Get the info on the spots that the Lyonnais frequent
Lyon is said to be the springboard for nouvelle cuisine, a movement popularized in the 60s, which lightened up and modernized classic French dishes. Lyon has long been regarded the culinary mecca in France, and foodies the world over come to dine here. Locals might also tell you that’s why there aren’t many lesser known restaurants—when it’s good, word travels fast. Still, here are a few restaurants the Lyonnais consider passage obligatoire, a few musts. Food appreciation is a civic duty for the French. So if you’d like to do as the locals do, then you must visit Lyon tout de suite!
Brasserie Georges, opened by Alsatian Georges Hoffherr, has been brewing its own beer and serving enough sauerkraut dishes to create a separate menu for it since 1836—and it has been a local institution ever since. Also known as BG or Le Georges, this brasserie is the largest in the city, and has hosted literary greats including poet Paul Verlaine, Jules Verne, and Emile Zola. For a real local treat, try something from the "Menu Lyonnaise," like the pork and pistachio sausage in a white wine sauce served with mashed potatoes, or perhaps the pork foot coated with breadcrumbs and cooked in a cloth with tartar sauce, potatoes, and parsley.
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Le Café Thomas
Since apéritif is the necessary starter to any good meal in France, chef Thomas Ponson created a restaurant dedicated to that fundamental first course. It’s a tapas bar with small plates to be paired with cocktails, beer, and wine. It’s not just classic Spanish appetizers but also the chef’s inspirations in small sharable portions. Whether it’s charcuterie, oysters, marinated shrimp, burrata, chicken wings, the menu will depend on the good market finds of the day. Ponson certainly knows the recipe for success: he also operates a restaurant, bistro, bouchon, and private dining room. Our local tip was to head to Le Café first.
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Le Ninkasi Gerland
A brewery opened in 1997, this venue is named after the Sumerian goddess of beer, Ninkasi. But what’s beer without an excellent burger—and good music? If that idea sounds familiar, it’s because this locale was inspired by great burger-and-beer joints in the U.S. This deity of an institution is no hidden secret: it’s a franchise of 15 restaurants that dodges all stereotypes of French snobbery in the food scene. Before you turn away thinking you can get a burger any day back home—you’re bound to rub elbows with the Lyonnais much faster here than the more touristed brasseries in town. For an excellent burger in a low-key ambiance with friendly folks and award-winning regional beers, look no further.
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Grand Café des Négociants
Like Brasserie Georges, this is another Lyonnais mainstay, but a tad more chic. Since 1864, the restaurant has maintained its Second Empire architectural style: it’s all gold trim, brass, mahogany, red leather and velvet below ornate, mirrored walls reaching high-ceiling grandeur. Reports can be mixed on the food: some fantastic notes with an occasional claim that it’s not worth the hype. But, it’s clear that the ambiance alone merits a visit, even if just for an excellent espresso, a cup of hot chocolate, or dessert. Or, perhaps just for your apéro before dinner. If you’re feeling charmed after a kir royale or two, go with your gut and stay for the meal!
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Le Café Terroir
Make a reservation in this quaint and cozy corner where service is friendly and the food is held to high standards. Taking pride in the origin of its ingredients, this restaurant makes that promise with its name. Terroir means soil, but it also means climate and other environmental factors of the habitat in which the ingredients grow. With products sourced from all over Rhône-Alpes, the café aims to avoid processing or refining foods to maintain both flavor and the nutritional value of its natural state. From escargot and beef tartare to the mousse made from local Valrhona chocolate, it’s an excellent menu that will acquaint you with the fine foods of France.
Find out more: Le Café Terroir