In defense of Léon de Lyon, there is but one sitting and it's quite possible that all the tables were reserved. The last time we ate there, people kept wandering in late into the evening. The restaurant was stilll quite empty when we arrived, which would have been around 8:00 or 8:30 in the evening, but full at some point around 9:30 or later.
As I recall my tablier de sapeur was had in a tiny place much closer to the indoor market than the river. It was at lunch. We didn't reserve, but it was well off the beaten path and still very crowded. It may have received a lot of trade from the market people. Perhaps that's a false memory from wanting to believe it was where all the food people ate lunch. It was also many years ago.
there's a nice foodmarket which runs quite a distance along the river on the modern side.
Now I'm confused, as there are two rivers and each has an older and more modern side. The Saône separates the heart of the city from the old city and the Rhone separates the heart of the city from the newest part of the city. Both rivers might have a relatively modern side, although the real modern office complexes are a bit further east of the Rhône. There's not much for a tourist to see east of the Rhône except for those who share a food obsession--there's the covered market, Bernachon and a few of the good restauarants. Otherwise it has residential and office areas. Vieux Lyon to the west of the Saône and the Prequ'ile between the rivers are the interesting parts in which to sightsee.
The outdoor market I know is on the quai St. Antoine which is on the modern (east) side of the Saône. I think it's only on in the morning and I'm not sure on which day(s).
Now I have a question for the group, or at least those few with knowledge of Lyon. Does anyone have any familiarity with either of two bistrots, Machonnerie on rue Tramassac in Vieux Lyon, or Le Bistrot de Lyon on rue Mercière? I think I know the latter. If it's the one I'm thinking of, Lacombe, the chef/owner of Léon de Lyon used to have a part ownership and it's sort of a retro-bistro that looks as if it could have been built in NY by the same interior decorators that have done the "authentic" Paris look here. One of them is listed in Michelin and the other in GaultMillau. Neither should be inspirational, but we have the opportunity to try them as guests of the city's tourist industry in a few months. I suspect we will look for simple Lyonaisse food and spend our savings at Michel Bras and Régis Marcon in the country and either Orsi or Lacombe's place in Lyon on our last night.
Graham, I see on your site, that you were not knocked out by Marcon, at least not to the extent that GaultMillau is. I hope we have better luck, especially so early in the season, but as we will be in the area, I have to taste it for myself.