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Nov 9, 2010 06:44 AM

Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp and Brussels - Cheap and Cheerful

Hello, pondering spending a week in winter in Ghent by myself and making day trips. The last few times I've been, I've fallen in love with Kriek, fresh Liege Waffles, Oud Brugge Cheese, Stoemp and most of all Stoufvlees. (especially the extremely tender version served at Estaminet "In De Gloria" in Antwerp.

Just wondering if any of you have any good suggestions for places I might also like. I still haven't had a good "moules-frites" in Belgium proper as yet (had a great few in Lille) and I'd love to sample some of the local sweet shrimp in something other than a stuffed tomato or kroket.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. If you're looking for cheap and cheerful and for the little grey shrimp, and if you're in Brussels, I'd recommend Au Suisse on Blvd Anspach (very close to the Bourse). They are an old standby, relatively inexpensive, and you get get a baguette filled with the shrimp.

    Or, depending on where you stay, find a nice fishmonger where you can buy your own packet and make them how you want although I rarely venture beyond the mayonnaise, tomato, and bread route myself. (When at home, that is...)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Lizard

      Haven't been to Antwerp, but I'd definitely stay in Ghent or Brugge before I'd stay in Brussels. Small, lovely towns with plenty of good options for things to do and eat.

      1. re: sunshine842

        Oh for sure. Been to all of them and Ghent is my clear favourite. Haven't been blown away by the food on offer though. Belga Queen was ok.

    2. There's a relatively new lunchplace in Bruges called Tête Pressée. It's outside of the city center, but offers a genuine yet modern lunch. I think it's really good value for money. Since the place is at an ancient butchery, they specialize in all kinds of meat.

      I agree Ghent is a great town but not a culinary hotspot yet. Buy some specialties at Groot Vleeshuis and Tierenteyn mustard around the Groentenmarkt. For cheap and cheerful food, I like Chez Léontine (also close to that square) and very simple, local place De Lieve. These won't blow you away maybe, but you'll have a very good meal for a very fair price.

      For Moules Frites: check the Moules Frites topic.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Bill Shankly

        Thanks again! I will definitely check out those places. The sandwich place in Brussels looks pretty cool. Very old school. Definitely my kind of vibe. Would love to hit any good Estaminets in the area as well. I ate at T'Klokhuys in Ghent last time, but it was just so-so. Chez Leontine's menu looks like it fits the bill for sure.

        1. re: currycue

          If you like stoofvlees/stoverij you should definitely go to Brasserie 't Vosken ( in Ghent. Their stoverij (which is a Ghent speciality by the way) is heavenly. They also serve other local specialities such as waterzooi.
          For the best waffles in Ghent, go to Max. It's a bit more expensive than the average waffle place, but the setting is beautiful and they claim to have invented the waffle.

          1. re: jo acb

            Dank U Wel!

            Max looks like a really neat place from their website (I've been to Mokabon and it was ok, but nothing special) I will swing by tvosken and check it out too. If I can avoid going back to Antwerp just for the food, I'd prefer that (wasn't too crazy about the city itself)

            Another question: Where in the area could one find a good, cheap wheel of cheese to take home?

            I was thinking there must be a vendor at the Vrijdagmarkt that I can get a wheel of Oud Brugge or Beemster XO (or another cheese along those lines) I remember only seeing one cheese shop last time I was in Ghent and their prices were high enough that I might as well just buy the cheese here at home instead of lugging it all the way back.

            Maybe I'd have better luck in Brussels?

            1. re: currycue

              Graag gedaan!

              I'm not much of a cheese eater, so I'm not the best person to advise you on this. I do know there are cheese vendors at the Vrijdagmarkt (only on Friday morning).
              If you're not there on Friday, you could go to the markets in Ledeberg or by St-Michiels church on Sunday Morning. There are cheese vendors at both markets. The market by St-Michiels church is tiny but it's right in the city centre, while the one in Ledeberg is quite big but it's located a bit out of town.

              The most well-known cheese shops in Ghent are Mekka in de Koestraat in the city centre and Schollaert in the Rooigemlaan, slightly out of the centre.

              I don't know anything about cheese shops or vendors in Brussels, sorry.

