With food trucks and street carts being the next big thing on the food scene, Brussels stands to be at the forefront of the European Street Food movement.
When you hear the term ‘street food,’ you probably picture giant bowls of noodles in a steamy Southeast Asian market, or maybe grilled meat on sticks at a bustling Moroccan bazaar. You might even think of loaded hotdogs served from a cart in Central Park.
Either way, Belgium isn’t likely to be the first place that comes to mind. However there’s actually a strong tradition of street food in Belgium and, here in Brussels, there’s a new breed of foodie entrepreneurs who are taking that tradition to the next level.
When folks think of ‘Belgian food’ some of the first things that spring to mind are actually our street food offerings – Frites and Waffles.
Anyone who has spent any time in Belgium will tell you, the best place to get true Belgian Frites (French fries) is from a friterie or frietkot. These fry stands can be anything from a converted trailer with a series of deep-fryers to a permanent structure in a bustling square.
Whether or not the friterie mobile is irrelevant. What is important is how mobile you are, when you eat your frites. A true Belgian frite experience should be had on the street, with paper cone in hand. If you can walk those frites to a neighbouring bar for a drink, all the better.
Where to get the best frites in Brussels is hotly contested, but these are our three favourite fretkots in the city:
- Maison Antoine – Place Jourdan, 1040 Etterbeek – There’s always a line and that’s a great sign. You can take your cone of fries to most of the local bars as well.
- Fritkot – Place de la Chapelle, 1000 Brussels – Close to Grand Place but far enough that you won’t find many tourists. Grab a park bench and enjoy.
- Friterie St-Josse – Place Saint-Josse, 1210 St-Josse – Although the original owner retired in 2009, the St. Josse institution re-opened and it’s almost as good as always. New bonus – friendly service!
Belgians have been making waffles long before eating street food was trendy. And waffles are the perfect street food: they fit comfortably in one hand, you can eat them on the run and, unless you cover them in toppings (very un-Belgian), they don’t make a mess. You can get Belgian Waffles everywhere; from permanent stalls in the metro stations to mobile waffle trucks you can smell coming.
Check out our thoughts on who makes the Best Belgian Waffles.
Noordzee / Mer du Nord
You probably don’t think eating street food is particularly classy, but at the Brussels seafood institution, Noordzee/Mer du Nord, fine dining takes to the streets. This traditional Brussels fishmonger ranks as one of our 5 Must Eat Restaurants in Brussels.
From the gleaming stainless steel counter, customers order steaming fish soup, homemade grey shrimp croquettes and fried goodies like calamari. You can wash it all down with a glass of crisp white wine or, if you’re feeling particularly classy, champagne. Eat at the counter or under a shady tree in the square.
Street Market Food
Besides these traditional Belgian street food institutions, expats in Brussels have imported their own street food cultures. There’s no better place to sample these than one of the daily street markets. Each neighbourhood in the city has its own special flavour. Depending on the market, you can find everything from handmade Asian noodles to Italian Arancini.
Just about every market has someone selling sausages. Be on the lookout for traditional Belgian Boudin, especially around Christmastime. For more about this tasty treat read our post Boudin – A Taste of Belgium.
Kebab and Durum
With the prevalence of Middle Eastern immigrants in parts of Brussels, it’s easy to find great Doner Kebabs and Durums in the city. These are basically variations of spit roasted meat (normally beef or lamb) served on flat bread with a variety of toppings. These rolled up wraps are cheap and easy to eat on the run.
There are plenty of Kebab chains in the city, but for something a bit more local head to St. Josse. Look for the Kebab shop with the longest line and prepare to wait. It will be worth it.
Earlier in the post I mentioned the ‘new breed’ of street food hitting Brussels. With the demand for sustainable ingredients growing and people’s pocketbooks shrinking, there’s a movement towards high-quality street food. The following are two of the best (and are conveniently located within steps of each other).
We first discovered HopDog last year, not long after they opened in Brussels and we’re happy to see they are thriving. You won’t find any of the filler that goes into traditional hotdogs here. These are organic, healthy and delicious. The menu is constantly expanding and there are options to suit every taste and appetite. There are even Veggie Dogs… who knew?
HopDog was the first sign high-end street food was infiltrating Brussels and we’re excited to see the movement grow.
The newest addition to the Brussels street food scene is Bia Mara. This fish and chip shop is anything but traditional. Using sustainable, high-quality ingredients, it’s easily the best Fish and Chips in Brussels. And while you don’t have to eat your fish on the street, as Bia Mara has indoor seating, you can easily take it to go for the full street food experience.
We’re not sure what’s next on the Brussels street food scene. We’d love to see the high-end food truck movement take off here like it has in some North American cities. With the plethora of markets and green-spaces in Brussels, it’s the perfect venue.
Street food proves you don’t have to spend a pile of money to get fresh, high-quality food quickly. We can’t wait to see what comes to Brussels next.
What’s your favourite street food? Can you find it in Brussels? Tell us about it in the comments below.
For more great restaurants in Belgium and beyond, check out our Restaurant Review page.