We can’t believe how often Brussels is overlooked on lists of great foodie cities. If you’ve spent any time on CheeseWeb, you know we are huge fans of the culinary scene in Belgium.
If there’s one thing that makes us even crazier than Belgium being ignored by the foodie press, it’s when we read an article recommending restaurants we know are substandard.
We cry a little bit inside, when we see people recommending Rue des Bouchers as an ‘authentic’ place to dine in Brussels. We shudder at the thought of people paying ridiculous prices for mussels and beer in Grand Place.
So, even though we’re not The Guardian or The New York Times, we want to offer you our suggestions for 5 places you MUST eat in Brussels and we guarantee none of them are on Grand Place or Rue des Bouchers.
Le Coin des Artistes
[Edit: Unfortunately, Le Coin des Artistes has closed since our review was posted. We wish the chef and staff all the best in their next endeavours.]
This little restaurant near Place Flagey sums up everything I love about restaurants in Brussels. Like many of the best places to eat in the city, it is completely unassuming from outside. Inside, it is small, seating only about 20 people, cosy and a little bit shabby, in a well-loved sort of way.
There is no printed menu at Coin des Artistes; a chalk-board, with the evening’s specials written on it, will be brought to your table. One wall is dominated by another huge chalk-board wine list containing some fabulous, yet affordable, wines.
The food, cooked by Chef Jean-Yves Pletsier, is seasonal French cooking at its best. In the winter, the dishes are hearty and warming. In the summer, they are light and fresh.
The service is always warm and friendly and at the end of the evening the chef normally stops by your table for a few words. Coin des Artists is exactly what a neighbourhood restaurant should be, even if it’s not in our neighbourhood.
Le Coin des Artistes [Closed]
Rue du Couloir, 5
La Mamma, however, IS in our neighbourhood, although we didn’t know it for quite some time. In fact, we walked by its vine covered facade for two years before we ever set foot in the restaurant. It wasn’t until we saw it in a guide of where to enjoy good wines in Brussels we ventured inside. We were certainly glad we did.
In addition to a terrific Italian wine and grappa list, La Mamma features traditional Italian pasta and meat dishes. Many of their ingredients are imported from Italy and there are always seasonal menu selections. The portions are hearty too and we never quite make it to the scrumptious looking desserts.
The atmosphere is so cosy, you almost forget you’re on the bustling Place St. Josse. With Italian being spoken in the kitchen and a heaping plate of Italy on the table before you, you are transported to la dolce vita.
9, Place St. Josse
For those who don’t want to venture far from Grand Place, there are still many wonderful dining options. La Kasbah will transport you all the way to Morocco, without ever leaving Brussels.
We were drawn into this restaurant by the 120 colourful lanterns hanging from the ceiling. We return for the delicious food, fun atmosphere and affordable prices. We take most of our visiting guests here and La Kasbah never disappoints.
The menu features couscous, tagines and grilled meats. There are options for vegetarians and carnivores alike. The portions are big enough for sharing and you can even accompany your meal with some Moroccan wines. The atmosphere is festive and the service is always friendly.
Rue Antoine Dansaert, 20
There are a few great options for dining on Place St. Catherine, but our favourite has to be Jaloa and the Jaloa Brasserie. We first discovered Jaloa through the Atlantic Canadian Lobster Festival and when people ask us where to go for seafood in Brussels, this is first on our list.
Jaloa itself is higher priced fine dining and a wonderful experience if you are looking to splurge. The restaurant only seats 25 people and features tasting menus of four, six or nine courses.
The Jaloa Brasserie is more cosy and affordable but with the same high level of quality. The menu is a la carte with the exception of a monthly tasting menu.
Both the restaurant and brasserie feature seasonal, local ingredients and have hidden terraces you can enjoy, during the warmer months.
4 Quai aux Barques
Place Sainte-Catherine 5 – 7
Noordzee / Mer du Nord
If you are looking for a uniquely Brussels foodie experience, you absolutely can’t miss Noordzee / Mer du Nord; Even the name is in two of the official Belgian languages.
This seafood counter has no seats but that doesn’t stop locals from flocking to this ‘seafood bar’ at lunchtime. Noordzee isn’t even really a restaurant but a fish-seller that happens to sell some of the best seafood snacks in the city.
The fish soup is incredible on a cold day. The mussels, shrimps, calamari and oysters are all as fresh as it gets and washed down with a chilled glass of white wine or champagne. The menu depends on the season and the catch of the day.
In the summer you can enjoy your lunch in the square while you people-watch or do as the locals do and enjoy a snack while you wait as your seafood order is prepared for you to take home.
Mer du Nord / Noordzee
Rue Ste Catherine 45
In our humble opinion, Brussels has some of the best food on the planet, as long as you don’t trust ‘top lists’ that send you to Rue des Bouchers. Follow the locals and expats to their favourite foodie haunts and we guarantee you’ll have a meal that’s not to be forgotten.
What’s your must eat restaurant in Brussels? Leave your favourites in the comments for us to discover.