they don’t mess with quality. The Bouchons Lyonnais association brings together restaurateurs who are committed to perpetuating the tradition and authenticity of the bouchon. To find them, look out for the yellow plate with the face of Gnafron, a famous Lyon puppet and sidekick of Guignol, known to be a ‘bon viveur’. Behind the ovens are also great chefs, such as Joseph Viola, Best Worker of France, who runs Daniel & Denise, a Lyonnais bouchon with four outlets. Or Mathieu Viannay, who continues the work of the mother-founder of the bouchon, Eugénie Brazier, with two Michelin stars to his name.

The mâchon: breakfast of the canuts

We owe the tradition of the mâchon to canuts, silk weavers who settled in Lyon’s Croix-Rousse district in the 19th century. After a night of hard work, they enjoyed a ‘pot Lyonnais’ of pork with red wine from Beaujolais or Mâconnais. For those who like a hearty breakfast, some bouchons still maintain this custom. La Meunière, Café du Peintre, Vivarais and Poêlon d’Or are four such establishments, also members of the Bouchons Lyonnais association.