We grew up with very different kinds of food — Phuong with a gazillion Vietnamese noodle soups (for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!), and Myke with southern American cuisine (and probably fast food). Today, our little family indulges ourselves in good food from different cultures. It has been a great privilege to live in very diverse cities where there is no shortage of different types of restaurants to try. However, what we love most is trying to make new dishes at home. Despite all the cravings for familiar and easy go-to meals, we constantly try to experiment — sometimes with recreating a restaurant menu item but most of the time with just trying a new recipe. Our food philosophy is simple: we eat everything; our meals are balanced with vegetables, grains, and proteins; and we don’t overeat. In 2017, we are attempting to document what we eat for several reasons. We are curious to see how much food we consume over time. We want to be conscious and mindful of the quality and budget of our meals. And we want to inspire others to cook by demonstrating how affordable it is to eat well. Here are some of the different dishes we made in January and a few fun facts:
- Chicken, olive, and lemon tagine
- Chicken karagee and arugula salad
- Arugula and parsley pesto with spaghetti
- Gojuchang pork with soba, tomatoes, scallion
- Burmese-inspired chicken braised in coconut milk and turmeric
- Bolognese and handmade tagliatelle
- Yakisoba stir fried soba noodles with pork, cabbage, and scallions
- Biscuits and egg sandwich
- Lion’s head pork meatballs with vermicelli and cabbage
- Shakshuka poached eggs in spicy tomato sauce and baguette
- Vietnamese caramelized pork spareribs
- Brazillian skirt steak and farro salad
- Adana kebabs
- Keftedes lamb meatballs with roasted cabbage
- Chicken tikka masala
- Simple pasta with baby tomatoes, anchovies, parsley, and arugula
- Vietnamese spring rolls with pork, crab, and shrimps
- Bún thang – a Vietnamese noodle soup with a chicken and shrimp broth, rice noodles, and lots of toppings
We are back in the U.S and have been missing Brussels terribly. We miss the beautiful streets and architecture, the amazing people from Belgium and elsewhere, the delicious cheap beers, the kind butcher in our old neighborhood, the farmers’ markets, and everything else in between. Brussels is a very walkable city; we definitely walked our little hearts out to all the neighborhoods while being mesmerized by how different every house is from each other — each one colorful and quirky. We especially love that all our favorite cafés become bars at night and that everyone sits outside to drink beers no matter if it’s raining or hailing. Brussels is such a hidden gem in Europe as there might not be many things to see and do as tourists but if you love beers and good food like we do, it’s a wonderful place!
A map of everything we tried and loved can be found here with lots of restaurants, bars, shops, and sightseeing spots. Our absolute favorites are detailed below. We lived in Saint-Gilles, which is definitely the best neighborhood in our partial opinion. But we also liked many bars and restaurants in Châtelain, Flagey, Ixelles, Saint-Catherine, Matongé, and the Centrum.
Garage à Manger This lovely place is such a good example of how much Bruxellois care about seasonal, fresh, local produce. We have only been there for lunch but were more than satisfied every time by the incredible food, beautifully designed space, and fair prices. There’s always a daily menu of starter, soup, main dish, and dessert; you can choose any combination of 2-3 courses. Everything is served family-style so even if only a couple friends in your group order the soup, everyone will get to try it. Delicious, affordable beers and wines are of course available to be paired with your meal. Even if you are only in Brussels for one or two day, this restaurant is definitely worth the trip from wherever you are staying to this corner of Ixelles!
Prélude This spot is so dear to our hearts and we miss it so very much. We went there a dozen times and never had the same meal. There are three choices of bentos with fish, meat, or vegetarian option. Each bento costs 12 euros and is served with daily salad, roasted vegetables, and grains. Everything is organic, delightful, and prepared with love. We cannot recommend this place enough!
Mer du Nord / Noordzee If you like seafood, this place is a must-go! The fish soup is amazing. All the dishes with different types of grilled fish are good. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu as all are fresh and beautifully prepared.
