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 reservation in advance or you’ll find yourself prancing in front of the glass while other lucky schmucks slurp over your praline tart.
One type of restaurant you will come across frequently in Lyon is known as Bouchon. These restaurants, which began as places where women sold home-cooked meals to workers to earn extra cash, are about as traditional as it gets. The dishes are very meaty, and you will have to do a little google research before ordering, because the people of Lyon are famous for using all part of the animal. But the corks have stuck around for a reason: they’re places where you can 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 warm atmosphere with a glass of Beaujolais and get ready to eat your heart out… literally.
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, like 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.
The best lunch offers in Lyon
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 white, minimalist wall 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 hovers perfectly 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.
Eat cheap in Lyon
Sometimes you don’t need the ceremony of a sit-down restaurant to make a meal worthwhile. The food speaks for itself Food traboule in Old Lyon, a Food Court for gourmets. The name refers to secret passages, or traboules, located in the oldest district of Lyon. 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 shopping, because there are several restaurants in the market, 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.
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’s currently somewhere in Europe with a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman.