It's a mess
Poor Brussel. Being the capital of Belgium and Europe hasn't done the city much good. Everything had to be big. Big crowded roads run right through the centre. It's obvious that a lot of old buildings were demolished to make room for those. Already in the 19th century some king ordered the destruction of a large part of the medieval centre. In the 1950's and 1960's something similar happened again. Whole blocks in the centre are made up of big, architecturally uninteresting buildings. But beyond those you just might find a few treasures again. I've been fooled at earlier occassions, thinking that there was no more centre left beyond such a modern monster.
City Flag of Brussels
Belgium is a Federation of 3 main entities. The Flemish-speaking community of Flanders in the north, the French-speaking community of Wallonia in the south and the neutral capital region of Brussels (whereby both Flemish & French are official languages).
Each community is represented by a flag and which is why when you are travelling through Belgium, there are so many flags fluttering around. There is the EU flag, the National flag, the regional flag, the provincial flag and in some cases, the city flag. Made for great photography with all those colours but confusing for folks..if they ever wanted to know what flag represents what.
I think even the Belgians are themselves stumped at times. Extracted from Flags Of The World
..."The municipal flag of Brussels, as flown from the city hall (a recently-restored, beautiful medieval building in the Grand Place) and other buildings is a square, horizontally divided green over red flag, with on its centre a very large version of the municipal logotype, a stylized, disc-shaped silhouette of St. Michael trampling the devil, in dark yellow.
Santiago Dotor, 10 March 2003"...
Ah! The famed « Frites » or « Frietjes »! Belgium's national pride has taken the world over. It's delicious, it's addictive, it's not very healthy but I think it's high up on many people's favourite food item.
The Friterie or Fritkot is a common fixture of the Belgian landscape. It's usually very small and consist of a small caravan or shed where the fries are made and people get them to go. Sometimes, it'll be a real snack with tables and chairs but the number of sitting-down options seems inversely proportionate to the goodness of the fries (don't know why). Usually, fries are made so you can bring them back home and enjoy them while watching TV.
To make real « frites » the Bintje variety of potatoes (THE variety of choice for frites) MUST be used, they are freshly cut (not frozen, run away if you notice bags of frozen fries) and they use beef fat to fry them in two steps (fried once until they are becoming a little crispy but still white then a second time until golden so they are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside), as frites must be prepared. They will be flipped over several times in a metallic pan to drain the excess fat and salted (twice if served in a cone) with a usually battered metallic salt container. Of course, your frites will be served in a paper cone but you can also find them served on paper trays. You may ask for a big dollop of sauce on your fries or, in a separate plastic cup. The choice of sauce in Belgium is humongous : mayonnaise (of course), ketchup, curry ketchup, andalouse (one of the most popular), americaine, cocktail, samouraï, tartare, garlic, brésilienne... One tiny detail that often surprises visitors : you have to pay for the sauce. Not much but it's the general rule. Recommended Fritkots in Brussels :
Maison Antoine : Place Jourdan. Still said to be the best in Brussels despite some claims of the opposite. Read my tip.
Friterie de la Chapelle : Place de la Chapelle – rumored to have taken Maison Antoine's crown. Have to try to confirm.
Friterie de la rue Tabora : in thise little street tucked between the Stock Exchange and Grand'Place, you will find the best fries closest to the Grand'Place. It's small so, you might miss it. The friterie is ran by a Portuguese husband and wive.
After hours : OK, you've been out all night and need to eat? Fritland next to the Stock Exchange is open all night. For a quick fix when nothing else is open. The fries have improved since I came back a year ago and are more than edible.
In Ixelles : Friterie de la Place Flagey : Some claim it's one of the best in Ixelles and even in Brussels (sorry, I've found better) but it's surely one of the busiest! Everybody in Ixelles goes there. With all the construction going around on Place Flagey, its reputation is enough to sustain the business. It managed to keep a little spot in all the chaos.
Friterie Bompa : When I moved to Ixelles, I noticed this real neighbourhood fritkot and tried it on my first night, not having anything in my fridge. Turned out to be a very serious contender to the best fries in Brussels! They are even better than the ones made on Place Flagey (crispier and tastier). You can even order a half-chicken and crushed apple to make a real meal of your fries. 71, Avenue de la Couronne - http://www.fritkotbompa.be/
For the real "Frites" lovers : http://www.frites.be
When you think you are about to enter the place and have a cold beer...
- you find out there is a very narrow alley leading somewhere...
...Not looking good but...
...hopefully it's the way to an Estaminet!
This one leads to *TOONE* an Estaminet and a marionette theatre.
It is found along - Petite Rue Des Bouchers - and with the crowd cannot be very well located unless you walk with your head up - Remember (the sign)... ;-)!
6, impasse Schuddeveld (off petite rue des Bouchers),
A LA MORT SUBITE
Brussels one of the oldest and has kept unchanged its interior.
This one is easy to find - from Grand-Place just go through Huberts' Galleries and the Estaminet "À LA MORT SUBITE" (Sudden Death) is almost right opposite.
Waiters are very old and the whole place seem stopped in time...unless it's very crowded :-)!
This is also one of the few places where you can get Pêcheresse on tap!