At long last, find your mini-guide to mandatory Brussels eats below. Before we begin, I will confess to the grave sin of not having tried a lot of Belgian beer due in part to dietary restrictions and in part to my general dislike of beer. So, while I can’t speak to it personally, I’d say you should probably try the beer, too. Perhaps with your frites.
First and foremost, before you even drop off your bag, have a waffle…or ten. I guarantee you that you haven’t really tasted a true waffle until you’ve had one in Belgium. Before you run off on your waffle quest, allow me to impart some waffle wisdom. Did you know that there are, in fact, two types of waffle? Yeah, me neither. You have the Brussels waffle, a larger rectangular waffle with deep holes, made of lighter batter and the Liege waffle, a round-ish waffle, made of thicker batter mixed with pearl sugar to achieve a caramelized texture. The Brussels waffle is more plain and requires a topping for a complete waffle experience, whereas the Liege waffle can act as a standalone dessert, no toppings necessary. But where’s the fun in that? Every waffle shop in Brussels offers more toppings than the eye can see, so go forth and explore! I would recommend a classic strawberry-banana-whipped cream combination. And remember: ask for the Belgian hot chocolate, NOT Nutella. Trust me, my fellow Americans, the hot chocolate is superior. But if you really can’t betray your heritage, why not have two waffles and compare the taste? 😉 In terms of cost, I’ve found it to be similar across all waffle-serving establishments, starting at 2€ for a plain waffle and going up as high as 10€ for a truly sophisticated, multi-topping experience.
Where I went: Los Churros & Waffle around the corner from the Grand Place, Le Funambule next to the infamous Manneken Pis, and Gaufre de Bruxelles.
You don’t like seafood? I don’t want to hear it, you have to try the mussels at least once. I’d strongly advise that you bring a friend because they are served in a huge bucket, and I struggled to finish my serving alone. In Brussels, they normally come with the Belgian fries, but make sure that the frites are included in the price because it adds up quickly. Looking around the tourist-y area, I found that a plate of moules can cost around 20-27€. Most establishments offer a range of sauce options, and nearly every respectable seafood restaurant offers a special sauce fait à la maison. Head to the Marché aux Poissons by foot or via the 1 / 5 metro line stopping at Sainte Catherine for an entire street lined with seafood establishments ranging from an outdoor shack Noordze to fancier alternatives.
Where I went: La Boussole located at the Marché aux Poissons. Moules and frites come out to 22€ and come with a serving of warm bread, butter, and olives.
While we’re still discussing savory options – don’t forget to try the famous Belgian fries, or frites. They’re thicker than the traditional French fries we’re used to, and they generally come with a serious helping of sauces. You can find them in pretty much any restaurant as a side dish, but if you’re looking to indulge exclusively in frites, I’d recommend Fritland next to the Bourse. They serve plain frites and offer a variety of sauces for an additional 80 eurocents. Unfortunately, I was so excited to try them that I ended up with a blurry, unpublishable photo and a burned palate.
Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate
So you’ve got your ticket to Belgium booked, but you don’t really like chocolate? I’d suggest considering another destination. CHOCOLATE IS EVERYWHERE. The streets smell of chocolate. It’s heavenly. To be honest, I myself am not technically supposed to eat chocolate as it tends to exacerbate my digestive struggles, but, quite frankly, I’m in Belgium and I don’t care. [As a side note: I am feeling surprisingly okay so far, so maybe the miraculous Belgian chocolate cured me of my illness?]. Your first assignment is to get yourself a cup of Belgian hot chocolate, which has nothing whatsoever in common with the national tragedy of cocoa powder dissolved in hot water that we in America call hot chocolate. Belgian hot chocolate is prepared by dipping a chunk of high quality chocolate–dark, milk, flavored, you name it–in steamed milk. I would recommend a visit to the Comptoir Mathilde. There, you will find a wide selection of chocolate flavors, which, for 3,50€ of your hard-earned money, you can turn into a steaming cup of magic. Trust me, it’s good. There are many, many things I’d give up if I could drink authentic Belgian hot chocolate until I die with no adverse effects on my health. I was also recommended the Frederic Blandeel chocolate shop located at the Marché aux Poissons, but unfortunately it was closed on Tuesday, so I didn’t get a chance to sample their chocolate goodness. Aside from hot chocolate, you will also find an abundance of chocolate treats of all shapes and sizes all over Brussels. If you buy one souvenir during your visit, let it be chocolate.
Where I went: Comptoir Mathilde located behind the Bourse and across from the Saint Nicholas Church, La Belgique Gourmande in the Galeries Saint-Hubert.
Happy eating, friends! If you’d like to share any other Brussels food recommendations, comment below!