Brussels #1 – Traditional Vs. Ethnic flavours

The Super Filles du Tram (Rue Lesbroussart 22, website) is a tiny restaurant that has a very cool toilet: it’s full of post-its glued on the ceiling and walls and, as you can imagine, there are clean post-its and pens to add your own comment. It makes for a very colourful view. The place serves salads and very good homemade burgers following the trend for ‘posh’ fast food (a burger and fries plus drink is around €15). The service is also very friendly which is always a plus.

The Super Filles du Tram is between Flagey and Bailli/Chatelain, two of my favourite areas in Brussels. Bailli in particular is very nice, with quite a few bars and restaurants, not to mention some cool boutiques for some expensive shopping.

A place with a fresh, contemporary feel is Makisu (rue de Bailli 5, website). I love sushi, especially maki rolls. Here, they serve fresh sushi rolls, salads and a few warm treats for a reasonable price (allow ±€15 per person). One of the nice features is that you can put together your own personal roll in addition to the classic ones: you can choose the style, protein, veggies and toppings. Interesting fact: it’s run by a group of non-Japanese, young, friendly entrepreneurs.

Not too far away is a very good address for the health-conscious: the TAN club (Rue de l’Aqueduc, 95, website). It is an elegant restaurant inside an organic shop (go up the stairs at the back of the shop, don’t be afraid!). They serve fancy, healthy, fresh food – not just vegetarian – although it is a more expensive option: allow ±€35 per person. Another good reason to go to TAN is that it is one of the few restaurants that will still let you in at around 22:00, which is considered late in Brussels.

If you end up in the area on a Wednesday, visit place Chatelain (map) where there’s a small afternoon/evening market (open 13:00-20:00) and, if the weather is nice, the bars are filled with people having a chat and enjoying happy hour. You can buy the usual fruit, veggies and bread here, but it’s also possible to get something ready to eat on the spot if you prefer.

Two very good Belgian places are BelgoBon and Volle Gas, the latter being more traditional. BelgoBon (Chaussée de Charleroi 179, website) is again very close to the Chatelain/Bailli area. It’s run by a young couple who promote Belgian products: everything they cook is prepared with Belgian products and some of them are available to buy in the restaurant. The one room is small but cosy and it’s a good idea to call ahead because it’s usually packed. The service is very friendly and the menu is always made up of a choice between four starters, four mains and four desserts that change every week depending on the products available. The menu option is €33 per person, but if you prefer you can just choose a main and dessert which would usually be more than enough. I recommend the organic apple juice.

Volle Gas is located in place Fernand Coq (website), and, as mentioned, serves traditional Belgian cuisine, so avoid it if you’re vegetarian! The meat is wonderfully tender and although a bit more pricey (€35/40 per person), it’s definitely worth a visit. It’s a bit more fancy than other restaurants I’ve suggested so a nice outfit or work attire might be in order.

In the city centre, not far from the Grand Place you’ll find Fin de Siècle (Rue des Chartreux 9, map). It’s not that big, often crowded (you can’t book) and offers Belgian dishes as well as international cuisine. You have to order from the menu on the big blackboard behind the counter, standing in the way of everyone else, including the staff. But if you can see past this, the food is very good, the service quite friendly and the atmosphere worth a visit.

Although Matonge area is the ‘African’ area and offers many places to eat African food, the best place in Brussels for Ethiopian cuisine is in Saint Catherine. Toukoul (rue de Laeken 34, website) is a medium-sized restaurant with an open kitchen and three different menu options in addition to à la carte. I’d personally suggest ordering at least one menu option (depending on how many people you are) to share and adding some extra dishes. Bear in mind that the menu option is for a minimum of two people and it’s very filling (from €44-52 for two people), so if it’s just the two of you I would definitely avoid adding extra dishes to the menu option. On Thursdays there’s music or entertainment in the evening. Generally it’s packed, so either go early or call to reserve a table.

Houtsiplou (place Rouppe 9 – website) is a very funny name for a nice peculiar restaurant. If you’re around rue du Midi, it’s worth a visit. And you have to eat here if either you have kids or you’re a comic fan yourself. The interior design is, as you might have guessed, comic-centred. It seems to be run by a group of young friends, and the service is friendly and pleasant. They serve a few traditional Belgian dishes like ‘carbonnade’ (a beef stew) as well as hamburgers, obviously fries, and pasta. They usually have a few ‘dishes of the day’. The meat is tender and the fries well-cooked, and the presentation is good too. You may want to ask for a table on the first floor because the ground floor is small and soon gets busy with people coming in to ask for a table or wait for one. Prices are the usual for Brussels: allow €20 for a main and drink.

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