There is plenty of good eating to be had in Brussels. Most people concentrate on the three classics: mussels (moules in French and mosselen in Dutch), fries (frites in French and frieten in Dutch) and chocolate. A few more adventurous Bruxellois/Brusselse dishes include anguilles au vert/paling in 't groen (river eels in green sauce), meat balls in tomato sauce, stoemp (mashed vegetables and potatoes) and turbot waterzooi (turbot fish in cream and egg sauce). For dessert, try a Belgian waffle (wafel in Dutch and gauffre in French), also available in a square Brussels version dusted with powdered sugar, and choices of bananas, whipped cream and many other toppings. Although many prefer the round, caramelized version from Liège.
One shall however always bear in mind that it is important to check the prices of food items before ordering, just like what people should do when visiting pubs in France and Soho, London. Beware especially when servers make choices for you. It has been reported that tourists have to pay up to €7 for a litre of sparkling water, costing less than €0.70 in local stores.
Visitors should also beware of the 'Italian Restaurant Streets' in the tourist and shopping districts. These streets are lined with small Italian restaurants, some offering "3 course meals" for just €12 or 13. They are all run by just a few shop owners and serve unappetizing store purchased food. They will not 'include service' as most all restaurants in Brussels do, and many tourists have reported getting scammed here, especially when not paying with exact change. A common practice is to present you a menu where prices aren't anything near the ones advertised in the windows. Be sure you ask why there is such a price difference BEFORE ordering and do not hesitate to leave if you do not agree with the price. If you were offered a drink and already sipped from your glass before receiving the menu (as is often the case) then just pay for the drink and leave.
The matter over which establishment serves up the best frites (locally known as fritkots in Dutch and "friterie" in French) remains a matter of heated debate. Some argue that the best frites in Brussels are served at the fritkot near the Barriere de Saint-Gilles, while others defend St-Josse's Martin (Place Saint-Josse/Sint-Joostplein) as the prime purveyor of the authentic Brussels frite just as others claim Antoine (Place Jourdan/Jourdanplein) remains the king of the local french fry. No matter which fritkot you're at, try to be adventurous and have something other than ketchup or mayonnaise on your fries. Of the selection of bizarre sauces you've never seen before, "andalouse" is probably the most popular with the locals.
Maison Antoine, Place Jourdanplein - tasty fries with a large collection of sauces situated on a square close to the European Parliament. You can eat your fries (frites) in one of the several bars/cafés that carries the sign frites acceptés. Vegetarians be careful. Fries are cooked in Beef fat. Although this place has a very good reputation which can be guessed from the long line of people waiting to be served, purists will tell you that is certainly not the best place in town to get your fries.
Chez Martin. The small nondescript fritkot plonked on Place Saint-Josse/Sint-Joost (Saint-Josse-ten-Noode/Sint-Joost-ten-Node) and run by the calm and affable Martin is a serious contender for the best friterie in Brussels. You can eat your frites at the nearby Cafe Gambrinus and wash them down with a pintje or two. Martin is closed since December 26, 2009, but a new fritkot will be opened beginning of 2011 at the same location.
La Friterie de la Place de la Chapelle, Rue Haute-Hoogstraat (near Les Marolles/Marollen). Another personal choice for the best frites in Brussels: the big chunks of potato, fried golden, and served with the usual dazzling array of sauces.
La Friterie de la Barrière, Rue du Parc-Parkstraat (just off the Barrière de St-Gilles/Bareel van Sint-Gillis). Golden and crispy frites - just the way they should be. This exterior of this fritkot also serves as mini-museum with several tracts, articles and other literature on the fronts and sides of the shack on the good ol' Belgian frite.
Friterie Tabora, Rue Taborastraat 2 (near the Bourse). All natural frites with the widest selection of sauces available. It's open almost 24/7 and is a favourite among locals.
Arcadi, Rue d'Aremberg-Aremberglaan 1B, just at the exit of "Galleries de la Reine", in the direction opposite to the Grand-Place - a quirky combination of old and new, the menu ranges all over the place but the reason people flock here is the selection of over 30 sweet and savoury pies (tartes). A slice big enough for a meal, served with salad, costs €7-7.50. Also current special of cafe & slice of pie for €5.
Mamma Roma, 3 shops: Flagey (Chaussee de Vleurgat-Vleurgatsesteenweg 5), Chatelain/Kastelein (Rue du Page-Edelknaapstraat 5) and Place Jourdan/Jourdanplein. Small pizzeria for eat-in (bar-style seating) or takeaway, sold by weight. Delicious crunchy base and some unusual toppings (one was spicy with walnuts, very tasty). Long queues but speedy service, deals available for pizza + drinks.
