A brief report from my recent, just over 24 hour, trip to Brussels.
My husband and I arrived in Brussels on a Friday afternoon, having taken the Eurostar from London. After navigating the Metro and checking into our hotel, we set off to Maison Antoine in the Place Jourdan for frites. Being huge fans of fried potato products, we were really looking forward to eating french fries in their birthplace. We each ordered a large cornet (that would be a cone of rolled paper) of frites, his with mayonnaise, mine with cocktail sauce. Being one of those people who despises mayonnaise, I tried to order my frites with curry ketchup, but they were out, so I settled on the cocktail sauce, expecting something akin to the red sauce we know as cocktail sauce in the U.S. Turns out Belgian cocktail sauce is merely a combination of ketchup and mayo like thousand island dressing without the pickle relish. Each cornet came with a gargantuan blob of sauce on top of the frites.
Since Maison Antoine is merely an outdoor stand, we headed to the bar across the street, Chez Bernard (47 Place Jordan), which permits patrons to bring in their frites, to eat and have a few beers. Trotting out my long-lapsed high school French, I ordered us a couple of Stella Artois (yes, I know, the Budweiser of Belgian beers) and we dug into the frites. The frites were very good, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, but not quite the transcendent experience I was expecting. They were also nearly overwhelmed by their sauces. As the cocktail sauce was a bit too mayonnaise-y for me, I ended up unrolling my cornet and seeking out the unsauced fries underneath.
For dinner that evening, on recommendations culled from Chowhound, we went to In t Spinnekopke (www.spinnekopke.be) for beer cuisine. I had the Waterzooi a la Volaille, a chicken stew. Basically, it was a chicken quarter, topped with some julienned carrots and probably leeks, surrounded by a creamy mild sauce with a few potatoes. It was good, but again, not as good as I expected after reading raves here and elsewhere it was a little underseasoned for me. My husband, on the other hand, had the Filet de Porc Carolus, medallions of pork tenderloin in a delicious, garlicky sauce that made me want to lick the plate.
The next day brought more street food for us, specifically the other great Belgian delicacy, the waffle. Upon a chowhound recommendation, I intended to hold out for waffles from the stand closest to the Manneken Pis, but by the time we reached the Place dEspagne, we were hungry and there was a waffle stand right in front of us. We each had coffee and a waffle with whipped cream, the perfect vacation breakfast. The waffles were excellent, with a crunchy, sweet exterior. We decided that wed give other Brussels waffle vendors a try too, and also shared one from a cart near the Grand Place and another from the aforementioned stand near the Manneken Pis. They were all very good, but if I had to give the edge to any of the waffles it would be to the last of the three, as those were the freshest.
After our morning of sightseeing and waffle-eating, we headed back to our hotel to collect our luggage and head to the train station, but made another quick stop at Maison Antoine for another round of frites, this time ordered with un peu de sauce (it was close to our hotel and we had some time to kill). Much better with less sauce, and a nice way to end our very brief stay in Belgium.