The entrance to Oncle Dik’s, featuring the Armenian eternity symbol (photo Aram Arkun)

Oncle Dik Presents Armenian and International Cuisine in Lyon, France

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LYON, France — It would be surprising indeed if there were no Armenian restaurants in the French city of Lyon that is known as the gastronomic capital of the world, especially because there is a large Armenian community in the area. In fact, there is one such well-established eatery in Lyon’s affluent sixth district (arrondissement), named Oncle Dik (Uncle Dik). While not in the busiest and most frequented touristic zones, it is located close to the center of the city (4, rue Bossuet) in what the French like to call a bourgeois neighborhood.

. A portrait of Charles Aznavour overlooks the bar (photo Aram Arkun)

It is a family-run restaurant named after the owner, Didier Dikran Nerguisian. Dikran, in turn, was named after his paternal grandfather, whose large black-and-white picture pulling a handcart in the 1930s hangs on the wall of the restaurant. This is the first of many clear indications that Dikran is strongly connected to his roots. On the restaurant website, oncledik.com/, he writes that the photo “is a tribute to all these expatriate survivors who, through their hard work, succeeded for themselves and for their future generations in successfully integrating, without denying or forgetting their origins.” He continues that he dedicates this restaurant to their memory in their honor.

Armenian crosses, with the wood-fired oven in the background (photo Aram Arkun)

The eponymous Dikran was born in Marash and came to Lyon via Aleppo and Beirut due to the Armenian Genocide. His wife was also from Marash. After some 10-15 years of hard manual labor, he earned enough money to buy a grocery store in an Armenian quarter of Lyon. He had four sons. Garabed, the father of restauranteur Dikran, became a car mechanic with his own garage, where his son Dikran worked for 20 years after obtaining his high school baccalaureate degree. After Garabed retired, his son worked briefly in the telephone business before deciding to open his own restaurant in 2006.

From left, Jeremy, Patricia, Didier (Dikran), and Adrien in front of a large photo of the original Dikran (photo Aram Arkun)

Dikran recalled that there was no Armenian restaurant operating at that time in Lyon. Previously, there was an Armenian eatery in Lyon called Karnig Restaurant but it closed two years prior to the opening of Oncle Dik, while a short-lived restaurant called Tamar operated in the period roughly 1978 to 1980.

Two years after Dikran opened Oncle Dik, his wife, Patricia Oustig Nerguisian, who had her own women’s and children’s clothing store, joined her husband to work in the restaurant, and after one more year, their elder son Adrien Sevag Vartan Nerguisian came on board. Finally, the youngest son, Jeremy Vahig Garabed Nerguisian, joined the rest of the family last year. Interestingly, each member of the family has a French first name combined with Armenian middle names which primarily are of ancestors.

The restaurant, in addition to Italian-style pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven, offers a variety of Armenian and Middle Eastern specialties, including lahmajun, chi keufte, lamb kebab, pilaf, and mezzes, as well as food prepared in French and international fashions like hamburgers, cod, and pastas.

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There is a regular chef, but in addition, periodically Patricia makes dishes like manti, dolma, or imam bayildi, which are not on the regular menu but announced online. After Covid, the pizzaiolo left, so Adrien temporarily took over from him until a new one could be found. Wines from Armenia as well as French-Armenian raki (Raki Duze) are among the Armenian drinks available.

Owner Dikran Nerguisian emerges from the restaurant’s entrance (photo Aram Arkun)

During the most intense period of the Covid-19 pandemic, the restaurant was only open for takeout but now operates regularly. It is open for lunch Monday through Saturday, and for dinner Thursday through Saturday. There is both outdoor and indoor dining.

Dikran said that as many as 80 percent of his regular clientele are French non-Armenians. Aside from Armenians from the Lyon area, who sometimes come for birthdays or anniversaries, and even hold private parties there, Dikran noted that occasionally Armenian tourists visiting the city find the restaurant through the use of the Internet. That was, in fact, how this author came across this restaurant and was able to sample its tasty lahmajun.

Oncle Dik provides its customers with good food in a cordial environment, and like many Armenian restaurants in the diaspora, also serves as an easy introduction for non-Armenians to the Armenian people and their culture.

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