I have long had a passion for diners. This began on a cross-Canada family car trip when I was 12. This particular trip has gone down in family lore as the one where my older sister Suzanne and I were utter gobshites the entire time. At one point my Dad tossed us out of the car somewhere in the middle of the Rockies and left on the roadside (clutching each other and wailing about the possibility of a Grizzly attack) to smarten up.
However, the other thing I remember from this trip is my Dad pointing out the diners along the way. He would choose our meal spots using the following unassailable equation: the diner with the most trucks parked outside = the diner with the best food.
As it turns out this rule of thumb works equally as well in France. The French take their food seriously, and truckers and tradesmen even more so. Franck and I have a love of French diners, also called “Les Routiers“.
We were frequent patrons of the now defunct Jacky’s, and like nothing better than a lunch at the routier in Meuilley and the fabulous Café de France on the Faubourg Bretonnière in Beaune. These restaurants are guaranteed to offer serious bang for your buck – a full home cooked, authentically French, three course meal for between 11 and 13 Euros.
Franck has recently become a dedicated patron of another close-by routier called “L’Auberge du Guidon” just down the road from Villers-la-Faye and Magny–les–Villers in the village of Comblanchien. If trucks are indeed anything to go by, “Le Guidon” as it is known, is THE place to eat lunch.
Franck quickly initiated my Dad to lunches at Le Guidon. Often my mother and I would come home around lunchtime to an echoing house.
“Le Guidion,” I would mutter, ticked that they hadn’t waited to take us as well.
For a modest sum of 11,00 Euros at Le Guidon you can have a buffet of entrée choices, the dish of the day (it was boeuf bourgignon on one memorable day), and dessert (my father particularly enjoyed the chocolate mousse) PLUS a bottle of wine PLUS unlimited bread.
If you really want to experience authentic France and a fabulous meal, go and enjoy lunch in a Routier. They are often indicated by a blue and red circular sign like the one on the above photo, written on the restaurant wall just below the arrow sign towards “Villers-la-Faye”.
Here are the rules of thumb for an authentic French experience at a Routier;
1. They are generally open for lunch only during the week, and are closed on weekends.
2. If you are averse to more esoteric dishes such as boudin noir call ahead to find out what the dish of the day is and at the same time make a reservation.
3. Arrive between 12:00 and 12:30pm. Don’t think of arriving at 10:45am or 2:00pm – you will not get served.
4. If you want to truly be authentically French, after you dessert order an espresso to finish off your meal.
5. Miraculously the no-smoking ban in French restaurants seems to be sticking, so you no longer have to worry about acquiring emphysema along with your meal.
6. Bon Appétit!
*”Authentic France Travel Tips” are posted every Tuesday and give ideas for savvy travellers who want to experience the authentic side of France.