Dining out in Belgium

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BRUSSELS -- With so many good restaurants in every corner of this tiny country, it is no wonder why Belgians can be found lingering long over their meals.

The following list of restaurants focuses on establishments in Flanders and the Ardennes that serve traditional Belgian dishes and haute cuisine.

Most restaurants change their menus frequently and for that reason this listing avoids highlighting specific menu items.

Brussels

Belgium's capital city serves a plethora of dining choices in every price range. Clients should be aware that many of the cafes and restaurants located on the Grand'Place are geared to tourists and can be quite pricey. Also, while colorful, the restaurants along the Rue des Bouchers, adjacent to the Grand'Place, can be a hit-or-miss dining experience and are best avoided unless recommended by a local.

The following are a few restaurant suggestions around the city:

  • Les 4 Saisons, (011) 32-2 505-5555, in the Royal Windsor Hotel, steps from the Grand'Place. The menu is French cuisine infused with international flavors. Prices for main courses start at around $22. The cheese cart features a number of Belgian cheeses. The menu changes every few months. The atmosphere is elegant with linens, silver and fresh flowers dressing the tables.
  • 't Kelderke (011) 32-2 513-7344.
  • Situated right on Grand'Place, this family-style cellar restaurant serves a variety of Belgian dishes, including a number of fish specials that are tasty and reasonably priced. Prices for main courses start at around $12.

  • L'Auberge des Chapeliers, (011) 32-2 513-7378, on the rue des Chapeliers 1-3. Situated right off the Grand'Place, this little restaurant is one of the places locals go for mussels and fries. The atmosphere is casual and the portions are large. The average cost of a meal consisting of mussels, fries and a beer is $20.
  • Ghent

    This small, colorful city overlooked by many visitors, perhaps because at first glance it isn't as picturesque as Bruges, has a remarkably wide selection of more than 350 restaurants and cafes.

    Galgenjousje (the Gallow House), a favorite with locals but unknown to most visitors, might be the city's smallest eatery, but it is huge on atmosphere and taste. The restaurant is named as such because it is housed in what was once the holding space for people condemned to death by hanging. The cave-like dining room is strategically lighted, and nooses hanging from a tiny gallow tree display the menu. The menu changes monthly, and main courses are priced around $14. The waterzooi is always available and highly recommended.

    Most of the restaurants listed below are located in country hotels and inns situated in small towns or villages in the Ardennes region.

    Ligneuville

    The Hotel du Moulin, (011) 32-80 570-081, is a charming Tudor-style property that is family-owned and run. The hotel's restaurant, popular with guests and locals, features a menu of French haute cuisine with local influences. Meals are served in a large, comfortable dining room. Fresh local trout is the house specialty. Prices for main courses start around $30.

    Yvoir-Anhee

    The Hostellerie Vachter, (011) 32-82 61 1314, is a country hotel and restaurant located right down the river from the popular tourist town of Dinant. The restaurant is formal but a more relaxed atmosphere prevails on the veranda, the place to dine during warm weather. Once again, French haute cuisine is the fare of choice, including a great selection of wines and wonderful desserts. Dinner for two costs about $100, including wine and dessert.

    Francorchamps

    Hostellerie Le Roannay, (011) 32-87 275-311, has been operated since 1926 by the Aubinet-Schmitz family. The property, which has large, well-appointed rooms, boasts the only sauna in town. The atmosphere borders on formal in the dining room, which features stone archways and large picture windows. Ask for the grilled goose liver pate smothered in strawberries for an appetizer. Meal prices range from $40 to $70 per person.

    Dinant

    The restaurant Villa Mouchenne, (011) 32-82 226-751, overlooks the cluster of shops, cafes and restaurants located across the river in the center of Dinant. The formal dining room is light and airy with large picture windows. The garden tables outside are the best place to sit and relax over some dessert and coffee. As in all the upscale restaurants I visited here, French cuisine dominates the menu. Dinner is priced from $40 per person.

    Contact Numbers to Book Tours

    NEW YORK -- A number of tour operators offer escorted tours that include Belgium as well as FIT programs to the country.

    In addition to consulting the partial list of operators provided below, contact the Belgian Tourist Office here for further information on planning culinary or other specialty tours to Belgium.

  • Auto Europe, phone: (800) 223-5555
  • Europe Express, phone: (800) 927-3876; fax (800) 370-0509
  • Euroseven, phone: (800) 890-3876 or (212) 255-8166; fax (212) 255-8944
  • IST Cultural Tours, phone: (800) 833-2111 or (212) 563-1202; fax (212) 594-6953
  • Sabena Airlines (Eurostarters packages), phone: (888) 722-3621
  • United Vacations, phone: (800) 328-6877
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