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.
Read reviews of La Mer du Nord
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!
Read Reviews About Frit Flagey
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.
Read more about 7 Classic Belgian Dishes to Eat here.
Read What Others Say About Le Cirio
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
Chance and I had mussels last night at a great little Italian place near my apartment. We had high expectations b/c the pastas are actually awesome there.
But we won’t be having seafood there again.
First rule of a traveller: Never (ever) eat in a tourist restaurant.
I ate there a couple of years ago too, and it was bad also…
It used to be a good place (at least that’s what my dad said,who knows Brussels ver well because he worked there, but that’s about 20 years ago)
Perhaps it are other owners now and I guess they are too comercial…
We recently travelled through a region famous for seafood, and our 9 year old daughter was so excited to go looking for oysters. We were really surprized she wanted to find oysters … until we realised that she was hoping to find pearls, not eating them.
Ugh– that’s the worst! Bad meals can totally taint how I feel about a place.
Oh no that is horrible news! I’m obsessed with moules and frites. Boo!!!
So sad! Mussels are delicious, what a waste to prepare them so poorly.
When did you go? The general rule of thumb I’ve heard in France is to only eat mussels in months with an “r” in them–so basically, not in June, July or August! Such a shame that you were disappointed–I’ve had excellent moules in the winter in Monaco and Nice, but I think my absolute favorite might be a Spanish seafood restaurant around the corner from me in St Kilda, Australia!
Haha, Juan’s right! Main squares are only for looking, not spending…
Most of the mussels in Belgium come from the Netherlands 🙂
You forgot vlaamse frites! An absolute must with plenty of mayonnaise and a paper cone.
I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed with the mussels in Belgium as well. Sad when they claim to be their specialty.
Doh! Hate when that happens. Funny how it was so bad that you deleted the photo!
Sad the mussels were no good! I had some incredible mussels in Antwerp with the celery and white wine, they were delish! MMM I want some now…
Aah…sounds pretty sad!
You said it… tourist district.
Only tourists go to eat at Rue des Bouchers, so the restaurants know that most of their customers aren’t coming back anyway.
So why bother making decent food?
If you’re ever coming back, try the mussels at Le Pré Salé or Le Zinneke.
Never ever eat in a tourist restaurant! 🙂
And, as a Belgian I can also give you the following advice: never ever eat mussels in a restaurant for 14€, while normal price is 21€.
Oh! This made me sad. I love, love, LOVE mussels and frites!I know a few great places in Washington, DC, if you are ever that way 🙂
It is super annoying to get caught in a tourist trap restaurant, but it happens to the best of us – especially when you are short on time and super hungry.
It’s okay when you end up there by accident or desperation but not by recommendation!
Oh no. 🙁 Sorry about the disappointment, hun. Maybe better luck next time you’re passing/travelling through.
I’ve lived in Brussels for almost two years now and I stumbled across this post – so sorry you were recommended this place! Belgium actually has more Michelin starred restaurants than France does and takes gastronomy seriously. Unfortunately you were recommended the worst place to eat! I hope it did not ruin your image of Brussels – there are some amazing restaurants here and the mussels are delicious! They are only in season in July/August though, so those are the best months for them. If you ever come back, try Mer du Nord – a fresh seafood stand 🙂
I had no idea there were more Michelin restaurants, it does make Belgium seem much more attractive.
Sorry to read that you have a bad mussels experience in Belgium (by the way, we’re also known for our waffles:-))!
Liz is right you know, Belgium
IS known for good food in general, not only for the things you summed up. We have a lot of Michelin restaurants and a lot of good brasseries as well.
As a matter of fact, that’s something I always miss when going abroad: our brasseries. They’re something between a regular bar or café and a restaurant: you can get decent dishes the whole day through for a usually reasonable price, without having to feel fancy like in a restaurant.
But back to the mussels!
Liz, I’m sorry to correct you, but mussels should be eaten in months with an ‘r’, as Christine said. So starting from September.
One other thing: Chez Léon de Bruxelles used to be just one restaurant in Bruxelles where you could get a variety of meals with mussels. When it got succesful, the owner decided to expand and opened several Chez Léons across the world.
I’ve only discovered this recently myself, when I had dinner at a Chez Léon in London (it was good, by the way:-)).
I guess you’ll just have to come back some other time to erase this bad meal memory!
Pretty sad you ended up in the wrong place because Belgium has really good food actually 🙁
IF you ever go again, go to Antwerp. Way better than Brussels! (only thing good in Brussels is Delirium, a great bar with +/- 3162 different kinds of beers). And try the fries, really. They are absolutely delicious.
(Secretely I’m a Belgian girl, do you notice 😉 )
That’s a shame! We’ve had a whole load of amazing food in Belgium. Just as valid to post negative reviews though. Cheers!
Oh 🙁 what a pity! You should go to the tourist restaurants. We Belgians never go there!
Next time try Le Zinneke or La Marée in Brussels. An even better option is Restaurant Vital near Louvain or almost anything in the wonderful center of Louvain. Louvain is a cosy university town only 15km from Brussels.
You should NOT go I meant!!
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