Monday, September 7, 2009

The Best Frites in Brussels

As the story goes, French fries aren’t really French, they’re Belgian. Accounts differ on where and when fried slices of potatoes first entered the human diet, but since the French themselves think of fries and Belgian, and since fries are undoubtedly the country’s national snack, I’m happy to give this one to les Belges. Friteries (take-away French fry stands) are everywhere in Brussels, but most people will tell you that the city’s best frites (the French word for "fries") are at Maison Antoine. In the name of travel research, and because I have a weakness for anything fried and salty, I decided to see for myself what everyone was raving about.

Maison Antoine is located in the middle of Place Jourdan, a small square surrounded by bars and restaurants that is just east of the city center. The first thing you notice when you arrive is the line. Be prepared: at night, it’s not unusual to have to wait in line for 20-30 minutes for your chance to order a petites or grandes frites. But don’t let that stop you; the wait is more than worth it. Part of the reason why Maison Antoine’s fries are so good is that they’re double-cooked. First the fries are blanched at a low temperature. This ensures that the inside of the thick-cut potatoes will be soft and cooked all the way through. Then, when you place your order, they're deep fried at a high temperature which gives them a crispy, golden-brown exterior. Add just a dash of salt, dip them in one of Maison Antoine’s fry sauces (I recommend “curry”), and eat what I think truly are the best fries you’ll ever had.

Of course, nothing washes down a cone of salty fries quite like a glass of cold beer, but don’t worry about having to plan ahead to BYOB. Some of the bars that surround Place Jourdan know a lucrative combination when they see one, declaring themselves “partenaires,” or partners, of Maison Antoine. This means you’re welcome to bring your fries into the bar, order a delicious Belgian beer, and enjoy the two together. It doesn’t get much better than that.


Carla Young said...

Sounds delicious! I think I need to hop on the Eurostar and do some research of my own.

Zhu said...

I'd love to try the proper belgium fries. The closest I had was some frites in Lille, when visiting a friend a few years ago.

I remember this cool restaurant in Brussels where guest shared one huge table... you should try it! It was pretty famous back then. I'll try to remember the name.

Tanya said...

@Carla, Stop on by! You're in the neighborhood, right? :-)

@Zhu, If you remember the name of the restaurant, be sure to send it my way. I'm always looking for recommendations.