Sel et Sucre Creperie - Glacier, Avenue des Celtes-Keltenlaan, 4, near Merode subway station, Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark and the Arc de Triomphe-Triomfbloog. The fantastic crepes and friendly service makes up for the ordinary decor and just around the corner from the Arc de Triomphe-Triomfbloog. Open 12:00-22:00.
Snack Pizzeria Porte de Halle, Avenue Henri Jaspar-Henri Jasparlaan, 134, directly across the city ring from Porte de Halle-Halsepoort. The gentlemen running the place speak a little bit of English and serve the best donar kebap and pizza in the neighborhood. The #39-Pizza Porte De Halle is probably their best pizza. Tel. 02/534 0051; Open 11:00-23:00 w/free delivery on orders over €10
Tapas Locas, Rue Marche au Charbons-Kolenmarktstraat 74. Crazy tapas, sensible prices. Some tapas include miniaturised Belgian favourites as well as the usual Spanish suspects.
Brussels' tourist restaurant gauntlet can be found in Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat, just to the north of Grand Place. The place has a bad reputation for waiters imposing themselves on passers-by, trying to lure customers into their restaurant. The authorities are aware of this, and are trying to take measures. Some restaurants may also tempt you with cheap prices for the menus, but when seated, the item on the menu happens to be unavailable, and you're forced to accept another, noticeably more expensive dish. Often, the exaggerated price of the wines will also compensate for the attractive menu. Knowing this however, you may be able to negotiate a better deal before entering.
A few restaurants stand out from the crowd though:
Si Bemol, Bloemenstraat-Rue aux Fleurs 20, +32 (0)2 219 63 78. Open from 7PM on till usually 5AM. Closed Sundays. Small but nice, friendly, of the beaten path local place. Lots of dedicated pictures on the wall from French and Belgian performing artists from the 60s and 70s. Basic honest Brussels and Belgian fare.
Aux Armes de Bruxelles, Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat 13, +32 (0)2 511 5550. Closed Mondays. Basic honest food, including some very decent moules. Crowded, although worth the wait.
Chez LonRue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat 18, +32 (0)2 511 1415. Now franchised into France as well, this is the original and while it's huge and looks like a tourist trap, the moules are excellent and it's packed every day. Moules, beer and a starter will set you back 25, and kids eat for free.
Scheltema, Rue des Dominicains-Predikherenstraat 7, +32 (0)2 512 2084. Specializes in fresh and tasty seafood.
Au Pré Salé, 20, Rue de Flandre-Vlaamsesteenweg (near St Catherine square), +32 (0)2 513 6545. A former butcher shop, locals flock here for some of the best moules in town, sold by the kilo (figure on €24) and served up in half a dozen ways. Also serves the full range of other Brussels favorites.
Falstaff, 19, Rue Henri Mausstraat 19 (by the Bourse-Beurs). Has cheap and decent food and is open every day until 2AM, around €20-30.
Le Beau Soleil, Rue Joseph Lebeaustraat 7 (Sablon area). This tiny restaurant (approx. 14 seats) looks like a violin workshop, so you sit next to all the tools and half finished violins. Unlike other Belgian restaurants, it is open from 9AM-5PM (Mo-Fr), 9AM-6PM (Sat,Sun), closed on Wednesday. The menu is small but really delicious. The atmosphere is informal and friendly.
Les Brassins, Rue Keyenveld-Keienveldstraat 36, Ixelles-Elsene, +32 (0)2 512 6999. Its crowd is mostly made out of young couples or students. Rich choice of beer, with more than 50 varieties on the menu, and good quality of food.
'T Kelderke, Grand'Place, 15 Grote Markt, +32 (0)2 513 7344. €9-19 main courses. €8.50 Plat du jour. Well-made typical Belgian fare. Try the carbonnades à la flamande (Flemish beef stew) & mussels. Note that this place can feel cramped when full of diners.
Les Chapeliers, Rue des Chapeliers 1-3 Hoedenmakersstraat, +32 (0)2 513 6479. Just off the Grote Markt with reasonable prices and excellent food. Seems to be popular among the locals without full of tourists.
Close to the Bourse Jules Van Praetstraat (rue Jules Van Praet) is another rapidly developing street of restaurants and bars. Those of note include:
Lune de Miel, +32 (0)2 513 9181. Some very tasty Thai and Vietnamese dishes served in a fine decor.
