The Best Restaurants in Brussels
Expect to find much more than pommes frites, moules, and Brussels sprouts at the restaurants and bistros of Brussels. Belgian cuisine picks up traditions from the tables of its neighbors, France and Germany, as well as reflecting the cuisines of its international population and the bounty of local farms, ocean, and gardens.
Avenue Louise 390, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
When people ask for my top restaurant in Brussels, I have to think twice, not because of indecision, but because I’m reluctant to share. If I like the person a lot, I tell them my secret - Le Coin des Artistes. Just about all of my favourite restaurants in Brussels, look completely unassuming from the outside. Le Coin des Artistes is no exception to this rule. It’s easy to pass by without even realising this corner building is a restaurant and its shabby-chic interior does nothing to hint at the wonders in the kitchen. Take a deep breath though and you’re bound to smell something mouth-watering. Pull up a chair and attempt to decipher the hand-written chalkboard menu. If you don’t read French (or can’t make out the nearly illegible specials of the day) don’t worry, someone will decode it for you. Even if you resort to the cover-your-eyes-and-point method of menu selection, your meal will be divine. Don’t forget to ask for a wine suggestion. The list here is well worth the splurge. The food is rustic French. The chef hails from the south of France and you’ll find traditional French countryside favourites and seasonal specialities. When in doubt, choose the cassoulet. This hearty bean and sausage dish is so good it’s almost a religious experience. Le Coin des Artistes is a perfect example of not judging a book by its cover – or not judging a restaurant by its rickety chairs. Just don’t tell too many people about it, because we locals want to keep it all to ourselves.
Rue au Beurre 31, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Maison Dandoy has been baking delicious treats in Brussels since 1829 and you’ll find their famous shops scattered around Brussels. Step inside, and you’ll be greeted by the sights and smells of crunchy biscuits (cookies) looking much as they have since the shop began. The beautiful packaging makes Dandoy cookies a great gift (even if it is for yourself). Be sure to try the traditional Speculaas (or Speculoos); a spicy, crunchy gingerbread cookie, popular throughout the lowlands. While the Dandoy shops can be found all over, only one is home to the Dandoy tearoom. In my opinion, it is well worth seeking out for arguably the best waffles in Belgium. There are two types of waffle here—Bruxelles (Brussels); rectangular and flaky and Liege; rounded and baked with sticky sugar. How best to eat a waffle in Belgium is hotly contested. Locals swear waffles should be topping-free. I however am a sucker for the stewed cherries and vanilla ice-cream. However you order yours, just don’t ask for a “Belgium Waffle.”
The food truck revolution is coming to Brussels and a great introduction is Keep On Toasting. Keep On Toasting travels around Brussels, serving up gourmet toasties, toasted sandwiches inspired by the traditional croque monsieur. These are far from your Mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches though. Owner and chef, Jean Baptiste Nyssen, creates four new sandwiches a week. He hand picks the best local and organic ingredients he can find. Pictured here is his Croq-British - A perfect breakfast sandwich, containing chopped up boiled egg, lardons (bacon), green beans and Stilton cheese. His veggie goat-cheese and lentil sandwich blew my mind and with inspirations from the Alps to India, there is sure to be a sandwich for you.
Nestled on the corner of Rue Blaes and Rue Notre-Seigneur, in the Marolles, is a cosy little secret of in-the-know foodies. It’s called L’Idiot du Village, but even the village idiot will tell you, it’s worth finding this little restaurant. While the décor is funky (with just a touch of odd) the food is just straight up delicious. Their duck and game dishes are heavenly and they have a way with scallops. If you are adventurous, order whatever the special of the day is, as it’s bound to be seasonal and wonderful. If you want a real taste of ‘quirky’ Belgium, L’Idiot du Village is not to be missed. L’Idiot isn’t open on weekends and it books up quickly so reservations are essential. For more information and photos: http://cheeseweb.eu/2012/01/lidiot-du-village-restaurant-brussels/
Rue Baron Horta 3, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Brussels’ BOZAR museum is well worth visiting for its excellent art exhibitions, concerts, and events, like TEDex Brussels. But it’s also worth visiting for its gastronomic restaurant, the BOZAR Brasserie, headed by chef David Martin. The menu changes each month and includes Belgian favourites with a fresh, modern twist. Ingredients are organic and sourced locally when possible, with dashes of international flavours like Basque pork and Anjou pigeon. The prices aren’t for the budget conscious, ranging from 20-40 Euro for a main dish. However, the set lunch menus from Tuesday to Friday make a more wallet-friendly option. Even if you don’t spring for a whole meal here, stop in for a coffee and dessert. Pictured here is the specialty of the chef: a dark chocolate ‘bomb’, filled with creamy, rich praline and accompanied with homemade passion fruit sorbet. The sweet/tart combination is heavenly. The BOZAR Brasserie doesn’t take reservations so go early and be prepared to wait. It’s worth it.
