Jean-Claude Van Damme was the original “Muscles from
Brussels” and some would say the most delicious. His hometown had always been
known for great seafood, but when the actor began to make it big in the 1980s,
so did the other “mussels in Brussels.”
Actually, mussels and chips were first introduced to the
world as a Belgian specialty during the 1958 World Expo in Brussels, making
mussels one of the must-do foods for anyone visiting the Belgian capital. Most
mussels come from the North Sea and the best, freshest time to enjoy them is
from September to February.
restaurants have great experiences, the must-visit place is Chez Leon. In
business since 1893, Chez Leon specializes in authentic Belgian cuisine,
offering 14 different kinds of mussels. Have them with butter, Provencal
cheese, herbs, lemon, tomatoes, curry, white wine, all sorts of combinations.
Whatever way you have them, order a side of Belgian fries and eat those with
Fries are the next must have while in Brussels or anywhere
in the country. There’s an eternal argument between France and Belgium about
who first invented sliced potatoes fried in oil, but you’re in Belgium, so you
gotta go with the home team on this one.
Throughout the city, you’ll find little shops called
“friteries” that serve nothing but fries. Food trucks and street vendors appear
elsewhere selling this country’s favorite snack. Homemade mayonnaise is the
preferred dipping sauce among Belgians, although locally-sourced ketchup is not
out of the question. But branch out a bit and try the Andalouse sauce. It’s
kind of like a cocktail sauce with tomatoes and garlic. A curry mayonnaise is
very popular, along with pickle sauce, pepper sauce and peanut sauce. Live a
little. Try them all.
There’s no argument with France about who invented Belgian
waffles, but there is a bit of snobbery within Belgium about who makes the best
and who taught whom to do it. If you’re serious about your waffle experience,
take a train ride to the town of Ghent and seek out the restaurant known simply
as Max. There, the waffles are so light and flaky that a bite barely stays on
the fork without the assistance of fresh whipped cream and strawberries.
They’ve been making
waffles at Max since 1839 and they claim they taught chefs in Brussels how to
do it prior to the World Expo in 1958. Otherwise, you can’t lift a fork in
Brussels without a restaurant claiming they make the best waffles. They are
often served cold or room temperature and don’t even think about putting something
so brash as maple syrup on them. Powdered sugar and chocolate sauce or some
fresh fruit is all any good Belgian needs.
If a restaurant can be both touristy and authentic at the
same time that would be Le Roy or “The King” on the Grand Place Square in
Brussels. Both tourists and locals hang out here, sipping beer and eating
Belgian favorites like Flemish beef stew or meatballs with apple syrup. They’ve
been serving up good food here since 1697, seriously, and although the uniforms
the waiters and waitresses wear is a bit kitschy, most everything else seems
If you can’t get a seat at the outdoor patio, find your way
to the second floor and an itsy bitsy booth for two next to the windows. In
addition to good beer and good food, this is where you’ll have a great view for
some of the best people watching on the continent.
Which Belgian delicacy do you want to try first?
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A Midwest farm girl at heart, Diana Lambdin Meyer caught the roaming bug early in life. Diana married well - to a photographer who also has the travel bug and whose work in still and video complements her words. Now based in the Kansas City area, Diana is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers who makes a full-time living on the road and at the keyboard. Read about Diana's adventures on her blog, Mojotraveler or follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.
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