This City Is The Unexpected Foodie Capital Of France

One of the biggest mistakes travelers can make when visiting other countries is only visiting capital cities. In France, Paris is the most popular city from a tourism perspective. However, the oversaturation of crowds means the oversaturation of businesses and eateries in an attempt to capitalize on those crowds. While there is great food found in Paris, it might surprise you to know that — capital it may be — Paris is not actually the culinary capital of France. That esteemed title belongs to the underrated French city of Lyon.

Lyon is the country's third largest city, after romantic Paris and port-side Marseille. Known for some exquisite regional specialties, along with making some of the country's most iconic dishes to the highest degree, Lyon is a required destination for all foodies. Lyon was even a favorite of the late and great Anthony Bourdain — he visits the city in Season 3, Episode 3 of his hit show, "Parts Unknown." There's really no emphasizing just how over-the-top decadent and perfected the cuisine of Lyon is, but we can certainly try to paint the picture here and tell you where to go to try the city's signature staples.

The Lyonnaise bouchon

One of the first things you'll notice about eateries in Lyon is that many of them have the word "Bouchon" in their names. Despite the regional name, there's no real difference between a bouchon and a typical restaurant or French bistrot. It is simply the name that describes the restaurants in Lyon, and the real-deals will have a certificate from the Association for the Preservation of Lyonnais Bouchons.

"People come here to unwind and eat with abandon," Anthony Bourdain said of the Lyonnaise bouchon. Even Tony knew that the bouchon symbolizes a place where people come to indulge in delicious, caloric Lyonnaise cuisine while sipping some French wine.

Speaking of Bourdain, if you want to eat in his footsteps, Lyon is a great city to do so. Head to one of his favorites, Bouchon Comptoir Brunet, but make sure to make a reservation since it's one of the most popular spots in the city. Cafe Comptoir Abel is another beloved Bourdain spot, with white tablecloths in a vintage, rustic setting.

One of France's greatest chefs, Paul Bocuse, hails from Lyon. Les Halles de Paul Bocuse is a great one-stop shop to try all types of Lyonnaise specialties by the city's most iconic chef.

Lyonnaise specialties

Lyon is known for several dishes, but none are quite as indulgent as the quenelle. Quenelles consist of creamed fish or meat mixed lightly with eggs, and formed in an oval-like shape. It is then poached, and the result is a buttery, fluffy yet dense product.

When in Lyon, you must try charcuterie Lyonnaise. The most common cured meats in Lyon are Rosette de Lyon and Jesus de Lyon. Lyon is also known to utilize all parts of the animal, so it's not unusual to see menu items, such as crépinette de pieds de cochons panés — or breaded pig hooves — and andouillettes, a sausage made of tripe.

Morilles à la crème, or morel mushrooms in a velvety sauce over chicken or filet, is another must. Morel mushrooms are notoriously one of the most expensive mushrooms in the world. In Lyon, they're not a steal, but they're not a ripoff by any means. For example, at Cafe Comptoir Abel, a filet with a morel mushroom sauce costs 35 euro. 

If you're looking for a salad, you can technically find one in Lyon, but don't expect a giant bowl filled with crisp veggies. Instead, salade Lyonnaise is a bed of frisée lettuce topped with thick slabs of lardon and a poached egg, tossed in a tangy vinaigrette.

Saucisson brioche is yet another Lyonnaise specialty. Take a buttery brioche, stuff it with a pistachio-ladened sausage, and thus, saucisson brioche is born.