Rue des Grands Carmes 10, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Brussels has a number of African influences due to the influx of African immigrants from former Belgian colonies. A great example is the number of African restaurants in town. We ate at KoKob (pictured), an upscale, trendy Ethiopian restaurant. As is tradition in Ethiopia, we ate with our hands from a shared plate using a spongy crepe-like bread to scoop up meats and vegetables. We washed down the meal with St. Georges, a popular Ethiopian beer. Definitely a fun, unexpected experience.
Rue d'Arenberg 1B, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
L’Arcadie is one of the only exceptions to the “don’t eat near Grand Place” rule in Brussels. Located at the end of the Galleries Saint Hubert covered shopping arcade, this café is always packed with both tourists and Brussels locals. The pasta and meals are good but what locals really come is for is the quiche. They are made fresh daily and the varieties are endless. There are always plenty of options for vegetarians as well. It’s one of the few cheap and healthy(ish) options only steps from Grand Place. Try to save room for the homemade cakes and tarts (or come back for a slice and coffee after you walk around central Brussels.)
Rue Berckmans 98, 1060 Saint-Gilles, Belgium
We discovered this tiny Italian restaurant near Ave. Louise through a desperate, last-minute internet search. Like many of the hidden gems in Belgium, you could easily pass it by. In fact, when we found it we looked at each other with “is this it?” expressions on our faces. Inside the shabby-chic interior, delightful smells were emanating from the kitchen. Not long after we sat down, the small dining room began to fill. In addition to the rave reviews we read, these were two very good signs. Our pasta arrived looking almost as wonderful as it smelled; and the taste – velvety and delicious. This is authentic Italian, prepared with care and attention to detail - just the way Mama would make it.
Place de la Vieille Halle aux Blés 37, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
When visitors to Belgium ask me what to eat here (besides the inevitable chocolate, waffles and frites), my reply is always stoofvlees (unless they are vegetarians!). Stoofvlees, or carbonnade a la Flamande as it’s called in French, literally translates to ‘stew meat.’ Essentially, it is cubed beef, stewed in Belgian beer for so long it melts in your mouth. It’s typically served over mashed potatoes or Belgian fries and it is hearty, heavy and heavenly. In the city centre, not far from Grand Place, is a great place to try stoofvlees, called Cafe Novo. This colourfully quirky Belgian cafe always has an eclectic crowd. The menu is varied and caters well to vegetarians (the falafels are great!) as well as carnivores. Cafe Novo is open every day (a rarity in Brussels) and is great for a late Sunday brunch. They have a small but sunny back garden that books up quickly. Thursday evenings Novo hosts ‘cocktail concerts’ so you can enjoy a bit of live music as you dine.
Place Jourdan 1, 1040 Etterbeek, Belgium
Despite the moniker, fries are 100% Belgian. At least that’s what locals and expats alike believe. Having lived in Brussels for six years, I ate my fair share of frites. Mayonnaise is the sauce of choice for most, but me? Oh la la. I prefer the Sauce Andalouse ---Mayonnaise mixed with tomato purée and pimento. In a word---yum! The best way to eat them is from the numerous frite stands that dot the city scape of Brussels. Hot out of the oil, wrapped in a paper cone, there is nothing better.
108 Chaussée d'Alsemberg
I’ve had so many great dining experiences in Belgium, it’s hard to choose a favourite. I can say, without reservation, La Buvette is in my top five. La Buvette is warm and classy without feeling overly stuffy or formal. The concept is simple – one menu, 8 courses, drinks optional. The ingredients are local, organic, and seasonal. The food is, without a word of exaggeration, divine. The presentations are artistic and beautiful and the flavour profiles are complex without being confusing. Each and every ingredient shines through. The best part - the menu is €45. Are you making reservations yet? See photos of my entire menu here: http://cheeseweb.eu/2013/11/la-buvette-slow-food-restaurant-brussels/