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Beer, Food, Chocolate in Brussels, Belgium?

Hi -

Taking a quick 2 day trip over to Brussels next weekend. Although I am sure we will be doing the typically touristy activities like walking around the Grand Place, sampling incredible beers, chocolates, moules frites, waffles, oysters etc. We'd also like to get off the beaten path and do as the locals would. Does anyone out there have any 'must not miss' suggestions?

So far, possibilities on the list are the the Grand Place, Le Roy d'Espagne, Cantillion Brewery, Delirium Cafe, the Place du Jeu de Balle flea market, St. Catherine district for oysters, and Wittamer and Mary's for chocolate.

For food : Aux Armes de Bruxelles, Au Vieux Bruxelles, Les Brassins, L'Ogenblik,

Also, one thing I really enjoy is checking out foreign supermarkets - are there any close to the 'touristy' areas (Grand Place or Nord train station)?

Thanks!

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  1. I moved to Brussels this summer and loooove the Belgian cuisine. It is almost too difficult to make recommendations for only two days.

    You are coming at a great time, when mussels and oysters are in full season, and the cold weather permits true enjoyment of great but heavy classics like stoemp (coarsely mashed potatoes, sometimes with other vegetables, often with sausage on top). Further, the Christmas Market on and around the Place Ste Catherine has just opened up, and it's a blast. Lots of stalls selling street food and gifts, gluhwein, and genever. Definitely wander around there.

    For waffles, I like the Belgaufra stands. It is a chain, but their waffles are delish--markedly better than many other I have sampled.

    For frites, Fritland close to the Grand'Place is actually quite good, and conveniently located. If you're headed to the Sablon one day (which I recommend for the spectacular church, lovely weekend antiques market, and general pretty square--also where Wittamer and Pierre Marcolini are located) make a small detour for the frites shack on the place de la Chappelle-yum!

    There is a Delhaize supermarket on boulevard Anspach almost directly across from the Bourse(stock exchange, landmark building close to the Grand'Place). You can get lovely Belgian beers and cheeses there for cheap.

    For old-fashioned Belgian cooking, I love in't Spinnekopke on the place Jardin aux Fleurs and l'Achepot on the place Ste Catherine. For a local, casual spot to get a huge tureen of moules, the Pre Sale (imagine accents aigus over those Es) on the rue de Flandres close to Place Ste Catherine. I don't know if you're planning any more upscale meals out on this trip, but a couple of great sleek 'new Belgian' places are: Le Fourneau (Ste Catherine), Re-source (rue du Midi), and Jaloa (place de la vielle halle aux bles, but this is moving and i'm not sure when the old location closes). Also Lola in the Sablon.

    Even casual restaurants here like you to call in advance to reserve, even if you call just a few hours before on the same day. Have a great time!

    9 Replies
    1. re: H. LaRonita

      Thanks for this great info!! I am really looking forward to the mussels, oysters and of course, the beer on this trip.

      One more question - do I need to be worried about restaurants and markets being closed on Sunday? We arrive Sat am and leave Mon am so want to plan accordingly.

      1. re: gunksny

        Lots of restaurants are closed Sunday and Monday. Resto.be is a pretty good reference on the web. According to them, le Pre Sale and Lola are open Sundays; Spinnekopke, le Fourneau, Re-source, Jaloa and l'Achepot are not.

        Markets are open Sundays, though--the Sablon antiques, the Delhaize supermarket (until 6 pm), the Place du Jeu de Balle junk market, and the Boitsfort open-air food market (if you feel like traveling on the tram for quite a while for a really lovely food market) are all open Sundays.

        I forgot to mention dessert--while you're here, have some speculoos cookies (or speculoos ice cream!) and a Dame Blanche (hot fudge sundae, but with fab Belgian chocolate, mm). As for beer, try what looks interesting, but watch out--many of the light-colored ones are actually the highest in alcohol content...not that there's anything wrong with that. Just be forewarned about the Tripel Karmeliet. :)

        1. re: H. LaRonita

          Thanks for all the responses - I'm really regretting not trying harder to get another day or 2 out of this trip.

