Bite Me, Brussels.

Reviewing food for the foreigners, without all the fluff.

Archive for the ‘Frite Off!’ Category

Not such a cool bun

Posted by rachelinbxl on April 6, 2013

Well…. I finally made it out to Cool Bun. It was for a friend’s birthday. That’s my excuse and I am sticking to it! I certainly didn’t need a burger after the Hard Rock overdose… but I did feel the need to check out the last in the competition.
So, Cool Bun near Place Stephanie. Well, the service is good. The decor is a little boring, but not bad. The toilets weren’t up to much, but were at least clean. My difficulty was finding it. I thought it was closer to Place Stephanie, but you actually need to go up past Mig’s World Wines (a favourite wine shop of mine on Chaussee de Charleroi – but this isn’t a wine blog)….
Saturday lunchtime it is open till 15:00, which fits well with the generally late shift of my habits on Saturday. It was even quite busy up till the kitchen closed.
The 2 waitresses were welcoming and even a bit fast to try and take our orders. In fact we both opted for the Apple Jack Burger, since the special I wanted to try with echalottes fried in Westmalle and mushrooms was off the menu. We both went for ‘a point’ – I don’t like meat too bloody, especially a burger. This burger includes onion rings, oven-dried tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and BBQ sauce (with a choice of spicy or plain). I took spicy and it wasn’t really spicy.
The onion rings weren’t a highlight for me. They weren’t bad.. but not outstanding. The fries were a mixed bunch. My dining companion actually got a fairly decent plate of chips, I got little crispy bits of potato. We realised later on that he preferred the crunchy bits and we could swap so I could have something resembling potato…. but I still have to give their fries the thumbs down. This is Belgium. We have standards.
The homemade bread was good, and I liked the little salad that comes with the burger. The meat was good, not over seasoned, and cooked as requested. I still prefer Ellis Gourmet Burger and Les Super Filles du Tram/ Houstiplou. My last gripe would be the prices here. The apple jack is one of the cheapest burgers at 15 euros (includes fries, not the case at Ellis). The specials are at about 20-22 euros. This is over my limit for a burger. The wines and bio beers are not overpriced, but not cheap either, and I thought the wine selection by the glass was a bit poor. I chose a beer.

Cool Bun

Apple Jack Burger

All in all, not a place to avoid: I encourage bio, friendly restos near the centre… but not an outstanding burger.

Cool Bun
Rue Berckmans 34
1060 Saint-Gilles (near Place Stephanie)

Food: B-
Atmosphere: B
Service: A- Friendly but card reader broken so I had to wait while my friend went out for cash
Price: C
Languages: English, French

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Burger wars rock on

Posted by rachelinbxl on March 22, 2013

There have been a few blogs on the best burger in Brussels (see Ultimate Burger Guide or Burger Wars) and I myself added tests of Houtsiplou and Burger Republic. Since then I have tried Ellis Gourmet Burger at St. Catherine and was pleasantly surprised by the decor, the speedy service and the burger quality.
I am not generally a big burger fan, so my tests have not included the recommended Cool Bun (yet). It’s taken me 3 years to try 4 burger joints. I could not resist, however, an invitation, to try ALL the Legendary Burgers at the recently opened Hard Rock Cafe on the Grand Place. This is my first ‘blog perk’ – an invitation for a foodie who reviews in English and an opportunity for them to therefore get free publicity.
Win – win really!
So, I grabbed a couple of friends and took them out for a feast on me. We tried all 7 burgers.  Luckily they made mini versions, or we might have died trying to accomplish a mission impossible.

For the record – the list was:
Legendary 10 Oz – burger with bacon, cheddar and a fried onion ring,
SOB burger – Chipotle spiced patty, Jack cheese. guacamole and grilled onions, served with a homemade salsa
Hickory BBQ Bacon – burger with BBQ sauce, caramelised onions, bacon, cheddar
Big Cheese – you can choose American, Jack. Cheddar or Swiss but we couldn’t in the mini
Red, White and Blue Burger – burger with spicy Wayne sauce and cajun seasoning topped with a fried onion ring and swiss blue cheese.
Mushroom and Swiss – smothered with mushrooms sauteed in garlic and red and white wine and topped with swiss cheese.
California – ranch dressing, cucumber, guacamole and Jack.

