Even when they’re not particularly good, there’s something essential about little neighborhood French bistros. It’s nice to know they’re there, sitting on the corner with white tiled floors and globe lights, waiting for you to come in, order a glass of wine, and pretend to be in deep contemplation about whatever existentialism actually is.
Bar Lyon in the South End fits the part. It’s a tiny little spot with a mirrored bar that, ideally, you’ll discover in the middle of a rainstorm, splashing through puddles as you run in the door with someone you maybe just fell in love with. You’ll slide into a booth, split something extremely buttery, and have a date-night spot for the rest of your lives (or until you break up a few weeks later after hearing them call their parents “mommy” and “daddy”).
Even if the food were mediocre here, Bar Lyon would work for a night like that. Even if it were flat out bad, it would work for a night like that. But here’s the thing: not only is the food here not mediocre, it’s so good that it might become your regular date night spot even if the only dinner companion you currently have is your phone. And in a neighborhood with a lot of great little neighborhood French bistros, Bar Lyon might be the best of them all.
We first told you about Bar Lyon when we said it makes the best burger in the city. It still does, and the next time you’re rewarding yourself for a minor life achievement (say, finally getting into a flossing routine), come here for a martini and a perfectly cooked burger that’s made with dry-aged beef and topped with pork belly and an egg.
But this place has a lot more to offer than just a burger. The whole menu is one buttery, flavorful, makes-you-wish-you-were-French hit after another. There are a few dishes we highly recommend trying your first time - like a chicken liver parfait that’s a perfect drinking snack, a quenelle that’s a strong contender for top lobster dishes in a city full of lobster, and a plate of bacon and gruyere cheese puffs. But don’t worry about formulating an ordering strategy or trying to pair flavors. Overthinking is your enemy at Bar Lyon - just get whatever you’re in the mood for.
You’ll leave Bar Lyon at the end of your first visit really happy that you found it. Maybe it will be raining or maybe it won’t be. Maybe you’ll be with someone with whom you’re about to settle into a long, loving, increasingly-sexless-but-generally-delightful life, or maybe not. Either way you’ll be good, because you’ll have found a perfect neighborhood French bistro. And, unlike a partner who still asks mommy for their own Social Security number, that’s something you need in your life.
They’re little bacon and gruyere cheese puffs, and they’re one of the greatest bar snacks of all-time.
Chicken Liver Parfait
If you aren’t licking the bowl when you finish this, you’re doing it wrong.
Quenelle De Brochet
A pike dumpling served with crawfish tails and topped with a lobster veloute sauce. It’s rich, delicious, and exactly what you want French food to be.
A burger doesn’t need to be topped with pork belly, mushrooms duxelles, and a runny egg to be great, but it turns out those things really help. This is outstanding.
Don’t tell the North End, but French restaurants can make great pasta, too, like this one with braised rabbit and squash.
Idaho River Trout
It’s very moist (the brown butter helps) but still crispy. Why Idaho is known for potatoes instead of this dish we’ll never understand.