Brussels is a city that offers a lot of delicious food, and it doesn't have to be expensive. Some of their most iconic dishes—think of french fries and Belgian waffles—shouldn't cost you more than a few euros. Even if you're looking for something more elegant, you can find restaurants that serve typical dishes like mussels that won't break your budget. What's more, as the unofficial capital of the European Union, Brussels is also a melting pot of cultures and offers inexpensive cuisines from around the world.
This simple and unassuming deli is one of the top-rated places to eat in Brussels, and the constant line outside is proof. The ingredients are all high-quality and mostly local meats and cheeses served on a freshly baked baguette. If you're unfamiliar with the wide array of European cheeses and charcuteries and don't know what to order, the gregarious shop assistant will help out by asking you a few questions. Do you like stinky cheeses? Spicy meats? Do you want cheese with a bite? Do you prefer a smoky flavor?
Whatever you answer will determine the personalized sandwich created for you. The exceptional service means the service can be slow, so consider going early and saving your sandwich for lunchtime.
- Address: Rue Duquesnoy 6
- What to Order: Sandwich, 5 to 7 euros
The name french fries implies they're from France, but locals will tell you that they are a purely Belgian invention. Where exactly they're from isn't certain, but you can be sure to find these perfectly fried potatoes in many of the friteries around Brussels, and Fritland is one of the best. When you order fries, they should come overflowing out of a paper cone. They're generally fried in beef fat (if you're vegetarian or vegan, ask for a place that uses oil), which gives them an extra layer of richness.
In addition to the fries, there is a wide variety of sauces to choose from. Ketchup and mayonnaise are the standard choices, but if you want to branch out, try curry ketchup, tartar sauce, sauce samouraï (mayonnaise, ketchup, and harissa), or sauce andalouse (mayonnaise, tomato paste, and peppers).
- Address: Rue Henri Maus 49
- What to Order: Fries and sauce, 4 to 5 euros
It's easy to find cheap kebabs in any major European city but finding a good cheap kebab can be a challenge. Enter L'Express. This Lebanese fast food restaurant is centrally located and serves chicken shawarma, beef shawarma, and falafel, all served in a warm grilled piece of pita bread. These sandwiches are great for lunch, dinner, or a late-night snack after a night of drinking Belgian beers. There's also an assortment of appetizers and other small dishes to share, such as housemade hummus, Lebanese salad, and a halloumi cheese plate.
If you're looking for Middle Eastern cuisine, don't look farther than L'Express.
- Address: Rue des Chapeliers 8
- What to Order: Meat shawarma or falafel, 5 to 7 euros
Noordzee Mer du Nord
The bilingual name of this eatery—North Sea in Flemish and French—tells you exactly what to expect here: Seafood. It's a popular spot with the locals and is more of a fishmonger than an actual restaurant. It's located on a busy street corner and there are no tables inside to sit. Simply order at the counter, wait for your food, and enjoy it outside with the company of everyone else who comes to eat here. The seafood here is always fresh, and you can get oysters, razor clams, and calamari, among other things.
But if you haven't tried moules-frites, the Belgian specialty of mussels (with fries), this is an affordable place to try them. You won't love them because they're cheap, you'll love them because they're delicious.
- Address: Noordzee Mer du Nord: Rue Sainte-Catherine 45
- What to Order: Plate of mussels, 5 euros
Brussels has a sizeable North African population, and many of the best North African restaurants are concentrated around the Gare du Midi train station. Walk toward the station from the city center down Avenue de Stalingrad, and you'll smell the savory aroma of grilled meats emitting from various restaurants. Msemen is a Moroccan flatbread that often comes stuffed with meat, a type of North African crepe. It's a wallet-friendly meal that's perfect to enjoy when you need a break from the typical Belgian cuisine.
- Address: Various locations around Gare du Midi train station
- What to order: Stuffed msemen, 3 to 5 euros
You'll see more Belgian waffle stands in Brussels than coffeeshops in New York City. A real Belgian waffle should be sweet and doughy enough that it requires no topping beside a dusting of powdered sugar, and perhaps a moderate amount of whipped cream or melted Belgian chocolate, and Vitalgaufre is the place to enjoy one. However, while the topping-heavy waffles may be geared toward tourists, there's also nothing wrong with enjoying your waffle smothered in cherries, Nutella, bananas, ice cream, or whatever else your heart desires.
It's your waffle and you should eat it as you please.
- Address: Vitalgaufre: Rue Neuve 23-29
- What to Order: Plain waffle, 3 euros