ALL the above burgers came in a bun made with potato flakes to ensure the bread isn’t sweet or salty, and served with lettuce, tomato and pickles inside.

I debated long and hard on which order to present these burgers in – the order tasted; my order of preference; or the order of votes that we took at the end from everyone present at this tasting. In the end I choose to eliminate a few from detailed descriptions. The original ‘legendary’ is a burger, the Big Cheese suffered the most in miniaturisation I think (there was only one slice of cheese in our version, which can hardly be called cheesy at all), and the Hickory BBQ was not to my taste (this patty was the most chargrilled, but I don’t like BBQ sauce… )

hardrock 003 hardrock 009 hardrock 012 hardrock 013

From the left we have the legendary, the Hickory BBQ, the Red, White and Blue and its accompanying Wayne Sauce.

The Red, White and Blue was a popular vote. The sauce is spicy – i tried it separately first and was wary of putting it on the burger, but I had faith in our Venezuelan/Portuguese chef (Miguel came to explain each of the burgers to us) and tried it. The blue cheese actually damps out some of the spice, and the combination really works. I enjoyed this a lot. I’m not such a fan of coated onion rings as simple fried onion, which is perhaps why this didn’t get the top vote. I also think a regular portion with that much blue cheese might knock me for 6!

hardrock 017 hardrock 018

Here we see the Mushrooms and Swiss and the California without the top bun on. The mushroom and swiss also suffered in shrinking. The mushrooms, as Miguel carefully explained, are fried in garlic and both red and white wines. They have a great taste, but not many fit in a mini bun. As a result, this burger was dry and I didn’t think the big one would be.

The california was our maitre d’s favourite. A Spaniard, who gave us an interesting introduction to Hard Rock over a banana flavoured cocktail, said he was sad it was the last on the tasting list, as we wouldn’t be able to appreciate it. However, 4 people voted for this as their favourite. The ranch dressing was the major reason, though the homemade guacamole and cucumber made this the most moist of the burgers. I liked it a lot. It would have come second.
hardrock 005 hardrock 016thumb

Here I show the fries, made with skin on, and a tray of mini Mushrooms and Swiss burgers. The fries were a very pleasant surprise, but perhaps because my expectations were low. I was expecting American fries – stick thin and full of mash. These were not Belgian frites  (they are only fried once, for sure), but they are fresh-cut real potatoes, with the skin left on. A special secret seasoning is added to the frying (Miguel said he can’t even reproduce these at home, so secret is the mix). The result has a slightly breadcrumb taste, but on a real potato base – a bit like thin potato wedges. This said, the first 2 plates we devoured were much better than the third offering, where the oil had gotten too hot and the chips were dry. Mind you – it was better that we stopped by then!

hardrock 008 hardrock 011

We got to see the real portion size. The far left is the SOB (this stands for South of the Border, not anything ruder) with accompanying salsa, and the Original legendary. On the right, the big Cheese, which is done more justice in real size.

The SOB was my favourite. I loved the slight kick that the chipotle gave the patty and the homemade salsa was brilliant. We identified at least tomatoes, fried onion and coriander but I’m sure there are more ingredients. Adding this to the burger made it even more moist and juicy. For me this was a clear winner, however it only got 2 votes in the final. Hickory got 3, Legendary 1 and Big Cheese 0 (confirming that this should be eaten BIG). Mushrooms and Swiss also got 0, perhaps because of the size, or perhaps the in-between nature. People either preferred an original burger, or a special/ spicy one.

