Small treats will keep you on your feet!
Brussels has a city center that deserves to be walked in, so you have to replenish those calories if you truly want to see it all! Admittedly, I would not say that Belgium is known for its street food, but if you know where to look, you can apparently get some very good, cheap eats!
If you’re starting out in the city center, you should start things off on the right foot at Noordzee.
Don’t let the crowds deter you, this is easily one of the best spots in town for seafood street food! It is not a sit-down experience; this is a stand outside at a small table and eat your street food kind of spot. Perfect for the quick pick-me-up.
We had Shrimp Croquettes with some white wine (this is Europe after all). Talk about a texture adventure! It was crispy and crunchy on the outside, but this fried exterior was hiding something amazing inside. This is probably one of the thickest foods I’ve eaten. Imagine a dog licking and chewing on peanut butter. That’s probably what I looked like eating this seafood interior! It was creamy, savory, a little sweet, and it had small bits of shrimp flecked in for good measure. It stuck to my teeth, it stuck to my tongue. Thus, it was perfect with the white wine as it washes it all down!
If you’re looking for some more warm, fried street food goodness on a cold day, head on over to Frit Flagey. The Belgians prepare their fries in the most common-sense method possible – a quick fry once (basically a blanching in oil), then remove to cool for a little bit, then refry once more. What results is a crispy, crunchy fry on the outside, and an evenly-cooked, consistent interior.
Even still, the fries on their own are kind of boring – I can do this at home… But at Frit Flagey, you get about a dozen sauces to choose from! My wife tried the Bearnaise sauce, while I got my paper cone of fries with a nice heaping dollop of Andalouse sauce, which is a savory, slightly spicy sauce that kept me wanting more. I’m glad that they don’t skimp on the portions either; this was a lot of fries!
Making your way outside of the city center over to Mannekin Pis, you will find a whole street, the Rue de l’Etuve, full of souvenirs, chocolates, and most importantly, waffles.
Belgian Waffle shops are a great street food pick-me-up during those cold nights spent traversing those Belgian cobblestone streets, and we tried some at Le Funambule. Freshly cooked, you can pick your preference of familiar Brussels waffles, or the sweeter Liege waffle. What’s the difference? It’s all in the batter. The Brussels waffle is a little thinner and lighter, while the Liege waffle is a thicker batter with sugar thrown in for good measure. I had my Liege waffle with a nice, heaping helping of chocolate – we were in Brussels after all!
At this point you’re probably fancying a nice beer to start developing that dinner appetite. You’ll want to find what’s known as an ‘estaminet’, pubs with a cozy, warm, traditional drinking atmosphere. Not far from the Grand Place, you’ll find the Au Bon Vieux Temps, a.k.a De Goede Oude Tijd, a.k.a The Good Old Days, tucked away in the back reaches of an alleyway, providing some great shelter from the bitter cold wind.
This particular estaminet takes cash only, and it did not seem English-speaking friendly like some other establishments in the city. Knowing a bit of French or Flemish could take you a long way here. But, if you want more of a local’s experience, this is a great place to be. There’s no one particular beer to suggest here – you’re in Belgium for crying out loud! Interestingly enough, the radio was playing Reggaeton – that Hispanic music is popular everywhere nowadays…
You don’t always need to have a sit down experience to have a good time. Sometimes, you are better off sampling street food as you go along – sitting down at a restaurant can be time consuming, taking you away from other activities that allow you to enjoy what a city has to offer. If you find yourself in between activities, try some of these places out!