Eating {gluten-free & vegan} in Lyon, France | Le Café Vert

May 26, 2016

Le Cafe Vert storefront Lyon France

'Gluten-free? That's the same as vegan, right?'

If I hear this one more time, especially in vegan-centric Berlin, I might scream. Admittedly, this dietary niche is often a source of gluten-free eats for those of us whose dietary needs are not a choice, so I try not to take the misconception to heart. And when the vegan spot is charming and French? Well, then I'm even more likely to concede.

Our road trip back from the south of France last month took us through the beautiful city of Lyon, and I of course, had a sandwich ready-made in my bag for our lunchtime pitstop (thank you, Genius bread!). After walking around briefly, we realized that (a), it was freezing and wet and (b) we were there on Sunday, when most things were closed. Heading back to the car to eat whatever we could pick at from our gluten-free French grocery haul, we spied a little cafe that looked open. Upon further inspection, it had a notation for sans gluten on the sandwich board out front. With everyone eager to get out of the cold and the prospect of a warm lunch, we went inside.

We managed a small spot by the window in an otherwise very cozy and bustling cafe. When the staff realized we were American, and that my French would only get us so far, they brought out the chef from the back, who was also from the U.S. and happened to run the place. Josh had a friendly, Midwestern demeanor and a clear passion for his relatively new establishment. He explained that in addition to being vegan and entirely gluten-free (as always, do confirm the absence of gluten if you visit), the concept of the place was raw food. Hummus, seed crackers and salad dominated the modest food menu, rounded out by fresh-pressed juices, coffees, teas and my favorite part of any meal: dessert.

Le Cafe Vert hummus, salad and cracker plate Lyon France

While my companions went for hot coffees and miso soup, I opted for a green juice and the tapas plate, complete with salad, house-made dehydrated crackers and hummus. While this was exactly the kind of fare I needed after sitting for hours on our roadtrip back to Germany, I must admit this isn't my usual kind of spot. But I came away rather surprised. The salad was diversified with kale and carrots, the seed crackers were hearty and flavorful, even the 'vegan cheese', something I am highly against considering my intense love of all things dairy, was surprisingly good. Even after such a satisfying meal, I remained skeptical but intrigued by the 'cheesecake' ordered by the next table over, but I needn't be. Cool, creamy and delicious, the punch of perfectly fresh raspberries and mint leaves just the thing to accompany the slightly citrusy tang of the cheesecake.

This little Lyon spot is so new, it seems it's still finding its footing. The handful of tables inside means it can fill up rather quickly and the electricity that flickers off every now and then only add to the charm. The warm wait staff give off none of that stereotypical French attitude, and chat together in varying levels of French and English. It appears since my visit that the menu is rounding out with more options (again, be sure to inquire about the status of gluten in the kitchen with these changes) and hopefully is gaining more momentum in a culture so dominated by dairy and bread. In addition to being a cafe and restaurant, Josh and his wife Pauline also run Ashtanga Yoga out of the spot in the off hours.

Le Cafe Vert raw cheesecake Lyon France

Le Café Vert
48 Rue Saint-Georges
69005 Lyon, France
Tel: +33 6 52 39 12 23

Take part in #CeliacAwarenessMonth by exploring the hashtag and sharing more about the disease through resources like advocacy organization Beyond Celiac. Don't forget to tag your positive gluten-free food photos and experiences with #celiacdoesntsuck - and help spread the gluten-free goodness!

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