Eating Through Europe: Brugge

Let’s be real, food is the best part about travel. Monuments and history and sightseeing are cool and stuff, but we all know food is the star of the show.

The food that I eat on a a trip can make or break how I feel about a city. Therefore, each travel post will be accompanied by separate post just about all the food I got to eat while traveling.

Spoiler alert: It’s a lot.

Before going to Belgium I knew three things a bout their food: Waffles, Chocolate, and Beer. And Brugge delivered, plus so much more.

After arriving in gray and rainy Brugge, and getting lost for a couple of hours since neither of us had cell service (okay maybe it was only like 45 minutes, but hey it was stressful) trying to find our AirBnb, Courtney and I were ready for food by the time we finally made it to our AirBnb.

After getting some suggestions from our host, as well as some more reliable directions around town other than our wifi-and-data-less phones, we set out to find the restaurant our host had recommended: Ganzespel

Ganzespel is a restaurant that serves traditional flemish meals, rotating the menu each night to have three different specialties a night.

The restaurant is really tiny, and tucked away in an alley in the outskirts of city center. In fact, it’s so tucked away that without the help of Google Maps (thank god for offline mode) we probably would have walked right past it, and even then we still weren’t sure we were in the right place.

Our confusion continued when we walked in to a completely empty restaurant, and stood awkwardly in the door for about five minutes until a staff member saw us and told us to sit anywhere. Once we sat down the staff was super friendly and helpful. The restaurant has a set menu, with different types of pasta and other classic food, and a daily menu with different classic flemish meals each night. When we were there the options were beef in beer sauce, fish in cream sauce, and some sort of lamb dish. I ended up ordering the beef in beer sauce with mashed potatoes, and of course a beer.

Prior to getting our entrees, we were pleasantly surprised with some soup, which even though we have no clue what was in it, was delicious none-the-less. Also hey any extra course that I don’t have to order (or pay for) is alright with me.

The beef in beer sauce was pretty awesome, and exactly the kind of warm dinner we needed on the cold rainy night we were facing. It came with a side of mashed potatoes, which were, of course, amazing (when are mashed potatoes not amazing???), apple sauce, and a mixed veggie salad which was a nice counter to the rest of the heavy meal.

We left feeling very full and very sleepy, and excited for the rest of the food that we’d be getting on the rest of the trip.

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We started Sunday off by eating the cereal our AirBnb host had left us, mostly because it was free and we are still broke college students on a budget, no matter how hard we tried to pretend otherwise.

Naturally, when you visit the Friet Museum, you need to get some friet’s to go along with the adventure. As could be expected, a museum dedicated to fries and potatoes, knows how to make some pretty damn good fries. Our batch was made fresh so they came out crispy and warm and made the perfect lunch/snack that we needed for the rest of the day. Of course I also got a side of mayo for dipping because Europe knows what’s up and appreciates fries and mayo which more of America needs to get on board with because it’s the best.

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Finding a place for dinner on Sunday night was a little bit of a struggle, because everywhere we found online was either closed or massively out of our budget (see earlier comment about being broke college students).

We ended up at Gran Kaffee De Passage  which is attached to the Passage Hostel.

Because I’m a fan of options, and sampling as many different foods in one meal as possible, I ordered the hot tapas. This came with wings, toasted ravioli, spring rolls, fried inkfish, and fried cheese filled gnocchi (I know). I honestly don’t think there was a bad thing on the plate, but the star of the show was the cheese filled gnocchi, which were crunchy, cheese filled pillows of deliciousness.

Courtney ordered lasagne and said it was the best she’s ever had. The meal also came with a basket of bread with aioli and pickled pearl onions, which were surprisingly delicious.

The meal was super affordable with everything being under 15 euro, so if you want good food on a budget this is the place for you.

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The next morning we went to the store HEMA for breakfast. HEMA is probably the closest thing Belgium (and the Netherlands) has to Target. Obviously nothing lives up to the magic wonderland that is Target, but when you don’t have it available you’ll settle. They have a great breakfast special for 2 euro if you get there before 10am. Which we did not. So instead we got coffee and pastries, took advantage of the free wifi to plan out our day, and then continued on.

