Brussels, Belgium for Foodies

by Alison Cornford-Matheson / Oct 25, 2011 /

When you think of great foodie capitals of the world, what cities come to mind? I bet Brussels isn’t on your list, unless of course you live here. In fact, most Top Ten food destination lists overlook the Belgian capital but in my mind, it should be number one.

 

I think part of the reason for this slight, is most tourists don’t venture much beyond Grand Place, Brussels’ ornately beautiful central square and the much over-hyped Rue des Bouchers. In fact, whenever I read a guide to Brussels that recommends eating on Rue des Bouchers, my blood boils.

 

You know the type of street; most major European tourist cities have one. It’s a long stretch of restaurants with menus posted in five different languages and people standing out front who get paid by how many unsuspecting tourists they lure in for an over-priced, badly prepared meal. You won’t spot a local anywhere on this street.

 

The good news is, you don’t have to venture to far to find great food in Brussels. There are hundreds of great restaurants within easy walking distance or a short metro trip from Grand Place. Better yet, the multi-culture nature of the city means you can get great cuisine from any corner of the globe.

 

If you are looking for the ultimate fine dining experience, this is your city. In fact, Brussels boasts more Michelin starred restaurants, per capita, than Paris. But you don’t have to break the bank to get great food in Brussels. Most of the foods Belgium is really famous for don’t cost much at all.

 

Rack of Lamb at a traditional Belgian restaurant

Rack of Lamb at a traditional Belgian restaurant 

 

 

Think French-fries come from France? They were actually invented, and perfected in Belgium. Frites, as they are known here, are a staple in Brussels and who makes the best is a highly controversial topic. One of my favourites is Maison Antoine in Place Jourdan.

 

Most people know Belgium is famous for chocolate. In this case, the hype is right. Belgians invented the praline (filled chocolates) and have be handcrafting chocolates for hundreds of years.  When in Brussels, head to Grand Sablon for the highest concentration of high-end chocolate shops and indulge yourself in chocolate heaven.

 

You’ve probably also heard of Belgian waffles, but did you know there are two different kinds? The first is the Brussels waffle. These are rectangular in shape and generally lighter and crispier. The Liege waffle, my favourite, is denser, thicker and is backed with sugar which caramelizes on the outside. Heaven! The best place for waffles is the Dandoy Cafe. Dandoy has been making cookies and other sweet treats since 1829, so they know what they are doing. While there are seven Dandoy shops in Brussels, only one has the upstairs cafe. It’s located at Rue Charles Buls 14, right behind Grand Place.

 

Liege Waffle with cherries and ice cream from Dandoy

Liege Waffle with cherries and ice cream from Dandoy 

 

 

Although it is landlocked, Brussels was made famous for seafood, particularly mussels, thanks to the canal leading barges into the city centre. The city’s former fish market is still the best place to get the freshest seafood. Place St. Catherine is a square surrounded by restaurants that, in summer, have terraces so you can enjoy your food al fresco. My favourite is Brasserie Jaloa at the opposite end of the square from the church.

 

Place St Catherine is also the place to be in December, as it is home to Brussels’ massive Christmas market. This market is a foodie delight with oysters, cured meats, sausages, foie gras and as much mulled wine as you need to keep you warm.

 

 

So the next time you plan a European foodie adventure, make sure Brussels is on the top of your list. Stop by Grand Place to enjoy the view  - then wave to the other tourists as you head where the locals eat.

 

 

 

Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian writer and photographer, and our Expat Living Editor. She is the founder of http://CheeseWeb.eu - a travel resource for expats in Belgium and abroad. She's spent the past 6 years uncovering Belgium's hidden travel gems.

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Alison Cornford-Matheson

 

 

This is part of Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust & Lipstick! Head over to see great food from around the world!