Belgium is known for 3 things, chocolate, moules and frites – oh wait and the beer! I was in the capital and wanted to know where to eat in Brussels.
I went to a horrible spot and normally I don’t share these stories but I wanted to prevent others from going here or trying Belgian food – and I also have suggestions on better restaurants in Brussels.
But first, my horrible story looking for moules and frites in Brussels.
I have had mussels and French fries at a few Belgian pubs and they have always been good. In fact the best mussels I have ever had were in a Belgian pub in New Zealand, and considering my roots near the ocean I don’t award that compliment lightly.
Where NOT to Eat in Brussels
A few years back I only had 16 hours overnight in Brussels, not long enough to spend much time in the city or take a day trip from Brussels. Fortunately there are many affordable Brussels hotels to make a layover simple. But I was determined to try the mussels and fries in Brussels and asked for a recommendation when I checked in.
Armed with a map I made my way through the grimy streets of Brussels (seriously it’s a bit of an ugly duckling) and found myself in what seemed to be the Koh San Road of moules and frites.
Although I was a bit apprehensive to eat in a tourist district it was getting late so I sat down to Chez Leon for the 13.90 Euro deal of 500g mussels, fries, a Belgian beer and crusty bread.
It was disappointing.
It could possibly be the worst I have ever had. The mussel shells were not cleaned well so when cooked the grit seeped into the shell. They seemed to be cooked in celery, onion, parsley and tarragon but were flavourless.
So bad I deleted the photo of the food! I’m sorry I can’t give you a recommendation for food in Belgium but I can tell you to steer clear of Chez Leon. But that doesn’t mean that eating isn’t one of the best things to do in Brussels.
Where to Eat in Brussels
I don’t want my story of horrible food in Brussels to dissuade anyone from visiting. I’m sure it’s a beautiful city with amazing food. Instead I reached out to travel blogger friends to give me their advice for where to eat in Brussels.
And actually looking at these photos I’ve realized Brussels food deserves another shot.
Here’s where to eat in Brussels:
Noordsee La Mer du Nord
Recommended by Claire from Backpacking Bella
For the best seafood in Brussels and a unique fine dining experience, head for La Mer du Nord (known as De Noordzee in Flemish), located in the city’s lively Place Saint Catherine area.
This restaurant has become an institution in Brussels, ideal for a casual gathering with friends while feasting on the finest seasonal fish and seafood, sustainably sourced from the North Sea (hence the name).
The first thing you’ll notice is that the only spaces to eat are standing by outdoor tables, but there’s always a great crowd of locals and tourists here. Head to the huge stainless-steel counter to place your order with the friendly staff.
The catches of the day are listed on the board and come served on tapas-style plates with slices of lemon and tartar sauce. Recommendations include the homemade shrimp croquettes – a lip-smackingly good Belgian classic – as well as the tuna steak, razor clams and salt ‘n’ pepper calamari, accompanied by a glass of white wine. Feel free to try a few.
After you’ve placed your order, grab your table and wait for the server to call your name, then you can collect your dishes and tuck in to the good stuff! If it’s mussels from Brussels you’re after, visit the restaurant between August and December to taste their freshly caught bouchot mussels.
La Mer du Nord’s fish and oyster bar is open on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11am to 6pm. The fish bar is also open on Sundays from 11am until 8pm.
Place Sainte-Catherine 50, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
+32 2 513 11 92
Recommended by Oli from Not Brits Abroad
You’ll find this cosy Belgian cuisine restaurant outside of the city centre at number 203 on Chaussée de Waterloo street in Saint-Gilles. The menu changes every week to include fresh, seasonal produce.
There will likely only be two or three choices per course at any given time. Both the food and wine are excellent and prices are reasonable at around €15-€20 for a main course.
It’s not just the food that’s excellent, the atmosphere and experience are something in themselves. Although the food is upmarket, the restaurant is calm, relaxed and informal.
If possible, you’ll want to take a seat at the counter in front of the kitchen. Here you can watch chef Richard at work which is always fascinating. He’s a friendly guy too and will chat with you between orders to make sure you’re enjoying your experience.
Le 203 is open for lunch between 12-2pm on Tuesdays to Saturdays and for dinner between 7-10pm on Wednesdays to Saturdays.
Booking is essential and new times are available online 15 days in advance. You need to get in there quickly if you want to go for dinner but lunch sittings are more available. Definitely one to visit in Brussels and nicely hidden away from the normal tourist destinations.
Read Reviews of Le 203 Here
Chaussée de Waterloo 203, 1060 Saint-Gilles, Belgium
+32 2 539 26 43
Recommended by Daisy at Beyond my Border
Brussels is known for its delicious fries. They are always just the right amount of crispy and have the right amount of salt. Better yet, the variety of sauces added to these fries just amps up the flavor of the entire snack.
Most places in Brussels serve addicting frites. However, for those looking to dive into local hotspots, Frit Flagey can be a great addition to the list of hidden gems worth discovering.
Located just south of Brussels city center at Place Eugène Flagey, Frit Flagey’s green rooftop can be easily spotted along the streets. The small stand serves Belgian fries and a number of tasty bites, such as burgers, cervelas, and viandelle.
There are a handful of sauces to choose from. Aside from mayonnaise, andalouse-a sauce combining tomato paste, mayonnaise, and peppers, is another appetizing option. If you’d like to try a few different sauces, ask for them on the side instead of directly atop the fries!
Since the fries are fried in beef fat, Frit Flagey may not be the best option for vegetarians. As well, the lines can be hectic and there isn’t any seating in the stall. So come prepared with some patience because it will be well worth the wait!
Recommended by Chloe at Chloe’s Travelogue
Le Cirio is a traditional brasserie near the Grand Place in Brussels. While located in a touristy area, this brewery-turned-restaurant has been serving locals since 1909. The elegant interiors with dark brown wood and gold accents show off its antiquated charms in the building built in 1886. And the knowledgeable gentlemen will serve you at this white tablecloth restaurant.
At a classic Belgian brasserie like Le Cirio, you must order the country’s national dish, moules-frites (Belgian Mussels & Fries). Mussels are clean and cooked just enough to be juicy and sweet. Whether your favorite recipe is mussels in white wine sauce (moules marinière) or garlic butter cream (moules a la creme), you won’t be able to stop dipping your baguette into that sauce. Potato fries are fresh and crispy as how you expect in Belgium.
Another Belgian classics you can try at Le Cirio is Chicken Waterzooi. This Flemish stew with chunks of vegetables is perfect for chilly evenings or rainy days. If beer is not your choice of drink, pair it with Le Cirio’s specialty drink, half and half, which is a mix of white wine and champagne.
What Brussels restaurants do you think should be on this list? Let me know where to eat in Brussels in the comments below!
Pin It: Best Restaurants in Brussels
Image of Frit Flagey (c) Jean-Paul Remy