There is a good chance that, during your stay in Brussels, you will be sucked into some heated argument about the origin of “that” thing. It’s called French fry in the English language. Belgians claim its origin and French … don’t care, essentially.
Where Do French Fries Come From?
There are multiple theories about the provenance of the golden potato stick but none seriously substantiated. You know, it’s typically one of those things that was probably invented in the street, somewhere, by a peddler, and which will never be firmly identified. My honest opinion? I couldn’t care less and that’s why I call them “frites”, under any circumstances and anywhere in the world because … that’s what they are, frites.
Why Are They Dubbed French?
I’ll tell you something: they are called “French” in English. Aha! What does this tell you? Indeed, this means that this notion of “Frenchness” originates from someone speaking English. The only theory I’ll support is that the Belgian military introduced them to their American friends during WWI. And at the time, French being the official language of the Belgian army, GIs went back home and dubbed the fries “French” fries. But does it mean that frites originate from Belgium?
Frankly, who cares?
As a matter of fact, I recently read that Belgium is claiming ownership of the French Toast! Kidding!
The Frite Rules!
Seriously though, what is most certain is that Belgians have made the frite an iconic element of their diet. Belgians consume enormous amounts of frites, be they gobbled up on the street as a meal or nibbled on in the poshest restaurant as an accompaniment.
Speaking of which … a demonstration of the “versatility” of the frite. I was having dinner in this lovely Italian restaurant and this guy, a couple of tables away, ordered Osso Buco – the real one, no tomato sauce that is – with … frites! This is to illustrate the extent of the roots – no pun intended – of the golden gem in Belgian culinary habits. The frite rules!
Now, Time For A Frite Tasting in Brussels
Now, those frites, where do we eat them? We get them at a fritkot. Belgium is the land of the fritkot. There are about 5,000 fritkots in Belgium. They can be simple shacks, moving vans but whatever they are, they fry frites.
The stars of Brussels fritkots are permanently fighting to be awarded the coveted “Best Frites in Brussels” award. I’ll give you some of them but not in an order of preference. Not being an accredited expert, I will not dare insult anyone by giving my tasting opinion.
Maison Antoine: A stone throw from the EU area, Maison Antoine has been a real institution since 1948. If the shack has been renovated and modernized, the frites, however, remain the same, succulent!
Place Jourdan 1 1040 Brussels
Friterie du Café Georgette: Near Grand Place, Georgette is a staple in the neighborhood. Beside the “classic” sauces, try the sauces “maison” cold or hot. A real treat.
Rue la Fourche 37/39 1000 Brussels
Bintje Bar à Frites: The bio fritkot. Bio potatoes fried in bio vegetable oil. Phew, it could almost be healthy. Beef burger, chicken, fish and veggies are also on the menu.
Rue Simonis 62 1050 Brussels
Frit’Flagey: Night and day, pretty much without exception, there is a line here. A trick for you: count about 1 minute per person and you’ll know how long you’ll have to wait. And while in the queue, check the list of sauces and take your pick.
Place Eugène Flagey 1050 Brussels
Chez Jef: The 2019 proud winner of the famous award. Beyond the excellence of the frites and sauces, what might make this fritkot different is the ubiquitous welcome smiles and attention from Jef and Manu, his daughter.
Place Peter Benoit 1120 Neder-over-Heembeek
I could go on for pages and pages. So, here is my deal: if you need more of those, let me know, I’ll be happy to give you a few more pointers.