Brussels’ gastronomic scene is reason enough to visit this European capital city. Home to 180 breweries, 1,800 restaurants and the legendary Belgian waffle, Brussels has no shortage of brasseries, chocolatiers and cafés to keep your tastebuds tantalized during your stay. Both French and Flemish influenced, Belgian cuisine is known as one of Europe’s finest. Here’s a mini-guide to what to eat while in Brussels, so you know what you absolutely must try when you’re there!
French fries (pomme frites)
photo from NY Times
Sold at friteries or fritkots all around the city, the star dish of Brussels is pomme frites – fried Bintje potatoes, served in a cardboard cone and wrapped in paper, topped with different mayonnaise-based sauces and a tiny fork. Please don’t miss out on this divine experience. Here’s a fun article from the NY Times, In Brussels, Frites Are More than Just Fries, that explains a bit more about this mouth-watering treat and where to find the best friteries in Brussels.
Belgian waffles are one of the country’s sweetest treasures. The dough is exquisitely made, so you can even enjoy them plain. But they’re typically served around Brussels topped with chocolate, powdered sugar and fresh-cut fruit. Unlike the way many parts of the world have adopted them (like in the US), waffles are usually eaten in Belgium as a street food, sold at vendors all around town. For more insight into the history of the Belgian waffle, check out this article from the Huffington Post, The History Of The Belgian Waffle, Which We’ve Apparently Been Eating All Wrong.
Mussels (moules frites)
Coming from the North Sea and usually eaten during autumn, mussels are by far one of Belgium’s most popular dishes. Served in a huge pot (that can be quite intimidating) with different sauces, and a bowl of pommes frites on the side, you should definitely dive into one of these when you’re here. If you want to learn how to eat moules frites like a local and get a few restaurant recommendations, then check out this Idiot’s guide to eating mussels in Brussels.
Before heading to the world’s beer capital, it might be a good idea to brush up on your beer knowledge. So here’s a 3-minute video that breaks it all down for you.
Belgium produces many of the world’s finest beers and Brussels is home to the majority of the country’s breweries. Popular Belgian beers include pale lager, Flemish red and lambic, which is widely popular throughout the country and even used as an ingredient in several dishes. In Belgium, beer is served in the ‘appropriate’ beer glass (rarely in bottles) to enhance its unique flavor. One of the most famous types is Kriek, a cherry lambic. Definitely visit a brewery while you’re in Brussels. One of the most famous is Brasserie-Brouwerij Cantillon (or Cantillon Brewery). Founded in 1900, this brewery hasn’t changed in over a century. It remains family owned and very traditional — they only brew lambic beer here.
Chocolate (French: chocolat belge, Dutch: Belgische chocolade)
With over 2,000 chocolatiers throughout the country, chocolate is serious business for the Belgian economy and has been very popular since the 17th century. You can find some of the world’s finest handmade chocolates in small, independent shops throughout Brussels. You can also find world-renowned chocolate factories like Neuhaus, Leonidas and Godiva. In the beautiful town of Bruges, there’s even a chocolate museum called Choco-Story where you can watch how it’s made. Two of the most popular kinds of Belgian chocolate are pralines (fondants) shaped like seashells, fish, diamonds, etc.; and truffles, which are usually ball-shaped chocolates filled with a soft ganache or fruit, and simply melt in your mouth.
For more on eating and drinking in Brussels, check out this Brussels Hipster City Guide.
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