Tel: 32 3233 6270
This lovingly refurbished 17th-century house boasts some of Belgium's best cookingwith prices to matchby chef Johan Segers. The Flemish food (poached tongue fish stuffed with rhubarb in a white wine sauce) is creative and ever-changing, with definite leanings toward French cuisine (which helps explain how Segers has garnered his Michelin star), and the wine cellar overflows with more than 5,000 bottles. So confident it closes on weekends.
Lunch and dinner. Closed Saturday and Sunday.
13 Rue des Bouchers
Tel: 32 2 511 5550
Right in the heart of the city by the Grand'Place, on a street of "authentic" buildings that may look good from the outside, but aren't, this ideal restaurant-brasserie has been going strong since 1921. Notice how many locals eat here? You can tell immediately you're onto a winner, whether you've been seated in the neo-Gothic Rotonde, with its stained-glass crests; the long, thin Bodega; or the Art Nouveau Brasserie. Service is brisk, efficient, and as traditional as the food. Waterzooi (fish or chicken stew), carbonnade (beef stew), moules-frites, anguilles (eels), steak tartare… it's all good.
32 Rue Fossé aux Loups
Tel: 32 2 217 2187
A Belle Époque bank converted by restaurateur-designer extraordinaire Antoine Pinto, this huge brasserie is all buzz, from the bars (oyster, beer, and cigar) to the grand 187-cover restaurant under a stained-glass cupola supported by rows of pink marble columns. It's not all period, though: Bathroom stalls are built of that trendy glass that goes opaque when the locks are engaged, and the food—its every ingredient of Belgian origin—is fun and modern. Many dishes incorporate that most famous of Belgian clichés, beer—for instance, scallops with Ardennes butter and a Duvel reduction, or duck foie gras with a conserve of berries and Kriek Boon, or that same cherry beer worked into a sauce for roasted Malines cuckoo with honey, pine nuts, and cilantro. This is a great place to do some beer exploration, with many varieties in aperitif sizes and a beer bar that stays open all afternoon and evening. At night, relax in the Lounge Club, a cigar bar with leather armchairs in the former bank vault; cocktails and liqueurs are served (open Wednesday through Saturday). Go to the Lounge on a Saturday, when it hosts live jazz sessions.
55 Rue des Capucins
Tel: 32 2 503 5918
Near the two Sablon squares and the flea market, this gallery-restaurant has young Brussels showing her best profile. Installed in a mercantile building from the 18th century, the eaterywith its whitewashed brick walls, basket-weave- or steel-backed chairs, and beamed ceilingsforms the backdrop for bimonthly art events, live dinnertime jazz (or Cuban) on weekends, and just plain dinner. The food is Med-French, featuring an array of carpaccios (turbot with pink peppercorn, lime, and honey; duck in balsamic-maple; beef with basil, Parmesan, and extra-virgin olive oil) as well as roast rack of lamb with thyme jus, and turkey kofte with dill and cucumber.
Closed Mondays, Saturday lunch, and Sunday nights (open for Sunday brunch, 114).
Tel: No phone
Belgium wouldn't be Belgium without, well, French Fries (the French still don't quite understand why Americans blame these fried potato sticks on them), and this is the best frites emporium in Antwerp. In the evenings, a traditional, ferocious, middle-aged Flemish woman runs the shop and delights in insulting the customers—in a charming way, naturally.
Tel: 32 3770 8625
Who would have thought the industrial look could be as swanky as this? Het Pomphuis serves an upmarket menu, including dishes such as cod on a bed of mashed potatoes topped with poached egg and caviar, or pheasant with sauerkraut, cabbage, fried potatoes, and veal gravy, in what was a shipyard pump housethe old hydraulic equipment is still therein a revitalized wharf north of the center. The huge arched windows and skylight ceiling deliver some Art Nouveau drama, as does the sexy long bar.
42 Vlaamse Kaai
Tel: 32 3257 1648
Formerly a Congolese warehouse, this lively local favorite is a great place to grab a casual meal. The decor is standard Flanders: worn black-and-white floor tiles, paper-menu place mats on wood tables, tatterdemalion maps on the walls, and a nicotine-stained ceiling suggesting a long lineage of dining and debating intelligentsia that continues today. The fare is basic but tasty: juicy steaks are served with a choice of six sauces (mushroom, mustard, Roquefort, béarnaise, peppercorn, and Provençal) aside fresh leafy salads, piping-hot soups, and small pots of wine. Daring diners might want to sample the horse steak, something of a cult favorite in Belgium.
Open daily 7:30 pm to 1 am.
45 Rue du Page
Tel: 32 2 533 9833
It doesn't matter that it has long lost its status as the trendy restaurant in the city: Dining at La Quincaillerie is still a genuinely unique Bruxellois experience. It's a brasserie installed inside an early-20th-century hardware store—a fantastical, multilevel space divided by cast-iron walkways and beams, its walls lined with little wooden drawers. You might end up at a banquette cached in a cozy corner or perched on a balcony with a panoramic view. Stunning ambience aside, the food remains estimable and uncontroversial: Featured dishes include roast lobster, duck confit with garlic-sautéed potatoes, sole meunière, and plateaux de fruits de mer.
16 Avenue Antoine Dansaert
Tel: 32 2 502 2361
Yes, this is the founding branch of the wildly popular anti-Atkins boîtes, of which there are 10 in Brussels (plus 13 in New York City and nine in the Los Angeles area). Located in the edgy-cool fashionista district, "Everyday Bread" is all about fresh sandwiches made on the house peasant bread, pots of jam, soup, pastries, and communal tables that make for a farmhouse-kitchen atmosphere. It's a useful outpost and, if your euros are exhausted, also quite a relief.