Restobières This was one the first restaurant recommended to us when we arrived in Belgium. It certainly didn’t disappoint! Everything on the menu is made with beers, including the bread and cheese. This spot is great to try traditional Belgian food. Each dish features different styles of Belgian beers and can be paired with a wide range of available beers or the restaurant’s own brew.
Le Vieux Milla We love this place not only because it’s a quick five minute walk from our home in Brussels but also probably because it’s the most different from the kinds of food we find anywhere else. We had never had Cameroonian cuisine before coming here and was completely hooked. Everything is tasty and the hot sauce is fiery!
Café Maison du Peuple Parvis de Saint-Gilles, the main square in our neighborhood, is our most favorite place to hang out in Brussels. It has so many good bars; each with its own character. Maison du Peuple is one of them! We went there for breakfast, lunch, coffee, and most importantly, afternoon drinks. It has so many good brews to choose from; and we highly recommend the Jambe de Bois on tap!
Moeder Lambic Original This small bar has over 20 beers on tap, including the exclusive Band of Brothers – a collaboration between the bar and Brasserie de la Seine. The staff is super knowledgeable and can recommend beers based on your taste. Don’t hesitate to ask them about delicious cheeses to be paired with your beers!
La Belladone This bar is enchanting with its copper decor and original interior from the 19th century. Besides its selection of Belgian beers, you can also find Romanian wines and many specialty drinks from Eastern Europe.
Green Lab If you want something other than beers, this is a great choice. We promise that this bar is worth taking a break from drinking delicious Belgian beers because it has more than 400 gins from around the world, including some wonderful ones distilled in Belgium such as Copperhead and Filliers. Green Lab also has a hoppy gin (who knew gins could be hoppy?) made by Mikeller, one of our favorite beer breweries from Denmark! We were pleasantly surprised by this spot and think that you will be too!
FRITES, WAFFLES, CHOCOLATES
Friterie de la Barrière Everyone in Brussels has her/his favorite friterie. We got emotionally attached to this particular one simply because we think it’s the best! We ate lots of frites in Belgium and no other frites beat the ones from this 40-year old shop. We don’t know if it’s because we are biased toward our neighborhood, or because the very old pot of grease at this spot has accumulated the most flavors over the years. We recommend the samouraï and piri piri sauces.
Les Galettes de Grand-Mère There are lots of trucks that sell waffles in Brussels and they are all pretty decent. But if you happen to be in town on a Sunday, please go to Parvis de Saint-Gilles and get a freshly made waffles from these guys for us! These waffles are so special as they are perfectly soft inside and beautifully caramelized on the outside. They are so much better than all the other hundreds of waffles that we ate last year!
Pierre Marcolini Chocolate is another specialty of Belgium and there are certainly lots of options to choose from. It’s fun to try different chocolates at Galerie de la Reine to pick out your favorites! Pierre Marcolini is a super delicious choice but is definitely a special fancy treat.
Brussels Beer Project Awesome brewery in the center of Belgium, one of the few Belgian shops that make hoppy beers. The Delta IPA and Grosse Bertha are both good constant beers on tap. But they have new beers all the time and you can help them decide which beers to mass produce next by trying one of their experimental ones on tap!
Brasserie Cantillon This brewery has been around since 1900! It has survived both world wars to maintain its tradition of brewing gueuze beers with natural fermentation. Except for the bottling and labeling machines, all the brewing equipments are still the same as they were 100 years ago. You can take the guided tour or just walk around the gueuze museum by yourself. It’s amazing and worth the trek out to Anderlecht!
There are so many markets in Brussels! Marché du Parvis de Saint-Gilles is great on Thursday afternoons/nights with lots of food and drinks and on Sunday mornings/early afternoons for the wonderful waffles mentioned above. Marché de la Place du Châtelain on Wednesday (from 1pm-7:30pm) has many little tents to drink wine and get your snack on. There are also many flea markets all around the city but one of the biggest ones is at Place du Jeu de Balle. It’s massive and is a huge part of Brussels culture!
We love this super talented Lebanese-French trumpeter and his unique sound.