Shamrock, +32 (0)2 511 4989. Its exterior and misleading name belie a great range of individually cooked Indian food. Get to know the owner and he'll treat you like an old friend.
Thanh-Binh , +32 (0)2 513 8118. The restaurant is very popular among the Euroworkers and business types common in Brussels and serves good Thai food. It can get crowded and is often noisy but is well worth a try.
Place Saint Catherine-Catherinplaats is also a popular area, and once the fishmongering centre of Brussels. While many of the fish shops have moved elsewhere, it is still home to many good seafood restaurants featuring lobster as a specialty.
Restaurant Vismet, Place Sainte-Catherinplaats 23, +32 (0)2 218 85 45. A small bistro that really gets busy after 19:00. Very good seafood. The handwritten menu can throw foreigners off, but everything on the menu(s) are top notch. Appetizers: around €15; Main dishes: €18-30
Jacques, Quai aux Briques-Baksteenkaai 44, +32 (0)2 513 2762. An authentic old bistro, with a charming kitsch decor. Very good fish.
Viva M'Boma, Vlaanderenstraat-Rue de Flandre 17, +32 (0)2 512 1593. For real Belgian home cooking. Terrace in the summer.
Brussels Resto, Place Sainte Catherine-Catherinplaats 3, +32 (0)2 502 35 73. bet for quality food especially for its steak at acceptable prices. The menu is in Dutch and French which can cause difficulty in deciphering the specialties.
It is outside the touristic centre that the best deals can be found. Here are a few addresses in the Upper Town and Louise Area:
Madou's Provence, Rue de la Presse-Drukpersstraat 23, +32 (0)2 217 3831. Closed Saturday noon and Sundays. Innovative southern French cuisine at affordable prices.
Chez OkiRue Lesbroussart-Lesbroussartstraat 62, Ixelles-Elsene. French-Japanese fusion cuisine in a modern decor. The chef has worked for prestigious restaurants in Paris. Reasonable prices.
L'Ultime Atome: Increasingly chic, but still just about affordable brasserie, serving tasty food and drink from breakfast till late. Place St Boniface-Bonifatiusplaats (off the Chausée d'Ixelles-Elsensesteenweg).
Mano a Mano: Italian restaurant on Place St. Boniface-Bonifatiusplaats; Good food, not too expensive.
L'Amour Fou: Similar to above located on Place Fernand Coqplaats.
Dolma: Buddhist cafe/wholefood shop on Chausée d'Ixelles-Elsensesteenweg (It is on the right hand side, just before Place Flagey, on your way out of town).
Yamato: Small ramen shop.
Les Brassins, Belgian-French cuisine, tasty and a real bargain.
Belga QueenRue du Foss aux Loups-Wolvengracht 32. A restaurant within an old, restored bank building. Has an oyster bar, gorgeous bathrooms (with strange stall doors), and a cigar bar housed in the old bank vaults. A good looking younger crowd seem to enjoy this place, and don't miss the offbeat restrooms.
La Belle Maraichere, Place Sainte-Catherineplaats 11, +32 (0)2 512 9759, closed We-Th. A classic fish restaurant. Very fresh fish and good old traditional cooking.
Comme Chez Soi, Place Rouppe/Rouppeplaats. +32 (0)2 512 29 21. Classic Michelin-starred restaurant.
Les Larmes du TigresJustitiepaleis, de Wynantsstraat 21, +32 (0)2 512 1877, closed Tu. Upmarket and stylish Thai restaurant found just behind the Palais de Justice and better than most food found in Thailand.
De Gulden Boot (la Chaloupe d'Or), 24 Grote Markt (Grand Place) - One of the most famous restaurants in Brussels, situated on Grand Place. Beautiful old building, but too much of a tourist trap. And even after a €200 dinner, you will get charged €0.50 to visit the toilet.
Forget about eating out if you're strictly vegan. There are some vegetarian restaurants that might cater without animal products though:
DolmaA very nice vegetarian buffet Monday till Saturday from 19 till 21h. Chausse d'Ixelles-Elsenesteenweg 329. Reservation 02/6498981. La TsampaAn organic/vegetarian shop annex restaurant, closed on Saturday and Sunday. Rue de Livourne-Livornostraat 109.
L'Element Terre - Located in Ixelles-Elsene, L'Element Terre features an eclectic menu and wonderful, attentive service. Chaussée de Waterloo-Waterloosesteenweg 465.
Brussels currently has only one kosher restaurant, Balthazar Kosher Restaurant, a meat restaurant located near the European Parliament.