Lunch on Monday was probably one of the best things I’ll eat in Europe: Sanseveria Bagel Salon.

Bagels, tragically, are not a big thing in Europe. Other than a chain called Bagels and Beans in the Netherlands, I had been having trouble finding a good bagel, which sucks since that’s my go-to breakfast (don’t worry, I’ve settled for croissants with honey goat cheese instead… It’s a hard life)

So I was extra excited to find a bagel restaurant. They specialize in bagel sandwiches of all different types and it was so hard to choose. They have both sweet and savory options: as they should. When we got there they were running a lunch special  where you could get a drink, a sandwich, and dessert for 12 euro. Clearly a no brainer. Every sandwich is named after a person and I got the John which had brie, honey, thyme, cream cheese and salad. I will be dreaming about this bagel for the rest of my life. I will also be attempting to recreate it. For a drink I got coffee (naturally), and dessert was a chocolate pie which was basically a giant fudgey browine, aka heaven. If you’re in Brugge, absolutely go here. It’s pretty small (and they only accept Belgian bank cards so bring cash!) but totally worth the potential wait.

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Dinner was pretty mediocre that night. After finally deciding on a burger place we had seen online, we walked over, only to realize that it was closed on Mondays, because of course. After aimlessly wandering for a while we ended up a touristy friet shop in town center, and got a basic fast food type meal that wasn’t memorable or special.

But don’t worry. The night wasn’t a total bust, because earlier we had visited Dumon Chocolatier and had that waiting at home. Dumon was consistently rated as the best chocolate in Brugge (and there are literally hundreds of options). I got a mixed box to sample everything and oh boy was it incredible. Belgium is famous for chocolate for good reason.

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Since I’m like 90% sure it’s illegal to go to Beglium and not get a waffle, that was our goal for Tuesday morning. And, that goal was met, by Gingerbread Tea House, which was not only delicious, but also adorable.

They have lots of different options for waffles and toppings, but I channeled my inner Leslie Knope and went basic with just whipped cream on top, and a speculoos latte. This was one of the best waffles I’ve had in my life. The outside was super crispy, with a fluffy inside. The whipped cream melted down and soaked into the waffle making it even sweeter and delicious, and any coffee that comes with cookie butter is alright in my book. Also, not only is the food incredible, but the overall aesthetic of the restaurant makes for a pretty killer instagram shot, if you’re into that (which I am).

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For lunch we went to a cute book store/cafe called Books and Brunch. I got a classic breakfast and, since I’m made of 90% caffeine, coffee. The breakfast included a bread basket (two pieces of bread plus a croissant, Europe doesn’t mess around with their carbs), cheese, nutella, and a soft boiled egg. I forgot to take a picture of this because I was too excited to eat it… whoops.

For dinner we went to a place that had been on our list since we got there called Bocca. It’s a pasta restaurant that’s apparently frequented by students in Brugge. All the pasta is served in a Chinese style take out box. The boxes range from 4-6 euros depending on the size. I went for a large (because why not) and got herbed chicken mixed with a spicy cream sauce with bacon, and some wine. The whole meal cost exactly 10 euro and was so much food. It’s not fancy at all, but the food is quality, and that’s all that really matters.

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On our first night we had passed by a french bakery that had incredible looking desserts in the window and said we’d stop in on our way home. It was closed. All trip we meant to go, but kept missing it, and couldn’t find a name to get their hours from online.

We eventually learned that it was called  Aux Merveilleux, and specialized in meringues.We also eventually went in. I got two minis, Incroyable (speculoos biscuit, whipped cream, and shaved white chocolate) and  Excentrique (cherry whipped cream coated with crystalized cherry meringue). The flavors were incredible and the meringue melted in my mouth and I could have eaten about 100 more if I had them.

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Belgium is known for waffles, chocolate, and beer for a reason. Finding places to eat on a budget can feel pretty daunting, as there are a lot of upscale, renowned restaurants (think places with at least one Michelin star). However, it’s not hard to find great food on a budget, and you can still enjoy all the Brugge has to offer without going broke.

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