My stomach has been very happy since moving to Brussels almost two years ago. So I thought it was about time I share the love and introduce you to my favourite eateries in the city serving everything appropriate for lunch with your mum to the best local junk food:
1) Best frites in town – Barrière de Saint-Gilles
This wouldn’t be a list of great Brussels eateries if I didn’t start with where to buy frites! What makes Belgian fries so special is that they are fried twice for your upcoming heart bypass surgery pleasure. According to the Brussels tourism Web site, “Brussels without its frietkoten/baraques à frites (chip shops), would be like the Statue of Liberty without a torch or the Mona Lisa without a smile.” I might create a controversy among local Belgian frites lovers, but in my humble potato eating experience Barrière de Saint-Gilles really is the best cabane à frites in town. The tourism board has put together a list of the top 10 ten in Brussels so maybe you can try them all and decide for yourself. In addition to your frites you need sauce – Belgian mayo is always great, but if you’re looking for something different why not try andalouse. If you’re feeling super adventurous why not order a frikandel special on the side, but it’s better not to ask what goes inside!
2) Best sandwich of your life – Thérèse Et Dominique (Rue Dejoncker 23)
The first time I walked past this place I thought there must have been a designer discount sale happening – about 50 beautifully dressed business men and women were lined up at lunchtime having dashed out of their offices. Given the neighbourhood my suspicion could have been correct, but when I approached the shop I realised that they were all queueing at a sandwich shop. The other lunchtime cafes on either side stood empty whilst this queue was at least 50 people deep. Curiosity got the better of me and without asking any questions I joined the back of the line, my stomach didn’t regret it.
photo by Wouter Spitters
The cute Italian couple were Thérèse and Dominique making the sarnies. The house speciality for €3.70 is breadcrumbed fish or chicken with tartar sauce, battered aubergines, sautéed potatoes, vegetables (carrots, brocoli, peppers, cabbage and cauliflower) and pickles. Never had I thought that I’d be willing to wait 30 minutes for a sandwich that contains cabbage, but oh how wrong I once was! Whatever you order the portions are huge and no sandwich is more than €4.
3) Lunch date with your mum - Le Pain Quotidien (various locations all over Brussels)
You’re far away from home but your mum probably still worries if you’re eating a good balanced diet and getting enough veggies. Le Pain Quotidien is the perfect place to take her to quarm these worries and set her mind at ease that yes they also have fruit in Belgium, and you’re occasionally eating it. We’ve already written about about how good this place is for breakfast but equally a great spot for a cosy family lunch, especially with its huge farmhouse tables. I strongly recommend their homemade lemonade with mint and the vegetarian salad. The beetroot hummus is also to die for!
Image via palomaleca
4) Dinner on the go – Tram Experience (departs from Place Poelaert)
If you’re looking for an unforgettable dinner, with a Belgian twist, you might want to jump aboard a tram. 2012 is the year we celebrate the finest of Belgian cuisine (yes there are many fine things to celebrate apart from Brussels sprout) and how better to celebrate this than boarding a tram touring Brussels for an evening with a carriage full of diners eager to discover more. The two-hour round-trip will allow you to savour the delights of Belgium, take in some of the most beautiful spots of the city and sadly set you back €75, but hey, can you really put a price on this sort of dining experience?
Photo via VISITBRUSSELS / E.Danhier
5) Great Japanese food – Yamayu Santatsu (Chaussée d’Ixelles 141)
It’s noisy, overcrowded and the head waitress is one of the sternest ladies in town, but that doesn’t stop Yamayu Santatsu from being the best Japanese restaurant in Brussels. Their lunchtime fixed menu is huge and delicious – green tea, miso soup, a combination of marinated vegetables, snails (maybe a belgo-japanese twist?!) and a huge bowl of rice with all sorts of sashimi, tofu and pickles, for only €12. They have a great regular menu too but I always order the lunch time special because it fills me up for the rest of the week. Note that it’s closed on Mondays and to guarantee a place without having to queue for ages it’s a good idea to get there exactly at 12 p.m.
Photo via adamjackson1984
6) Five courses, one ingredient – Café Des Spores (Chaussée d’Alsemberg 103-108)
If you don’t like mushrooms then I suggest you skip right to the next restaurant, but if fungi are your thing you might want to check out one of Brussels more unique restaurants. Everything on the menu features mushrooms of many different varieties – yes, even the dessert! I would have never imagined ice cream and mushrooms would have gone well together, don’t even think about pairing them with a Creme Brulee! But hey, if you’re looking for a unique gastronomic experience while in the capital of Europe I highly recommend Café Des Spores. You’ll never find anything else quite like it.
7) Best view in town - MIM cafe (Hofberg 2 Montagne de la Cour)
By no means the cheapest meal in town, but the MIM cafe is possibly the one with the greatest view. The cafe, inside the Musical Instrument Museum, is located in one of the most beautiful buildings that offers one of the best vantage points to view all of Brussels. The restaurant is both inside and out meaning that on a nice sunny day (which would be about twice a year in Brussels…) you can take in the view sitting outside, or on a less than perfect day you can sit inside and admire the 360 degree view behind double glazed windows.
Photo via Photo Phiend
8 ) Best for brunch – Au Pays des Merveilles (Avenue Jean Volders 42)
Au Pays des Merveilles (APDM) is one of the only places I know in Brussels where you can buy a decent bagel and APDM serves an amazing brunch to go along with them. Their menu is pages long and what they aren’t willing to serve up in a bagel isn’t even worth mentioning. Their cake selection is also not to be missed!
9) The only place to eat on a Sunday – Noordzee / Mer du Nord (Rue Ste Catherine 45)
Noordzee isn’t officially a restaurant, it’s more of a fish counter come fish-tapas restaurant which has a huge local following. The menu depends on the season and the catch of the day, but whatever is on offer it’s always going to taste amazing! I strongly recommend their shrimp croquettes and if you’re there on a chilly day their fish soup. They fill the square opposite the counter with chairs and tables and on a sunny day it can be quite a fight to find a spot, but if you can wrestle you way to the front of the counter it’s well worth the struggle. Wash dinner down with a bottle of their great house white or rose wine while taking in the enjoyable atmosphere.
Photo via Mer du Nord
10) The place time forgot – L’épicerie (Rue Keyenveld 56)
Run by the nicest man on earth, Mongkhton Tangton sure knows how to make your lunch special. Good music, great decor and even better home-cooked food prevailed at L’épicerie making it the final great stop-off on your gastronomic tour of Brussels. A former grocery store, you can still buy fresh, organic local produce here or sit in for an afternoon of coffee, cake and delicious food. You cannot leave L’épicerie without having tried Mong’s home-made guacamole in either a sandwich, salad or off the menu mixture.