          Sorry - I lied - one more question. What about nightlife? Seems like Delirium Cafe is a must but anything else around we should try?

          1. re: gunksny

            Hmm. I really like Brussels nightlife but it may not be everyone's style. In general, it is very, very laid-back...little attitude...casual dress (there are some exceptions of course, but not much in the center city, more toward Avenue Louise). Personally I think it's great, but if you're looking for something more scene-y, that may be tricky.

            That said, the St Gery neighborhood, a hop and skip across Anspach from the Grand'Place area, is the place to go for young hipsters. Le Roi des Belges is a popular bar but I prefer Mappa Mundo on the other corner--it has lots of levels; keep going upstairs and grab a booth where you can look out over the scene below.

            Nearby on the rue des Chartreux are several great spots -- Cobra Bar (small and intimate); Greenwich Tavern (a large Art Nouveau space that always has old dudes playing chess); Fin de Siecle (I almost don't want to tell anyone about it, it's so good...but it's already very popular. You can get a big, tasty hearty meal and a beer or two for like 10-15 Eur. A great place to try stoemp saucisse.)

            A La Mort Subite close to the Grand'Place is a big and spectacular Art Nouveau spot and has the advantage of serving its own delicious brews.

            A warning if you are at all sensitive to cigarette smoke--smoking is banned in restaurants but seems practically mandatory in bars. It can be very difficult to get away from--I always bring my inhaler and never wear anything to a bar that can't be washed easily!

      2. re: H. LaRonita

        We went to Pre Sale in Sept. and it was our favorite for mussels/frites. If we lived in Belgium we'd be regulars here. Make reservations as it is a local favorite.

        1. re: H. LaRonita

          This post is timely because I am going to Brussels this weekend as well. You have given me lots to think about- especially given how little time I have.
          How's the weather?

          1. re: carfreeinla

            The weather, well...it ain't Los Angeles. Meteo.be is the national weather service site--they are predicting highs around 44 this weekend, with rain on Sunday. As I write it is in the fifties, grey, and rainy. Make sure to bring waterproof shoes and a small umbrella...

            One more Chow spot I forgot to mention--if you're doing the royal museums at all (and the art museum is fabulous, from Breughel to Magritte) do make a reservation to lunch at Museum Brasserie (www.museumfood.be) It is a new-ish venture of Peter Goossens, the three-Michelin-starred chef of Hof van Cleve. It is SUPERB--wonderfully refined takes on the Belgian classics---not very expensive--and a gorgeous room to boot.

            1. re: H. LaRonita

              Yes! Thank you. This was on my list for Saturday. I have one concern that is personal to me- I am gluten intolerant. In a city that prides itself on cooking with beer, that could be a problem. Any thoughts on this? Pommes Frites are definately gluten free!

              1. re: H. LaRonita

                We ate at the Brasserie at the Museum yesterday. After we got over the attitude of the Willem DeFoe lookalike Maitre D' ( funny, since we had just seen Willem at the airport in NY!), it was all smooth sailing except for the slow service ( too many large parties for the well meaning waitstaff to handle). I can say that the Moules Natur were by far the best that I have ever eaten anywhere- huge and just seasoned enough to let the natural flavor standout.I am not sure that I even made a dent in it. Frites were good not great. Would definately go back. Tonight it is Belga Queen.

          2. I was in Brussels for a few days last year and we tried about a dozen chocolate shops. My favorite by far, though pretty expensive, was Piere Marcolini. I love dark chocolate and they have a pretty awesome selection.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Patuney

              Thanks to everyone for all the helpful info!! Hopefully it doesn't rain too much this weekend, although I suspect its nothing a few belgian beers and frites can't fix!

