So on Friday night, my SO and I braved the 405 traffic, and ventured down to Brussels Bistro in Laguna Beach (shockingly, for 6:30 on a Friday night, we didn't hit any traffic, and made it down there in under an hour).
The place sits below the sidewalk level. Any earthquake-phobes best not go there. The owner - Alain (from Belgium himself) - greeted us at the door along with his hostess, and one of the servers who sat us heard our name with the reservation and remembered us as having called earlier - went so far as to ask how the traffic en route from Long Beach was.
First off - if you are looking for a place with a really good selection of belgian beers that you cannot find elsewhere - go here. On tap were Stella Artois, Hoegarden, and I think Maredsous. Can't quite remember (and yes, we did have all three). We also had McChouffe, and I think Affligem (though it may have been Triple Karmeliet...again, a little fuzzy). They had a good selection of lambics...all in all, probably about 20 Belgian beers to choose from.
After we ordered the Belgian fries with two dipping sauces (for those of you who have been to Belgium, you've probably had the frites with a sauce that looks like mayonaise, but tastes like tartar sauce...they had this here). Alain came by a few times to see how we were doing, what we had ordered, and if there was anything else he could do. He talked about their Thursday night jazz dinner specials they were starting (this Thursday - jazz and some kind of prix fixe dinner), and happened to mention the Tuesday night special of a pot of mussels and a beer or glass of wine for $22. I make it sound like Alain had nothing better to do than talk to us. Quite the contrary - the place was pretty much packed, with two huge birthday parties in attendance, and the place getting ready for a DJ at 10.
So I ordered the mussels with a white wine sauce, and my SO ordered a salmon with some kind of curry chutney. Note: the mussels come with a side of frites, which I did not know - so probably best to order a different app. than frites.
My mussels were very small, but tender and tasty. The white wine sauce was a great compliment. Mind you: having had mussels last October in Antwerp, these weren't quite as good, but they were still good for me. The salmon was really tender, and the curry chutney was not overpowering (i.e. - we didn't leave there tasting curry and only curry). After reading more posts to my original queue asking if anyone has been to BB, I now know that when we go back I'll order the burger.
So we filled out the comment card and added my e-mail address to stay apprised of specials. On Saturday, Alain e-mailed us, thanking us for our patronage, adding that he hopes we'll make the trek down again soon.
Personally, I love feeling like a valued customer, and as though my business is so appreciated by a place like Brussels Bistro. Never once did we feel rushed to get out of there, even though the place was packed. To have the owner take that kind of personal attention to his patrons was very endearing - especially in a world where so many places are trying to push people through like cattle.
We'll be back there for sure. As an aside: We probably WON'T go back to the Laguna Beach Brewing Company. The beers were not good at all (the ones we sampled) and the band was atrocious. Then again, hard to drink microbrews after drinking belgian beers...
.now if only I could own a place in Laguna so we'd not have to wait for a long time to sober up and drive home....