              1. re: jo acb

                Perfect, thanks! I will be there on a Friday and will be staying a 10 minute walk away too. I remember in Amsterdam that all the cheese shops were pretty expensive at around 15-20 euro a kilo for cheese and then I found a vendor at the Albert Cuypmarkt selling it for 8 euro! I'm thinking markets might be the way to go.

      2. Presuming that your day trips are by car, Ieper is only some 75km away. Nice little town which I visit regularly due to an interest in the Great War.

        I've had decent mussels in places around the Grote Markt (although shrimps always seem to be only in kroket). My favourite restaurant is De Ruyffelaer which serves traditional Flemish dishes - run by a couple (she cooks, he does front of house) - you'd need to book - it's only open Thurs - Sun and is deservedly popular.

        Noting you've been to Lille, have you come across "potjevleesh" or, across the border ""potje vleesh"? If not, well worth seeking out as a dish. It's usually rabbit, chicken and beef, in jelly and served cold (in Britain, we'd call a similar dish "brawn") with salad and chips (fries).

        5 Replies
        1. re: Harters

          In my opinion, if I were visiting Ieper, I would not leave the area without first having a meal at In de Wulf, only a 15 minute or so drive -- a fabulous restaurant (though not inexpensive).

          1. re: Nancy S.

            Thanks for that one. Our battlefield trips don't usually include much other than casual eating but on our next trip in April, we'd decided to build in a couple of Michelin meals on the way to/from the Dover ferry. One will include the Sportsman which treats local seasonal produce very similarly to the menu at In de Wulf. Looks like we're going to have to forego mussels and chips to whizz over to Dranouter to make the comparision.

            1. re: Harters

              If you want a real treat, stay overnight at In de Wulf -- breakfast the next morning is truly spectacular (and if you like to jog, you'll see the roaming chickens whose eggs will factor into your meal!

              1. re: Nancy S.

                Does In de Wulf have a webpage or a phone # you can provide? Roughly how expensive are the rooms?

                Are the breakfasts something interesting or pretty standard fare?

        2. How did this go? What is your thoughts on what worked out and what didn't?

          2 Replies
            1. re: currycue

              Have you as yet been to the "Mustard Shop" called Tierentyn across from the old meat-market ? It's also near the "hanging house" which now is a small pub...worth the visit and sort of similar to the Nutshell in Bury St. Edmunds UK. The mustard recipie dates back to the 18XX period if memory serves.

              They make mustard daily I think and there are many varieties etc. so enjoy and taste carefully - hot means hot...Belga Queen is one of the big fav's in the town for more upscale dining. I prefer across the canal/river from that and a bit further down but, IMHO, there are many good ones to choose from.

          1. Folks, just came back and wanted to give you all a huge thank you for your recommendations!

            In Ghent: T'vosken's stoverij was pretty darn close to the one I'd had in Antwerp, so I went back several times. I think I only finished the meal once. Very good stuff! Tried to try Chez Leontine a couple of times, but their hours are kind of weird. Always was closed when I showed up, so I just ended up going back to T'Vosken.

            Etablissement Max was also very impressive. I still can't believe the size of the waffels they serve there. It was a meal in itself.

            In Brussels I had the shrimp sandwich at Au Suisse. It was good, but I'm glad for the recco, because I may have not ever gone in there. It was near closing, the place was dead, only two employees there. You would have never known from the outside that it was an institiution.

            Ended up back in Lille one evening, so I ended up going back to "Au Moules" for my moules-frites. Excellent as always, and of course, had to make another trip to Patisserie Meert for their Vanilla waffle and amazing 18th century tea room.

            Ended up grabbing a half a "Oud Brugge" cheese at the Vrijdagmarkt for around 17 euro a kilo. This I found out later wasn't really a great deal, but not bad either. The cheese is awesome though. Of course, after I'd bought the cheese, I saw an ad for Beemster on sale at SPAR for 11.99 a kilo! Oh well. I will try and post pictures once uploaded.

            1 Reply
            1. re: currycue

              Also forgot to mention the amazing meal I had at De Avonden in Ghent, up near Dampoort Station. The waiter had to translate the menu for me, because, even though I understand a little Dutch, the dishes were quite different than what you find in most restaurants in the area. I had the celery soup to start and the "Pareloen" or Poule pintade in Riesling and tarragon sauce, that came with a bowl of frites and a bowl of cheese covered Jerusalem artichokes. Along with two beers the bill was 27 euro. Very impressed and worth the detour to get there.