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Along with waffles, chocolates and shrimp croquettes, Belgian fries are an essential must-eat while visiting Belgium. Belgium is believed to be the birthplace of what we know as “French fries,” and there’s even a museum, called Frietmuseum, that’s dedicated to the addictive, starchy culinary staple in nearby Bruges.
Yet, just as America’s Chicago-style and Italy’s Neapolitan pizzas are very much different animals (so to speak), Belgium’s fries — frites and fritjes to the French and Flemish, respectively — very much stand apart.
What do authentic Belgian fries entail, then? A Dutch potato variety called bintje is fried twice in beef fat: a first dunking to soften the fries at around 325 degrees, and, after a cooling down, a second bath at higher temperatures to crisp up the exterior. The fries are then piled into a serving basket or cone, and mayonnaise and other sauces are optional. Of course, there’s also the option of the nation’s much-loved pairing with a pot of mussels, aka moules-frites.
Today, Brussels’ frituur and friterie (restaurants and kiosks) offer a range of both staunchly traditional and more health-conscious takes on frites. Here are some of the best.
Friture Pitta de la ChapelleSituated against the rear side of Chapel Church (aka Eglise Notre-Dame de la Chapelle), this unpretentious, rectangular cream-colored outdoor shack cooks up a range of snacks, including one of Brussels’ most perfectly rendered, crisp, succulent frites.
Travelers can opt for cone or tray, as well as an impressive choice of 21 optional sauces — from simple mayonnaise to curry ketchup to the spicy Americaine, which incorporates cayenne pepper for kick.
Brasserie des Bons Enfants This reopened, sit down brasserie-friterie is just a block from the Tintin©Herge Gallery and shop, and across the street from a two-floor cafe location of elegant chocolatier Pierre Marcolini.
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A post shared by Sandrine Henkinbrant (@shenkinbrant) on Dec 15, 2018 at 8:52am PST
Brasserie des Bons Enfants sticks to traditional beef fat when fashioning its upscale, tasty frites, which cost about $4.50 as a standalone item.
Served in a basket, the frites can be paired with a handful of sauces including tartare and even a poutine option for those itching to fuse the cuisines of two distinct Francophone cultures (Belgian and Quebecois).
Maison AntoineLocated on bustling Place Jourdan, Maison Antoine is probably Brussels’ most iconic, world famous friterie — sometimes with changing, playful sculptures of frites cones positioned out front. Even The New York Times considers it the “baseline” for superb and authentic Belgian frites.
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A post shared by Monique Gasparelli (@moniquegasp) on Nov 12, 2018 at 12:59pm PST
During peak times, there may be a snaking crowd of fellow frites-craving tourists, but one reason to endure a Maison queue is for the chance to try a mitraillette, a baguette sandwich that’s topped with frites. The mitraillette certainly goes down well after or during a night spent drinking at nearby bars (Maison Antoine is open until 2 a.m.).
Frit FlageyIn the hipster, expat-heavy Ixelles district, the unglamorous cream and green-colored Flagey stand is actually the place to be for frites. Similar to Friture Pitta de la Chapelle, there’s no seating. But at about $3.20 for a “grande” size of frites in a paper cone or basket — and about 20 sauces to choose from including Samurai (made with Tunisian chili, mayo and ketchup), Bearnaise and Riche (red onion tartare) — it’s guaranteed to hit the spot.
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A post shared by Frit Flagey (@fritflagey) on Feb 2, 2019 at 10:48am PST
Les Brasseries GeorgesAn elegant, full-service restaurant with extensive raw bar offerings and a lovely wine list, the 32-year-old Les Brasseries Georges makes our best frites list thanks to its truly traditional, “old-fashioned Brasserie” frites. Guests can taste frites fried in horse fat (how Belgian frites were originally prepared), or opt for preparations featuring beef fat, goose fat or even vegetarian-friendly olive oil.
BintjeTechnically, this 1-year-old, coolly contemporary hipster venue isn’t a true Belgian friterie, despite its name: They use organic sunflower oil for frying and leave the potato skins on. It’s a welcome alternative for vegetarian/vegan travelers, and Bintje stocks an impressive selection of Belgian microbrewery bottles that guests certainly won’t find stateside.
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A post shared by Céline (@mybakery31) on Feb 3, 2019 at 6:45am PST