Memories of Old Lyon: Reynoldsburg Bakery Le Vieux Lyon Sparks the Joy of French Pastry

At her Reynoldsburg bakery, Manira Camara celebrates the joys of French pastry.

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
Left, Manira Camara and her husband, Mohammed Halaoui, and their children (clockwise from right): Hassan, Asmah (seated), Gassim and, being held, Aly

The best flattery that I can give a bakery is that I’m glad I don’t live next to it. Living around the corner from Le Vieux Lyon French Bakery Café in Reynoldsburg would mean constant temptation: “I wonder if they have almond croissants today?”

Baker Manira Camara is the person responsible for Le Vieux Lyon’s sublime croissants. She and her husband, Mohammed Halaoui, opened the four-seat retail bakery in March 2019 and named it after the French city in which she grew up. (The couple met in France, but both of their families hail from Guinea in West Africa.) Though Le Vieux Lyon is located far from the narrow, cobbled streets of Old Lyon, one could imagine stumbling upon this little bakery anywhere in France.

We are fortunate that Le Vieux Lyon is still here. Not long after Central Ohio restaurants were forced to shut down because of the pandemic, Camara and Halaoui welcomed a baby. One day, a fellow baker named Aminata Diallo texted Camara, asking her if Le Vieux Lyon would reopen. Between a newborn and the pandemic, reopening seemed like an impossibility, Camara says. But Diallo came to her rescue, offering to help restart the café, and the two women were able to do just that. “I don’t like to give up on things,” Camara says.

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During my visits to the café, most of the pastries I tried were still warm—whether morning or afternoon. Among the bakery’s best offerings are its Danishes ($3.75 each), which range from strawberry to spinach feta to apple (Camara’s spin on chaussons aux pommes). One morning I was introduced to the bakery’s fantastic egg Danishes, crispy with a slight kick from green chile pepper.

Using loads of good French butter—which has more butterfat—Camara’s croissants ($2.99) are supremely soft. (You find some versions in town that have a rock-hard exterior; these are the opposite.) Not to be missed are the baker’s personal favorite, the aforementioned almond croissants ($4.50), which don’t skimp on filling. Also addictive are the cinnamon rolls ($4), which are unique and among the best in town. Camara uses an obscure French dough called kouign-amann for her rolls, in which sugar is layered in along with butter. The result is “between a doughnut and a croissant,” Camara says.

A large fruit tart and mille feuille from Le Vieux Lyon French Bakery Café

There is plenty more to explore at Le Vieux Lyon, which has new offerings daily. The classic puff pastry mille feuille is here ($4.50), along with macarons ($2) and lovely fruit tarts filled with crème pâtissière ($6.50). I recommend the lemon cake ($3.50), a génoise sponge with mascarpone filling, but I was less enamored with the mini pineapple cake ($4), which was on the dry side. Savory offerings pop up as well, such as an enjoyable croque monsieur ($6) that features chicken or turkey (instead of ham) and plenty of good cheese.

Finally, canelés ($2.50) were not available on my visits, but Halaoui proudly assures me that his wife’s are better than the ones you find in France. These small pastries, shaped like teeny Bundt cakes, are caramelized on the outside, custardy in the center. Halaoui insists that I return someday to try them.

Invitation accepted. 

Le Vieux Lyon French Bakery Café

1774 Brice Road, Reynoldsburg, 614-370-4292

This story is from the December 2021 issue of Columbus Monthly.