Brasserie George, Lyon, France

Lyon’s Infamous Brasserie Georges

Traditional French Bistro with a Magnificent Art Deco Backdrop

One reason I love traveling to a big city is that it is such a different experience from my own life. There are the physical differences: streets packed with vehicles and people, the hum of traffic and voices, even the light is different, bouncing off glass and steel and concrete. And there is so much to do: parks and gardens, museums, galleries, live music and restaurants. And it’s all right there. In easy reach of a subway or a bus or even just the sidewalk.

And traveling to a foreign city, where the language is one I don’t know or hardly understand, adds its own excitement. The feeling of being off-balance or out of place can be as exhilarating as stepping into a cold and open body of water.

Most of the time, finding out of the way places that the locals frequent is the ultimate goal. However, sometimes, even the places catering to tourists can be a blast. In Barcelona there’s Los Caracoles, in Lyon there’s Brasserie Georges.

Opened in 1836, Brasserie Georges is a monstrous place. The restaurant can accommodate over seven-hundred guests at each service. (One night in 2012 it served 3,245 meals!) The dining room itself is huge. The ceiling has to be 30′ high and the front of the building is floor to ceiling windows.

In 1924 Brasserie Georges was entirely redecorated in pure Art Deco style, and it is that design that it maintains today. Majestic glass chandeliers and harvest-themed frescos adorn the ceiling and ornate ceramic tile covers the floor. The seating is a gridded mix of booths and square tables that can easily be pushed together or apart to accommodate any size party.

And speaking of party

When we visited Brasserie Georges for dinner in December of 2018, it was just the two of us. For the servers it was probably just another Saturday night, but we felt as if we’d been invited to a grand affair. With so many patrons, so many tables, you would think we would have felt lost and insignificant, but it was just the opposite.

The wait staff, many in traditional black jackets and white floor-length aprons, was attentive and efficient. They understood and answered our questions. And the icing on the cake – we had the option to order from a menu written in English. For a haggard traveler looking for cultured comfort, this was a welcome relief.

The party feeling came from several factors. Being in such a large room with so many happy people brings its own excitement. In addition, there was a three-piece jazz band playing in the corner up front. Then–there were the sparklers.

About five minutes after we were seated, the lights in the room slowly dimmed, the band began to play Happy Birthday, and a waiter emerged from behind the doors of the kitchen carrying a white frosted birthday cake topped with a single shimmering, glittering sparkler. The entire restaurant sang along.

Ten, fifteen minutes later, the lights dimmed again. The band played, patrons sang. In the time we spent at Brasserie Georges, at least a dozen birthday cakes were delivered. The lights didn’t dim each time, the band didn’t play each time, the patrons didn’t sing each time. But always there was the sparkler, and the rubber-necking, and applause.

Ten paragraphs into this post and I realize I haven’t even mentioned the food. The menu was exactly what we wanted and expected from a traditional brasserie, and the food was very good. But it was the combination of atmosphere, service and food that will have me reliving this evening again and again. It was really something special.

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