Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Best Four Foods to Eat in Brussels (and where to get them!)


There are four major food groups in Belgium as far as tourists are concerned:

Waffles
Chocolate
Fries
Beer

If you leave Belgium without eating each and every one of these foods, you have not been to Belgium. Simple as that. I had other reasons for wanting to visit Brussels: the convenient proximity to Paris, the chance to see Manneken Pis (a little peeing boy statue that has become a national symbol–oh, Beligum), and to experience the charm and friendliness of the Belgian people, whom even Parisians tend to dote on in weak moments. But if I am being honest, my goal for the trip was to eat as many waffles as possible in the 30 hours we were there. 


First, let me make a clarification: there are Belgian waffles, which most Americans know as enormous puffy light waffles pooling in whipped creme and strawberries. They are basically the same thing in Belgium (only not quite enormous--is anything as enormous as it is in America?). But let me introduce to you a far higher echelon of taste bud heaven that awaits the curious and craving traveler: the Liège waffle. Liège is actually a little town just north of Brussels for which this legendary waffle is named. The dough is denser and with a delightful hint of crunch, the sugar baked right into batter so that you never forget for one moment you are eating the most delicious breakfast (or lunch and dinner, too, in my case) on the planet. The Liège waffle is so delectable, it's best not to interrupt its glorious flavors with superfluous whipped cream or overbearing Nutella. Just a humble sprinkling of brown sugar, and you are ready to experience crunchy, yeasty, melt-in-your-mouth waffle heaven. (now wipe the drool off your keyboard and buy your plane ticket.)

As soon as my cousin Caity and I hit the bus stop in Brussels, we made a beeline for Maison Dandoy. This boutique and tea salon is to waffles in Belgium what Angelina's is to hot chocolate in Paris. It's the real deal, the full treatment, the crème de la crème of waffle world. We settled into a table on the outdoor patio and ordered a Belgian waffle with strawberry sauce and ice cream and Liège waffle with brown sugar. Best. Lunch. Ever.


I planned my entire trip in Brussels around eating waffles for every meal. And I am proud to say that other than the dinner our wonderfully hospitable hosts cooked for us on the first night, I succeeded magnificently. Our eating habits basically followed the same order: Waffle, fries, chocolate, beer. Repeat. 

I made some interesting discoveries about Belgian food along the way:

  • Walking waffles are nearly as good as sit down ones. Paying more than 3€ for a waffle is a scam (other than Maison Dandoy, of course. And in this case, only the Liege.)
  • French fries are not at all French; they originated in Belgium. Let's start the movement. Belgium fries. (Sounds way better than "freedom fries," let's be honest.)
  • All fries are not created equal. You want crispy dark ones with a fun spicy sauce, not the boring yellow fries with a dab of normal mayo. 
  • Some chocolatiers will hand out samples, so if you are tasting for the day, it can be free!
  • But buying individual chocolates isn't too expensive, and they are so rich that just one or two is enough to satisfy.
  • Beer in Belgium is superior to all others. I hate beer, I have tried it many times to try to like it, and I hate it. But Belgian beers can be fun and are far tastier than others. Some don't even taste like beer. I tried my first beer in Disney World at Epcot, and you better bet it was Belgium beer. Explains why all beers since then til now have been a failure.
So where to go to get the best of each of the essential food groups in Brussels? Thankfully we had a tour guide who gave us the inside scoop on where to get the best waffles, fries, beer, and chocolate in Brussels, and we tested them out, just to make sure. You're welcome; the pleasure was ours.

Waffles:


Karel Bulsstraat 14
1000 Brussel
Belgium
Have we established this already? There is a boutique location, and also a restaurant and boutique location. Also, buy the Pain au Grecque (aptly nicknamed "crack bread" by my sister.) Get the Liege waffle with brown sugar and brace yourself for a foodgasm.

Fries: 

Rue de la Fourche 37
1000 Bruxelles
Belgium
We were unable to visit this esteemed cafe as they are closed on Sundays, but it was highly recommended to us by our guide who pretty much nailed every other recommendation, so I would go for it.

First round of slightly lesser fries... we went to Friterie Tabora by round 2!
Taborastraat 2
1000 Brussel
Belgium
The fries place we went to and LOVED! where I would order the American sauce drizzled over some delectably golden pommes frites. A spicier kick than its boring normal mayo cousin.

Beer:


Impasse de la Fidélité 4A
1000 Bruxelles
Belgium
The holder of the Guinness World Record for the most beers sold under one roof, this place is a must visit for even most persnickety beer drinker, with 2400+ beers to choose from. I'm just saying, I got an exotic frothy coconut beer that was served with a half coconut as the glass and it was delicious.


Chocolate:


Koninklijke Sint-Hubertusgalerijen
Koninginnegalerij 36
1000 Brussel
Belgium
Instead of going to one the brands that has become a global chain, go with one of the local legends. Also prescribed to us by our excellent guide Charlie, we bought a half dozen of these little treasures that lasted us over 5 days of sharing. Reasonably priced for some of the best chocolate and service you will receive in your life. May I personally recommend the pink champagne truffles.


Also to be recommended is the four-hour tour of Brussels and all its major sights. It was one of the most comprehensive and hilarious tours I have ever been on, and if you can, tour with Charlie. Plus it's FREE! Tips only, and you will see why–outstanding presentation! See website for details. http://www.newbrusselstours.com. We met three other American guys during our tour, and I wish so badly we had a Go-Pro video of the five of us making a mad dash for waffles and fries during the 20 minute break in our four-hour tour. Americans let loose in foodie heaven.

Brussels can easily be done in a day or two, making it the perfect weekend getaway from Paris or Amsterdam. Booking a bus through Megabus made our trip extremely affordable (~30€ roundtrip), and the bus was not only clean and air-conditioned, but also had free wifi and USB chargers in each seat for your smart phone. It was around a 4 hour drive (advertised at 4.5) and only an hour less than by train, which was around 100€ roundtrip. Megabus gets a thumbs-up from me!



It's a beautiful city, especially in the rain, and I would recommend going to the flower market in the Grand Place on Sunday mornings. It makes for some beautiful photos and lovely fragrances. So do your stomach and your taste buds a favor, and book a trip to Brussels. You won't regret it.




Note: None of the businesses I have endorsed have compensated me in any way for including them in my blog. This is simply me sharing with you my best experiences so you can have them too! But if Maison Dandoy wants to send me some more "crack bread," I wouldn't be upset...

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