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Eat in Brussels

There is plenty of good eating to be had in Brussels.... Most people concentrate on the three classics: mussels (moules), fries (frites) and chocolate. A few more adventurous bruxellois dishes include anguilles au vert / palink in't groen (river eels in green sauce) and turbot waterzooi (turbot fish in cream and egg sauce). For dessert, try a Belgian waffle (gauffre), also available in a square Brussels version dusted with powdered sugar, although many prefer the round, syrup-coated version from Liège.

Budget

The matter over which establishment serves up the best frites (locally known as fritkots) remains a matter of heated debate. Some argue that the best frites in Brussels are served at the fritkot near the Barriere de Saint-Gilles, while others defend St-Josse's Martin (Place Madou) as the prime purveyor of the authentic Brussels frite just as others claim Antoine remains the king of the local french fry.

  • Maison Antoine, Place Jourdanplein - tasty fries with a large collection of sauces situated on a square close to the European Parliament. You can eat your fries (frites) in one of the several bars/cafés that carries the sign frites accepté.

  • Chez Martin. The small nondescript fritkot plonked on Place Madou (Saint-Josse-ten-Noode/Sint-Joost-ten-Node) and run by the calm and affable Martin is a serious contender for the best friterie in Brussels. You can eat your frites at the nearby Cafe Gambrinus and wash them down with a pintje or two.

  • La Friterie de la Place de la Chapelle, rue Haute-Hoogstraat (near Les Marolles). Another personal choice for the best frites in Brussels: the big chunks, fried golden, with the usual dazzling array of sauces.

  • Arcadi, 1B rue d'Aremberg, just at the exit of "Galleries de la Reine", in the direction opposite to the Grand-Place - a quirky combination of old and new, the menu ranges all over the place but the reason people flock here is the selection of over 30 sweet and savoury pies (tartes). A slice big enough for a meal, served with salad, costs €4-6.

Delivery

Quality food is available online in and around Brussels from various companies, including the webportal ebistro.

Mid-range

Brussels' tourist restaurant gauntlet can be found in Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat, just to the north of Grand Place. The place has a bad reputation for waiters imposing themselves on passer-by's, trying to lure customers into their restaurant. The authorities are aware of this, and are trying to take measures. Some restaurants may also tempt you with cheap prices for the menus, but when seated, the item on the menu happens to be unavailable, and you're forced to accept another, noticeably more expensive dish. Often, the exaggerated price of the wines will also compensate for the attractive menu. Knowing this however, you may be able to negociate a better deal before entering.

A few restaurants stand out from the crowd, though:

  • Aux Armes de Bruxelles, 13 Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat, tel +32 2 511 5550, closed Mo - basic honest food, including some very decent moules. Crowded.

  • Chez Léon, 18, Rue des Bouchers, tel. +32 2 511 1415. Now franchised into France as well, but this is the original and, while it's huge and it looks like a tourist trap, the moules are excellent and it's packed every day. Moules, beer and a starter will set you back €25, and kids eat for free.

  • Scheltema, 7, Rue des Dominicains, tel. 02/512.20.84. Specialized in seafood.

Outside the Rue des Bouchers, you may try:

  • Au Pré Salé, 20, Rue de Flandre-Vlaamsesteenweg (near place St Catherine), tel. +32 2 513 6545. A former butcher shop, which explains the white tiled walls and minimal decoration, but locals flock here for some of the best moules in town, sold by the kilo (figure on €24) and served up in half a dozen ways. Also serves the full range of other Brussels favorites.

  • Falstaff, 19, Rue Henri Mausstraat 19 (by the Bourse-Beurs). Has decent food and is open every day until 02:00, around 20-30 Euros.

  • Le Beau Soleil, 7, Rue Joseph Lebeau. This tiny restaurant (approx. 14 seats) looks like a violin workshop, so you sit next to all the tools and half finished violins. Unlike other Belgian restaurants, it is open from 9am to 5pm (Mo-Fr), 9am to 6pm (Sat,Sun), closed on Wednesday. The menu is small, really delicious. (I had the best quiche and cheese cake of my life!). The atmosphere is informal, so do not expect a formal restaurant atmosphere. It is more like being invited by friends. Tel.: 0479420382.

  • Les Brassins, Rue Keyenveld-Keienveldstraat 36, Ixelles-Elsene. It's audience is mostly made out of young couples or students. Rich choice of beer, good quality of food. Tel.: +32 2 512 6999

Close to the Bourse Jules Van Praetstraat (rue Jules Van Praet) is another rapidly developing street of restaurants and bars. Those of note include:

  • Shamrock. Its unpreposessing exterior and misleading name bely a great range of individually cooked indian food. Get to know the owner and he'll treat you like an old friend. Tel.: +32 2 511 49 89

  • Thanh-Binh . The restaurant is very popular amongst the Euroworkers and business types common in Brussels and serves good Thai food. It can get crowded and is often noisy but is well worth a try. Tel.: +32 2 513 81 18

Place Saint Catherine is also a popular area, once the fishmongering centre of Brussels. While many of the fish shops have moved elsewhere it is still home to many good seafood restaurants featuring lobster as a speciality.

It is outside the touristic centre that the best deals can be found. Here are a few adresses in the Upper Town and Louise Area:

  • Madou's Provence, 23, Rue de la Presse, Bruxelles. Tel. +32 2 217 3831. Closed Saturday noon and Sundays. Innovative southern French cuisine at affordable prices.

  • Chez Oki, 62, Rue Lesbroussart, Ixelles-Elsene. French-Japanese fusion cuisine in a modern decor. The chef has worked for prestigious restaurants in Paris. Reasonable prices.

Splurge

  • Belga Queen, Rue du Fossé aux Loups-Wolvengracht 32 - a restaurant within an old, restored bank building. Has an oyster bar, gorgeous bathrooms (with strange stall doors), and a cigar bar housed in the old bank vaults. The young and well-to-do seem to enjoy this place a lot.

  • Taverne du Passage, Galerie de la Reine-Koninginnegalerij, tel +32 2512 3731 - an old-style luxurious restaurant.

  • Les Larmes du Tigres (Tears of the Tiger), Justitiepaleis, de Wynantsstraat 21, closed Tu, tel +32 2512 18 77 - upmarket and stylish Thai restaurant found just behind the Palais de Justice and better than most food I've eaten in Thailand.

Vegetarian

  • Dolma - a very nice vegetarian buffet Monday till Saturday from 19 till 21h. Chaussée d'Ixelles 329. Reservation 02/6498981

  • La Tsampa' - a organic/vegetarian shop annex restaurant, closed on Saturday and Sunday. Rue de Livourne 109.

 


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