              1. re: gunksny

                We are back from our weeked ( gunksny- did we see you?) in Brussels. As I said, the museum brasserie was good but we really liked Belga Queen. The ambience is overwhelming- do check out the bathrooms! But I can't say enough about the chocolate mousse sampler for dessert. It was possibly the best that I have ever eaten. One letdown ( and I was disappointed whereever I had them) were the pommes Frites- I like them from 1st ave in Manhattan better than any I had in Brussels this weekend ( and given that I had them 3 times in two days...).
                Please someone explain the tipping situation? Do you tip? How much? No one returned our tips but we were told that it is not expected....

                1. re: carfreeinla

                  We had a great time (despite getting rained on every day)! The trip and logistics were ridiculously easy. We landed, got on the train for 10 min, had an early check-in at the Thon which was in a great location close to the train and walking distance to the Grand Place, napped an hour then headed to Christmas Market on Ste. Catherine's where before 6 am our time we had already sampled the giant veal sausages served on fresh baguettes with onions and mustard, hot wine, tea with rhum, escargots, and fresh oysters + wine. We wandered some more where we just happened to run into many of the great sugggestions on this board including Greenwich and Cobra bars, in't Spinnekopke and Le Pre Sale.

                  We had every intention of having lunch (moules frites) at Aux Armes de Bruxelles, but it looked a little less casual than we wanted, so we ended up outside under the heat lamps at Chez Leon across the street. It was packed and quite good.

                  We walked a ways in the rain to the Cantillon Brewery where the samplings and tour were sort of lame, but it was a good place to wait out the rain in their bar room which has warm coal burning stoves.

                  Other food highlights included waffles with chocolate from Australia (we coudnt for the life of us find a Befgaufra that was open). Les Brassins was the best meal we had. We had the rabbit stewed with kriek, stoemp saucisse and beef bourguignon - all excellent. I agree with carfreeinla that in general, I expected more from the frites everywhere we had them. We tipped about 5-10% on meals.

                  The huge selection of beers did not disappoint at Delirium Cafe (or anywhere else for that matter). Sunday the city seemed to really shut down (except directly around the Grand Place)

                  We will be back.

                  Thanks again to all for the very helpful advice!

                  Carfreeinla - Were you on the American flight into JFK yesterday?

                  1. re: gunksny

                    Yes! Row 33! And the outbound friday nite.
                    So with all of the pommes frites disappointment, where are they really excellent? Is the issue the potatoes themselves? Even in the best places, they seemed tasteless.
                    I looked for Fritland, but never found it. I don't do chips in London because they are often cooked in the same oil as the fish, and I can't risk cross contamination with wheat.

                    1. re: carfreeinla

                      Same flights for us! We stumbled right into Fritland on the way back from the Brewery. We ordered a cone of frites with mayo - fries were just ok, mayo was better than they have here.

                      Stoempf was the standout potato dish of this trip - every variation we had was excellent.

                      We also tried a dish (not sure what its called) being served in many of the stands outside - it was a sliced potato dish with cream, cheese and bacon. Tasty, but super rich.

                      1. re: gunksny

                        Our outing this weekend is Lockhart, Texas. If you are doing that trip, it will be too much of a coincidence. Definately ready for some BBQ

            2. We were in Belgium and Amsterdam this September. In Belgium I too was disappointed with the fries (as I LOVE them). When we got to Amsterdam the fries there were exactly what I expected to see in Belgium, but didn't. They were fantastic and crispy, addictive!

              1. I'm glad you had such a lovely time. I live in Gent now, so will use your notes when I go explore Brussels. I'm with you though- the Belgians are peculiarly proud of their fries, while ubiquitous, are not noteworthy. To me, their just fries! A pile of the stoverj sauce though, and you have a meal. I will say, I like all the little frie shops, as it is far better to have a take away of fresh fries and mayonaise than a big old bag of fast food any day.