I once heard someone say that Belgium is like France but without all the arrogance and snobbiness. Although I am completely in love with the French people, culture, and the country, I have to say that I agree with this statement. And, this applies to the food too. France is known for its exquisite food, but I’d argue that Belgian food holds its own in that category. France was where I discovered my love for mussels steamed in white wine and onions, but I had equally as good mussels in Belgium without anyone lording it over me. The fries, or frites as the Belgians call it, were seriously some of the best. And the chocolates? Sorry France, but I think Belgium wins on this one too!
Needless to say, we had a scrumptious adventure with Belgian food. Looking back over our trip, I realized we spent our entire Belgium vacation eating fries and drinking beer. Occasionally we did squeeze in a real meal though. Check out what we ate!
The Belgian food and drinks are listed chronologically, not by rating. Also, breakfast didn’t make the list because we ate the free hostel breakfast every morning. Which reminds me, if you are offered speculoos for your toast, take it. If not, search it out and buy it. Speculoos is a delightful cookie spread that goes well on just about everything!
As I mentioned above, I fell in love with mussels in France, and every time I eat them, I’m reminded of my summer with a French family, living near the coast, and devouring the delectable pieces steamed in wine and onion juices. But, I was told I should try them in Belgium, so on our very first night in the country, we sat down to a romantic meal of moules (mussels), frites, and beer. It was phenomenal! And there was none of that fussy pretentious stuff!
As a rule, you can’t go to Belgium without drinking Belgian beer, so that is exactly what we did. Sure, we had beer with dinner, but De Garre provides the quintessential Belgian atmosphere for beer drinking. It is tucked away in a secret dark alley and is well over a century old. Everything was super rustic from the wooden floors and ceiling beams to the stone and brick walls to the dimly lit room. I obviously had a raspberry lambic (my favorite) and Nisheet had a house Belgian trippel that was at an insane 11.5% gravity!
This Flemish stew was hands-down The. Best. Meal. I ate in Belgium. It is like a better version of beef burgundy (sorry France!). It has large tender pieces of beef that have been stewed all day in Belgian beer. To balance out the salty savoriness, a sweet dollop of applesauce is added. A heavenly match. What’s more, the dish was served with a side of frites which is pretty much the case when you order any entree in Belgium…what a superb idea right?!? We washed down all of this with a glass of a cold Belgian blonde beer.
Another Belgian food delicacy is chocolates. Delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, creamy chocolate. There must be 30+ stores in the small town of Bruges that sell every kind of chocolate that you can dream of. They sell dark chocolates, light chocolates, milk chocolates, chocolates that are filled with beer, with pistachios… you get the point. Pick any store as you can’t go wrong. We went to one of the most well known stores called Dumon and got a wonderful assortment.
Liege waffles are my new favorite dessert. Not to be confused with Brussels waffles, Liege waffles are dense, sticky, and bursting with flavor. Unlike its American counterpart, you don’t need to put any toppings as the waffles by themselves are sweet and delicious. Of course, the tourists don’t know that and overload the waffles with strawberries, chocolate, and whipped cream so you can’t even taste the waffle itself. Do yourself a favor and get a plain beige waffle when your’e in Belgium.
Bruges might have a lot of bars, but the city center only has one brewery, De Halve Maan. The brewery can trace its roots back to 1564, but it wasn’t modernized to its current brew standards until 1856. Still old by my books! Unfortunately we didn’t make it there in time for a tour, which I hear is excellent, but we did have time to split a quadrupel before they closed. It is a very dark beer that is 11%, so watch out!
By this point on our Belgian trip we had already had frites twice with meals, but we hadn’t had them all on their own. So that was next up on our Belgian food list. We checked out the well known Chez Vincent which makes all their fries with 100% vegetable oil and fried twice making them distinctively crunchier than American ones. There were over 10 options for a sauce and we opted for the curry mayo instead of the traditional plain Belgian mayo (which we had already tried). It was a perfect combination of hot crunchy carbs dipped in zesty mildly spicy sauce. I highly recommend it!
