The title of this blog post says it all…our adventure in Brussels was 99% about food. And by food I mean all of the INSANELY amazing yumminess that this city is known for: waffles, frites, chocolate, beer and more. This post is organized by food (with a bit of sightseeing mixed in) so prepare to salivate!
Moules-frites (mussels & fries) & Carbonnade (beef stew)
We arrived in Brussels late after our drive from Amsterdam, but of course still in time for dinner! I was on the hunt for moules-frites (aka mussels and fries) which is a very popular Belgian dish. It’s basically a giant pot of steamed mussels in a wide variety of sauces – the classic is a white wine / butter sauce. The fries are served on the side so they don’t get soggy and I love to dip them in the sauce from the mussels!
Pro tip: After my trip to Paris, I became obsessed with this amazing dish and wanted to make sure that I had it while in Belgium. A quick google search pulled up SO many options/opinions, with the (in)famous Chez Leon being one of the biggest suggestions. Now, I am never one to knock something until I try it, but this place is also super touristy with mixed reviews on yelp so I wanted to dig deeper.
Enter Le Bistro. It checked all of the boxes for me. And bonus, they also served carbonnade (beef stew braised in beer) which is another local special that was on top of my list to try! This was basically the best beef stew I have ever had in a super thick sauce served with (you guessed it) fries on the side that can be dipped into the sauce. YUMMY!
After dinner, we headed to the Grand-Place, which is basically the central square of Brussels. But, it’s not just any central square. It also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site and arguably one of the most stunning squares in all of Europe. And at Christmastime, they bring in a giant Christmas tree that sparkles all night long.
I mean, DUH. I think we’re all familiar with traditional Belgian waffles that we get in America – we oftentimes smother them in syrup or toppings, eat with a knife and fork and always for breakfast. However, actual Belgian waffles are not eaten with syrup, are more of a street food and are eaten around the clock as a “snack”. Even more interesting, there are 2 different kinds of Belgian waffles – the “Brussels waffle” and the “Liege waffle”.
Pro tip: The “Brussels waffle” is good (and similar to what we know), but the “Liege waffle” is OUT OF THIS WORLD. It is more of a donut dough with pearlized sugar inside. It is so good that you don’t even need any toppings (trust me, I tried it). Then again, who doesn’t need Nutella and strawberries on top of their insanely amazing waffle?!
We got ours from Le Funambule which made them hot and fresh in front of us!
I am by no means a beer expert, but I REALLY love Belgian beer. I think it is because there’s such a rich history and so many unique flavors and types to choose from.
While we were in Brussels, we made a point to visit Cantillon Brewery, which was founded in 1900 and brews a special kind of beer – lambic beer. Lambic beer can only be brewed in Brussels (and surround) and is made through spontaneous fermentation. This means that yeast is not added to the beer, but rather there is wild yeast in the air that makes its way into the beer. This means that no two batches of beer are identical. This also means that the conditions to make Cantillon beer cannot be truly replicated in any other locations. It’s fascinating to think about in our modern machinery age and is so, so special. To put it in perspective, when Cantillon first started, there were 300 lambic brewers and today there are only 12…with Cantillon being the only one in Brussels proper.
Pro tip: Cantillon has a super cheap self-guided tour through their facility which ends with a tasting of their beer. DO IT!
The beer is super tasty, though definitely for everyone. It has more of a cidery taste – it is funky and can be sour.
Pro tip: Make sure to try the fruity lambics – they are most often brewed with cherries or raspberries and are SO delicious!
Need I say more? We are Americans after-all and love our fries (with ketchup). However, the Belgian version is often served as a street food and with SO MANY more sauce options.
Pro tip: Through more aggressive research for “best frites”, we came across the Friterie du Café Georgette which had a to-go window with frites and like 15 different sauce options. We tried the Georgette sauce and curry ketchup and were in fry heaven!
Right after we booked our trip to Brussels, we watched an episode of our favorite travel bloggers (Kara and Nate) and they went on an AMAZING chocolate tour with Global Enterprises Tours that we immediately booked as well.
Not only was this a chocolate walking tour with samples at many of Brussels’ finest, but it also included a chocolate workshop where we got to make our own chocolates that we also got to take home with us. SCORE!
Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and shared so much about the history of chocolate in Belgium, how the praline was started by a pharmacist to help his patients take their medicine, the difference between a chocolatier (buys cacao and turns it into chocolate) vs. confectionery (buys chocolate and makes it pretty and yummy), how white chocolate can be delicious, that something called “pink chocolate” exists and so much more!
Our class was incredibly fun! We got to make our own Belgian chocolates and also learned how to fill pralines (aka a chocolate shell with a softer filling). I have a secret obsession with watching YouTube videos of cake decorating so I even got to put my piping skills to use. The good news? They offered me a job making chocolates hahaha.
Since this was also part walking tour, we also got to see some of the famous Brussels sights, including Manneken Pis. I always hated this little guy because he was a tourist magnet and no one could actually explain to me why he was culturally significant. However, our Guide shared so much about this little guy, his embodiment of the working class in Brussels and his many outfits that made me do a complete 180!
We also ended our tour back at the Grand-Place and got to see the Christmas light show projected on the buildings. It was a magical end to a magical trip!
Have you eaten your way around Brussels too? I’d love to hear about your favorite spots!