Belgium is a small country, but as it turns out it offers a lot of really delicious food. An additional advantage is that it isn’t difficult to find local dishes and traditional pubs which in many cities of Western Europe can cause challenge. We had to go a long way to find something more on our ‘to try in Brussels’ list than fries, waffles, chocolate and beer. We went there for two days for Christmas Market and for that short period of time we were able to try quite a lot. Down below you can find a list of stuff worth trying and few addresses where to fill your tummy in Brusselss.
What to try in Brussels?
Fries – Belgian fries are well known around the world and we have to agree they’re tasty. It’s hard to say which one were better Belgian or Dutch. Belgian fries are twice cooked actually boiled or steamed and then fried. It makes thick fries soft inside and crispy outside. Fries sold in Brussels have nice aroma which has nothing to do with burnt fat odour typically associated with fast foods. There is huge selection of sauces on top of regular mayo and ketchup. We like fries with tartare sauce or garlic mayo.
Beer – we can bet you can write thick book about Belgian beer. There is wide selection of different types and you got a feeling that’s how all beer tasted before an era of big consortiums. In Belgium every beer tastes like a craft one. We recommend to try cherry Kriek (Lindemans one is really nice), Duvel or Chimnay are probably the most known brands. We have tried a selection of Leffe beer as well. One of the most interesting type is Lambic which undergoes spontaneous fermentation (young Lambic is completely gas free and not easy to find). For consolation we’ve tried Gaueze which is a blend oy young and older Lambic. Gaueze undergoes another fermentation in the bottle (similar process to Champagne ). Gaueze we tried had specific taste similar to dry cider. Belgian beer is an experience! The only disadvantage is price, for 0.33l in a pub you have to pay 4-5 euro and up.
Chocolate – You don’t have to introduce this treat to anyone and Belgian one is withing the world’s best. There are plenty shops in Brussels. You are tempted on every corner with different assortment and décor. We’ve chosen chocolate and pralines from Bruyerre and additionally we bought selection of mini chocolate bars from Geller at the airport. Both chocolates and pralines were divine!
Waffles – sold in shops, from shop’s windows and food trucks around whole city. Belgian waffles comes in two types – Brussels waffle (Bruxelles) or Liege waffle. First one is a regular rectangular shape, lighter and crispier. We had Liege one which is made from solid dough, heavier with irregular shape. Traditionally should be eaten solo or with sugar but almost every place have multitude of different toppings.
Croquettes – Belgian same as Dutch love all types of croquettes. The best part – always super crispy breadcrumbs and soft and puffy inside. We saw everything from veggie to shrimp one. We’ve tried ‘cheese crack’ in one of many food stalls.
Oyster – No matter what the weather and temperature outside Belgian gorge oneself on oysters and champagne outdoors. Many restaurants serve plates of oysters literally on the street, some have tables other just pod tables so you eat standing up. The whole concept speaks to us but drinking cold champagne outside in December.. We guess if you can do it on New Year Eve you can do it every day.
Mussels – Mussels & Chips is a traditional Belgian dish. We encountered different ways of preparing it from classic to more unusual. We were munching on mussels supposedly in the best seafood restaurant in Brussels – Noordzee / Mer du Nord, but without fries which wasn’t an issues.
Sea food – Belgian loves their seafood. We didn’t expect to eat so much seafood in a place like Belgium. On top of mentioned oysters and mussels we’ve tried fried baby octopus, calamari and shrimps. Belgian knows what’s good.
Fish soup – similar to fish soup we had in France but not creamed bisque style. Soup contained of deep brown broth with distinctive aroma inside you have chunks of vegetables and fish. Served with grated cheese, crostini and mayo-mustard sauce. It seems to us it will appeal to everyone sceptic about fish soup.
Boudin – Nothing else then blood sausage. It’s different from typical English breakfast black pudding, much smoother and creamier, melts in mouth. It doesn’t have strong offal or blood taste it’s very delicate. We’ve tried Boudin in different form than just a sausage. On a Christmas market we saw white boudin sausage and stall selling few different types. The most interesting one was with raisins and yellow version with curry.
Steak tartare – Belgian cuisine reflecting German, Dutch but most of all French cuisine. Tartare is one of our sinful pleasures. In Brussels we were served tartare made of larger chunks of meat than usual mixed with mustard sauce with capers and onion. There was no egg yolk and all ingredients were premixed.
Carbonnades a la bruxelloise – Beef stew Brussels style. On our list we’ve had Flemish stew which is slightly sweet. Brussels one is traditional beef stew with meat so soft is falling apart, sauce is thick and aromatic, goes well with fries. If you’re a fan of stew you shouldn’t skip Brussels version.
Stoemp – crushed potato with vegetables in our case it was made with cabbage and spiced with nutmeg. A little bit like Irish Colcannon mash. Great accompaniment to meat dishes which makes them satiating. We had stoemp with boudin but you can get it with grilled bacon, sausage or fried eggs.
We were planning to try few other things but they are limitation to human abilities. More interesting ones are Lapin a la Kriek – rabbit in Kriek sauce, Boulets – meatballs in tomato sauce or Chickory Gratin (Chicon au Gratin). We’re convinced it wasn’t our last visit in Belgium and we’ll expand this food guide.
Few addresses worth a stop – What to try in Brussels?
We observed the most traditional pubs and eateries with beautiful indoors where locals dominates are hard to find of the street. To be honest signs are visible but usually a small sign with covered or steamed up windows with door not conspicuous. The atmosphere is the best in these places and food delicious. It’s good to know where you want to eat apparently in some touristic places you might not be satisfied.
–Maison Antoine – fries stall located on Placu Jourdan square in European District. Open until 2am which we took advantage of straight after our arrival. It was convenient for us as located on route to our hotel. On top of fries you have croquettes and all other fast food options with sauce selection so wide can give you headache. Small fries 2.8, big 3.2 and sauce 0.8 euro. Big portion is really solid. We had ‘cheese crack’ there which was 4.9 euro each.
–Au viex Bruxelles – Bustling , traditional eatery located beside St Bonifacio church. We ate yummy tartare and duck but you can also go for classic mussels. Atmosphere there is incredible but prices are higher then average. When we left someone rushed after us asking if we are from Michelin guide…!? We won’t hide our ego got stroked. If you are going to go on the weekend there might be a waiting time for a table but there is many bars for an aperitif.
–Le Fleur en Papier Dore – If we didn’t know there is traditional pub inside we certainly wouldn’t pay attention to little sign at the entrance. Fortunately we knew exactly what we are looking for. Le Fleur en Papier Dore is a cosy, dark pub with lots of pictures, paintings and antiques. Furnitures are dark and heavy with scratched walls which remember the other era. Places is packed with locals and on Saturday we barely managed to get last table. Food was lovely, prices approachable, selection of beers fantastic with other options like wine available.
–Noordzee / Mer du Nord – Reputably the best seafood place in town and fish market where you can get ready meal and eat outside. We’ve tried mussels, shrimps, fish soup and all was delicious. The only downside was price to portion size ratio but Brussels isn’t cheap eat.