We ended our 2nd night in Bruges at another local bar called ‘t Brugs Beertje. The inside was very charming and old and felt very authentic. There was a thick binder with over 100 beer options, and I had a deliciously sweet peach lambic while Nisheet had the Brugse Zot since he didn’t get to try it at De Halve Maan earlier. That name comes with a story, obviously. In short, there was tension between the Bruges and their ruler Maximilian. To handle the town crazies, they wanted to build a mental institution and needed Max’s permission, so they tried to persuade him by throwing a large celebration in his honor. Since it was Bruges, they drank a lot at the celebration and acted like typical drunkards. When Max saw this, he chuckled and said…just close the city gates and you’ll have your mental institution because the whole city is filled with nothing but the fools.
Do a quick internet search for Belgian food in Ghent, and Ghent Noses is sure to come up. These are raspberry sweets that have been baked at a very low heat for a long time, so the outside is crunchy and the inside is a gooey sweet mess. The ones from the supposedly original factory have a ‘G’ printed on them and homemade ones have no label. Everyone fights over which is the best and most traditional, and it is quite comical to hear them banter back and forth. We opted for a cute little shop with a friendly store owner. Nisheet thought they were delectable, but I thought they were just “meh”.
Our walking tour guide recommended we check out one of his favorite Belgian food joints and try the famous Belgian Bicky Burger, so that is what we did. At the time I didn’t know what was in the burger, but it was tasty and served on a white sesame bun with fried onion crisps on top. I remember being glad I tried it but mentioning I probably wouldn’t order it again. Now I know it has horse meat in it, and I most definitely won’t be ordering it again. We also ordered some fries (of course) with some famous brown meat sauce, again recommended by our tour guide. Neither of us could take more than 3 bites of it as it was super bitter but supposedly you get used to it.
For our evening beer, we ended up at a famous local bar called Dulle Griet where they sell a yard of beer… that’s right a yard!! However, since so many people have stolen the giant yard glass, they now require a deposit of one shoe which they hoist up to the ceiling in a basket tied to a rope. It is humorous to see half the people with just one shoe on. And, I might add, you will get a good laugh at watching tipsy people try to hop on one foot up a narrow staircase to the bathroom. We did not get the yard of cheap beer though and instead opted for something way better…Chimay Blue, my new favorite non-fruity beer. It is dark, sweet, aromatic, and smooth.
Our walking tour of Brussels was so long that we had a 20 minute break in the middle at the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. There are several chocolate and tea shops inside, and I suggest you go in ALL of them since they were all giving free samples while we were there! Yum! Our favorite was a chocolate shop called Mary. We didn’t end up with any chocolate, but we bought the most delicious brioche filled with vanilla cream from Madagascar. When we met back up with our tour, our guide informed us that Mary is the official chocolate supplier to the Belgian Royal Family. I guess we know our sweets!
For a light dinner in Brussels, we ate at one of the most popular frite shops around, Fritland. Mmm-mmm. There will be a huge line outside. When we were there, the line was down the sidewalk, across the street, and onto the other sidewalk. Do not wait in the line. Walk inside to order, even if you want a to-go order. Another tip is to order your sauce on the side. Otherwise the top frites will be drenched in sauce with nothing left for the bottom ones. We got a garlic sauce and it was tasty! And, of course, the frites were perfectly crispy and hot. We also saw people with a frites sandwich that looked amazing!
Nisheet did most of the bar and beer choosing on our trip, but I did find one supposedly amazing bar in Brussels to check out, Moeder Lambic. It is one of the top 10 bars in the world and has lambic in the name, so how could we not go? The bar was completely packed when we got there, but luckily 2 people got up to leave right when we walked in. We asked the bar tender what the most popular lambics were (and by the way there are only ~5 on the menu). Nisheet got the Lambic Cantillon and I ordered a Kriek Cantillon. Absolutely terrible. I forced myself to take 5 sips thinking that it would get better. Nope. We paid for our basically untouched beers and left in search of something drinkable.
The Bier Circus was my favorite bar in Brussels. It was laid back, relaxing, friendly, and set away from the super touristy area. It also had a serious selection of beer, and most importantly, it had Chimay Blue on tap! We paired our beer with a cheese plate and had a wonderful evening discussing our favorite parts of the trip and talking with the friendliest bartender. It was a great way to end our beer infused European adventure.