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Food in Lyon

Hello, the first 2 nights of our first France trip will be in Lyon. Would love a restaurant suggestion as I know great food is plentiful there. Our first foray with French food (in France; otherwise we are fairly food savvy!) Perhaps a special, but mid-priced meal in a not too fancy place?
And another question: how does one make a reservation at French restaurants? How far ahead? If I call will I need a lot of French? (I do have Rick’s book with frequently-used phrases.)
Thanks for any suggestions!

Posted by
5688 posts

OK, we like to eat but we're not foodies so in Lyon we just walked along the street looking at posted menus until something looked good, then walked in. Yum!

Posted by
401 posts

Julie,

Where in Lyon will be staying? That would help narrow down recommendations.

As far as reservations go, if you don't speak French, the easiest thing would be to pick a restaurant that has a reservation tool on their website. lafourchette.com may also be useful for making reservations. I would not recommend using email as a means of making reservations because it's pretty common for restaurants to not monitor their email accounts religiously.

If you want to go to a restaurant that doesn't take online reservations, you may find it easier to stop by earlier in the day (or the day before) and work through the process in person -- you may find that easier than being understood over the phone when the other person is trying to understand your fractured French with the cacophony of a busy restaurant in the background.

It's pretty straightforward (you would be in bold, the restaurant in italics):

Bonjour monsieur (or madame). Je voudrais réserver une table (I would like to reserve a table).

Pause, and they'll ask either when or for how many.

Pour combien de personnes ? (For how many people?): Pour deux personnes (for two people)

Quand ? (When?): Pour le quinze juin (on the fifteenth of June)

A quelle heure ? (At what time?): A vingt heures. (At 8 PM.)

Votre nom ? (your last name?): XXXXX (If you have an unusual last name, it's sometimes better to pick a fake name that would be recognizable to a French person so you don't have to spell it, as letters are pronounced differently in French than in English. Consider "DuBois" [dew bwah] or "Bernard" [bear nahr])

You may hear the word complet (full) or indisponible (unavailable). Either way, say merci and move on.

If you're staying at a hotel, ask the desk agent or concierge to call and arrange for the reservation.

As far as how far ahead of time -- it depends on the restaurant. In a town the size of Lyon, you should have no problem making a reservation earlier in the day for the same evening, though you might need to try a few places if you focus on trendy or particularly busy restaurants.

Posted by
2486 posts

I disagree with Bob regarding email. If the website has an email on the contact link I have used it with a 95% success rate throughout Europe to make reservations. I send my request in polite English. You’d be very game to try and make a reservation by phone speaking French if you are not bilingual. You will likely not understand the response. English is widely spoken and, in my experience, if the person answering is not bilingual they will fetch someone who is.

Posted by
401 posts

Good for you, Alan. I had essentially the reverse experience when I first moved to France, until I learned to be more comfortable making reservations directly. Almost none of them worked via email. I guess I tend to pick small out of the way restaurants that don't put a priority on monitoring their email account.

Posted by
4671 posts

If you genuinely don't speak any French, you may have a problem making reservations online as some restaurants will telephone you to confirm the reservation and cancel it if you don't respond.

Posted by
2486 posts

Phillip, I’ve been doing this for years and my French is quite limited. But, my voice mail is in English and if I am called to confirm (which I find much more common in the US then Europe) they leave a message in English.

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks for great info about reservations. Maybe perusing the area would be best. We are staying at Hotel des Celestins near the Place Bellecour so if anyone knows of a “can’t miss” place near there it would be great. Otherwise we will wander and explore menus and reserve in person if able. Can’t wait; I was reading the feed about food in France and my stomach is grumblin’! Merci!

Posted by
2486 posts

Enjoy your trip! Lyonnaise food can be marvelous. I am a very adventurous eater but I had problems with Andouillette. Be warned!

Posted by
1655 posts

The distinctive eatery category in Lyon is the bouchon, and if you search the forum, you'll find that many of us like Le Bouchon des Filles -- and I just now notice that on the mobile version of their facebook page they have their napkin as the picture:
https://m.facebook.com/pages/Le-Bouchon-des-Filles/582749728402143
perhaps because so many visitors have asked for a souvenir, and end up giving a few euros to keep their cloth napkin -- I still have mine!

If you have to eat in the old town area, know that you will get tourist-quality food at tourist prices -- there are still some good options, though, including Aux Trois Maries
http://aux-3-maries.fr

Tucked behind the Opera House is another bouchon that is traditional enough to close for part of the summer:
http://www.bouchonlatetedelard.fr
called La Tete de Lard, which is the kind of name that you won't often hear unironically used in the USA...

[This all assumes you're adventurous/open-minded when it comes to organ meats]

All of this will be more delicious if you take the time to do a good guided walking tour!

Posted by
16 posts

Yes, Andouilette (unsure if I spelled that right?) I have read about that. I’m pretty adventurous too, but maybe not! Thanks for the names of bouchon (s). I’ll for sure check them out! I appreciate y’all sharing your expertise!

Posted by
401 posts

Julie,

We drove down to Lyon a couple of weeks ago to catch a Pink Martini concert and had a good lunch very near your hotel. The restaurant, (Le Carré des Saveurs) is just to the left and across Place des Célestins from your hotel. If the weather is good, it's a nice spot for an outdoor lunch. Less expensive than Brasserie des Célestins on the same side of the place as your hotel.

When we were there the nursery school nearby (Ecole Maternelle Lamartine) was having their class photo taken in le Place des Célestins. Very cute to see those fillettes et petits garçons trying to stand still on the risers the photographer had set up for the shoot. Little kids that age have so much energy.

Posted by
780 posts

We ate twice at one of Paul Bucouse restaurants called Cafe Compitor Abel which was a Bistrot type restaurant and it was great.We also ate at Les Lyonnais and Le Bistrot de Lyon.We had our hotel make our Dinner Reservations and we stayed in the 2nd Arr called Presqu'ile.Our average dinner was 85 Euro for two with Wine.We are returning in October.
Mike

Posted by
401 posts

mike,

Perhaps I'm not understanding your comment accurately, but I do not believe Café Comptoir Abel is a Paul Bocuse restaurant. Mr. Bocuse established his flagship restaurant outside Lyon at Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or and also opened several less formal brasseries within Lyon, each highlighting food from a different part of France and each named after the compass direction for that cuisine: Le Sud, Le Nord, L'Est, and L'Ouest. This might be helpful: https://www.brasseries-bocuse.com/

Not to take anything away from Café Comptoir Abel. It's an inconsistent spot but when it's on it's on, and the setting feels almost like you've stepped into the 1700s as soon as you find the door and walk in.

Posted by
403 posts

My wife and I ate at Bocuse's Le Sud, which is in easy walking distance of the Hotel des Celestins. We had a lovely dinner including a sole that the waiter filleted at our table. We had a fabulous lunch at Daniel et Denise very close to the Metro stop in Vieux Lyon and devoured the special of the day...a cote de boeuf, like a 2 inch thick porterhouse, served with a mouthwatering sauce. The service in both restaurants was professional, and I would describe both as sort of mid-range. Certainly dressed in casual clothes as we were, we fit right in which might not be the case in Michelin-level restaurants. Our hotel reserved Le Sud for us, and we made reservations at D&D online, so no French needed at all.