When it comes to French food, there’s one city whose reputation rises above all others: Lyon. Situated in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region where the Rhône and Saône rivers meet, Lyon has been an important city since Roman times. Its place on the culinary stage dates to 1934 when food critic Curnonsky named Lyon the “capital of gastronomy,” when some of the world’s best French chefs were all cooking in Lyon including chefs Marie Bourgeois and Eugénie Brazier with their three-star Michelin restaurants.
Anthony Bourdain visits Lyon just once, in Season 3, Episode 3 of Parts Unknown. It is the only time he visits Lyon on-screen, and he’s joined by chef Daniel Boulud who comes from Lyon. (If you love Tony traveling with chefs to their home regions, be sure to also watch the Asturias episode with chef José Andrés.)
During their trip, Bourdain and Boulud eat some of the best Lyonnaise cuisine – and some of the simplest. Throughout the culinary journey, Tony remarks on the commitment to great food that is just part of the culture. If you want to sample some of that great food for yourself, here’s how to follow in the footsteps and forkfuls of Anthony Bourdain in Lyon, France.
Places Tony Ate in Lyon
I generally like to start with a map of the places that Anthony Bourdain ate in any destination because it allows you to get oriented and understand where each location is. As you can see, three of the places Tony visited and ate are within a single arrondissement (neighborhood) in Lyon – making it easy to visit all three. (I’m working on a Lyon walking tour eBook to be released soon!)
Ready to learn more about each place Anthony Bourdain visited in Lyon and what he ate there? Here’s the list!
Charcuterie Reynon Traiteur
Bourdain and Boulud’s first on-screen flavors come from Charcuterie Reynon Traiteur, a beloved and highly reputed butcher shop in the 2nd arrondissement of Lyon. There, they enjoy tourin, patê, rillettes, and saucisson (sausage) including saucisson a curie, sabodet, and saucisson de Lyon. They also learn about saucisson-making – and try their hand at the process with moderate success.
Institut Paul Bocuse
Next, Tony and Daniel head to a literal Lyonnaise institution: Institut Paul Bocuse. Named for – and, at the time of their visit, run by – renowned chef Paul Bocuse for whom the facility is named, this is one of the hotel, food service, and culinary schools in the world.
During their visit, Bourdain and Boulud enjoy a lunch prepared by a trio of MOF chefs. This title means l’Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (“one of the best craftsmen in France”) and denotes one of the highest honors a French chef can receive. (Boulud is also a MOF chef, as is Bocuse.)
Their meal, as shown above on Tony’s Instagram, is poularde en vessie: black truffle stuffed under chicken skin, stuffed in a pig’s bladder and tied off, then cooked until tender under hot bullion, and drenched in a sauce of black truffle with foie gras and triple cream.
Le Café Comptoir Abel
Next, the pair visit another local restaurant in the 2nd arrondissement: Le Café Comptoir Abel. Citing themselves as «Le plus vieux bouchon lyonnais», Le Café Comptoir Abel is certainly one of the oldest bars in town and will likely stay around a while longer – thanks to Bourdain’s visit.
On-screen we see he enjoys fresh pike folded in dough, with a creamy Nantua made with crayfish, Crème fraîche, white wine, and a splash of red wine. (Looking at the menu, I think this is the Quenelle de brochet en gratin which is offered on both the standard dinner menu and Sunday brunch menu.)
Cafe Comptoir Brunet
At another 2nd arrondissement restaurant, Café Comptoir Brunet, Bourdain tries the Franc Machon – a boozy brunch that’s become popular in response to strict bar curfew laws in Lyon.
There he enjoys a simple, hearty meal of blanquette du veau with mushrooms served over rice, as well as two French staples at every meal: bread and wine.
While Bourdain says in his Instagram caption that “a ‘machon’ in the morning means a nap in the afternoon,’ this meal just seems like the start of a great day.
I think it’s safe to say that the final spot on this list of places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Lyon was one of his all-time favorite meals. Bourdain and Boulud sit down for a meal at Paul Bocuse – with chef Paul Bocuse himself. Tony is clearly a fan and expresses that to the camera several times.
They enjoy an incredible meal of la cuisine de marché, including truffle soup Élysée; loup en croûte feuilletée with sauce Charon (sea bass stuffed with lobster mousse, chervil, and tarragon, with tomato bearnaise sauce baked in a meal foie (?) crust); Lièvre à La Royale (slow cooked, whole, on-bone wild hare); and pot-au-feu (beef shank, flank steak, oxtail, veal shank, chicken, marrow bones, beef ribs, leaks, carrots, turnips, fennel, and parsnips), which is pictured above on Tony’s Instagram.
It looks like a once-in-a-lifetime meal – and Bourdain clearly remembers it that way.
Bonus: Maison Troisgros
A little outside of Lyon in the town of Roanne, there’s another institution restaurant that has helped define Lyonnaise cuisine and its reputation on the global stage: Le Maison Troisgros. This family-owned restaurant was made most popular by The Brothers Troisegros – Jean and Pierre – who were two chefs that sit in a prominent place on the ‘family tree’ of great French chefs.
One of the most famous dishes on the menu is one Bourdain watches made and then tries while standing in the kitchen: Salmon in Sorrel Sauce. This iconic dish is not on the menu currently, but polite inquiries might earn you a chance to try it like Tony did.
Local Dining Experiences Tony Enjoyed
As always, Bourdain also had a few local dining experiences that you can’t exactly replicate but are worth mentioning as they round out my recap of his Lyon episode.
- At Daniel Boloud’s elementary school in Saint Pierre de Chandieu, Tony learned about how well Lyonnaise children are fed and enjoyed the best school lunch ever, which included pumpkin soup, fresh blanquette du poisson with white wine, vanilla, and shallot, and homemade couscous, freshly sliced baguettes, and homemade fromage blanc with chocolate and orange slices
- Bourdain and Boloud also visit Bocuse’s hunting lodge for the day, heading out on a hunt before feasting on wood cock, roast duck, and pheasant, with creamy mashed potatoes.
- Finally, Bourdain enjoying a home lunch with Boloud and his parents. They have a traditional meal of roasted pumpkin with toasted stale bread, nutmeg, gruyere, mushrooms, fresh cream, pumpkin meat, and bacon; fermented grape solids and wine in a homemade still to steam cabbage and potatoes; sabodet sausage; and a fromage plate.
Lyon Food Tours to Try
If you love the idea of sampling Lyonnaise food but aren’t necessarily up for the budget required to visit the Michelin-starred places Tony and Daniel did, there are some great food tours you could try instead. Here are a few that look promising:
Have any other questions about these places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Lyon? Let me know in the comments!