13 Adriaan Brouwerstraat
Tel: 32 3233 3030
Don't leave town without having a meal at Lux, which offers one of the city's most sumptuous and priciest dinners, but also one of its most affordable prix fixe lunches (around $30 with glass of wine, excluding Saturdays). Housed in an 18th-century Polish shipping warehouse in the rapidly gentrifying Het Eilandje (Docklands) neighborhood, the grand space recalls Antwerp's merchant wealth with extravagant Corinthian columns made of Belgian marble, walnut paneling, 15-foot ceilings festooned with gilded crown moldings, and fine Belgian linens laid across black lacquered tables. Not to be outdone by the opulent surroundings, Chef Bert Zaman's Med-Flemish fusion cuisinecod with mustard and Hoegaarden sauce, and salt-crusted lamb with candied Belle de Fontenay potatoesremains the true star.
Open daily noon to 3 pm and 6 to 11 pm.
20 Rue Jean Stasstraat
Tel: 537 9700
Though it sounds like an unreleased Russ Meyer movie, this is, in fact, that ubiquitous scene-setter Antoine Pinto's newly launched answer to the Pain Quotidien chain of bread-and-things. Handily off the shopping strip of Avenue Louise, it's less like a country idyll and more like a Stanley Kubrick set with its black marble tables and its stylized figures inset into blue walls. Breads are multifarious—light, dark, multigrain, malted, gluten-free, spiced, olive, brioche—and all baked in-house. Call it Pain Quotidien for Marni-wearers.
Tel: 32 3237 4365
Resist the temptation of the trendy pan-Asian lounges in the Het Zuid neighborhood and head a few blocks east to the eggplant-painted dining room of Muro Turks, where you'll enjoy mouthwatering Turkish and Mediterranean treats. This relaxing and recently renovated grill cooks up Anatolian specialties such as ground lambstuffed eggplant, chicken pitas, and crispy veggie pizzas.
Open daily 5 pm to midnight.
Tel: 32 3232 2797
Created from five small 16th-century homes on a cobbled street, this cozy restaurant with oak-beamed ceilings features FrenchBelgian cuisine (fried goose liver with canapé of caramelized apples and syrup of Calvados and Liege, or suckling pig with shallots, mustard, honey, and Kwak beer) and a weighty 40-page wine list. Try the two-course Discovery Lunch based on market-fresh ingredients of the day. If it's your birthday, take your ID and you'll get a free meal plus champagne for the entire table.
Tel: 32 497 045 865
There's a cheery Montmartre feel to this bustling Het Zuid charmer with its sunny dining room and cozy floral wallpaper. It serves up simple modern nibbles that a hip Belgian mom might throw together: terrines made with Roquefort and dates, toast smeared with goat cheese and honey, and spicy meatballs plopped atop coriander-infused couscous. A selection of sandwiches, pastas, and salads are listed on the chalkboards and help keep the place filled with a young sophisticated crowd of regulars even on weeknights. The patio swells with flaneurs in summer.
Open Tuesdays through Fridays 10 am to 3 pm and 6 pm to midnight, Saturdays and Sundays 6 pm to midnight.
47 Rue du Fossé aux Loups
Tel: 32 2 227 3120
Sea Grill has chilly, corporate-looking hotel dining rooms, with etched-glass tableaus of Norwegian fjords. But enough of the downside. This is widely held to be the best seafood restaurant in Belgium—even, some claim, in all of Europe. Yves Mattagne's dishes are classic preparations made just postmodern enough to fascinate: He'll underline sweet Dublin Bay prawns with crisped sweetbreads and a carrot emulsion, or he'll prepare the crustaceans in a half-carpaccio, half-tempura style with an avocado-citrus salad and punctuate the dish with exclamation points of ginger gelée. Roasted lobster has its richness doubled with marrowbone risotto; tuna is brilliant paired with sautéed goose liver; truffled mascarpone chicken jus acts as a sauce for the king crab. You'll forget to notice the terrible lighting. Men must wear long-sleeved shirts.
Closed Saturdays and Sundays.
16 Oude Koornmarkt
Tel: 32 3231 6170
Tucked away on a side street and featuring a bright courtyard, this restaurant once boasted Michelin stars, until owner-chef Marc Paesbrugghe got tired of the hassle and restyled it as a more laid-back eatery specializing in French cuisine. Not to worry: The more-typical Belgian food (fillet of calf with leeks, potatoes and rosemary, or duck steak with orange and dauphine croquettes) is as good as ever, but now dinner is served in two sittings and the prices are lower (not cheap—just not as stratospheric as they once were). And though Sir Anthony has fallen out of the limelight, advance booking is still essential.
23 Oude Leeuwenrui
Tel: 32 3213 3333
This soothing space in the obscure Oude Leeuwenrui neighborhood offers seasonal dishes with a subtle Asian twist. Creations such as claypot-steamed quail with eggplant, zucchini and salted-citron rice, and sashimi with yuzu dressing are a refreshing break from beef and butter-laden Belgian fare. All of Volef's dishes are served in handmade ceramics. In the summer, the Japanese-inspired courtyard makes a terrific sanctuary, but if it's overcast, which it often is, the main dining room's vivid Tiffany-blue walls are a great way to combat the ubiquitous shades of gray.
Open Mondays through Fridays noon to 3 pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays 6 to 10 pm.