All in all I enjoyed the burgers, but didn’t think there was a huge variety. They are all the same price (currently 15.25 €), which includes fries. This makes them a tiny bit more than Ellis (but the portions are larger) but cheaper than Cool Bun. I must add that the location on the Grand Place is worth a great deal – and of course the traditional Hard Rock decor with souvenirs from various stars. There is a vegetarian burger on the menu, that also offers  salads and sandwiches, but the burgers are clearly the stars. In fact the veggie burger is the only veggie offering I can find at first glance.

hardrock 021
Dessert at Hard Rock Cafe Brussels

The dessert was a bonus surprise and everyone present groaned when he said there was a little extra. Once we got the little mini portions of chocolate brownie, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, however, there was silence as we all kept testing. This was excellent and really finished off the ‘meal’ of 7 mini burgers, too many fries, and a cocktail and a beer. I had a wonderful evening.

One can guarantee that this restaurant will speak English (and French), and be busy most of the time. As we left, I saw that it was very busy downstairs – a big change from when we had arrived. The shop is of course also popular, with the traditional T-shirt sales. I may well be back to test the bigger version of the small samples – when I feel I can stomach another burger – which might not be for a while!

Hard Rock Cafe,  or their facebook page,
Grand Place 12A, Brussels!

Food: B
Atmosphere: B – though an A for America. It’s just not very Belgian
Service: A Very friendly
Price: B
Languages: English, French

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Burger and beers in Brussels

Posted by rachelinbxl on March 18, 2012

There have been a few blogs on the best burger in Brussels recently (see Ultimate Burger Guide or Burger Wars).  I confess I am not much of a burger fan, but every once in a while I get a hankering for this oversized, overly meaty sandwich, and McDonalds, or the recent strange Quick ideas will NOT hit the spot.

So, it’s always good to test a new spot in Brussels for burgers.

I tested the Burger Republic near Flagey, but on a day that I was playing vegetarian (a challenge during Lent this year in the Flemish community  to sensitise people to the ecological footprint that producing meat requires. see dagenzondervlees for more details). Their version with a huge portobello mushroom, roasted bell peppers, cheese and a mustardy sauce was OK, but I didn’t really enjoy their fries and thought the white bread bun really lacked taste. Also, the burger disintegrated in my hands. I realise mushrooms are more slippery than meat, but there must be a way to get the cheese to stick this together. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t pay 12 euros for this burger a second time.

I preferred Houtsiplou, where I tested the “Super chouette” back in December last year. I went without a camera, so there is no photographic evidence of this burger. It was a bit heavy on the cheese, but the pepper sauce was good. I hear it’s owned by the same people as Super Filles du Tram – hence both serving fries in flower pots! The service was friendly and very bilingual (was dining with a Flemish friend, and he was most impressed to find this in Brussels, and so near the Grand Place).  I like the place itself also, on the small square, opposite the insanely expensive Comme chez soi and l’Horloge. I read in a guidebook that this square used to be the arrivals hall of the main station in brussels. The Horloge restaurant is where the large train clock stood, and the statue in the middle welcomed visitors off the trains in Brussels.

Houtsiplou
Place Rouppe, 9 – 1000 Bruxelles
Food: A
Atmosphere: B
Service: A
Price: B+
Languages: French, Dutch, English

Burger Republic,
Chaussée de Vleurgat 7, 1050, Ixelle
Food: C
Atmosphere: C
Service: B
Price: C
Languages: French,  English

I called this post Burgers and Beers, and that is because I also keep up my exploration of Belgian beers (soon a post on a visit to the Cantillon public brewing session and the Gruut brewery, run by a woman, in the centre of Gent, where they make beer without hops). A ‘new’ beer shop has opened on Place de Jeu de Balles which will help me in my quest to try all of the beers listed in my book ‘100 Belgian beers to try before you die’

Au nom de la bière
12, Jeu de Balle
1000 Bruxelles

This is right on the square with the flea market. It is open Thurs-Sun, or ask at the Marseille bar on the corner, where the owner clearly spends a great deal of his time. He has a good selection, not cheap.. but he is friendly and knowledgeable. I’m sure there are better, but they often require cars to get too. Here I can wheel my little shopping trolly from the Sunday pilgrimage to South station market, collect a few more bottles, and hop a tram home! So.. should you need to sample some of the rarer Belgian beers: I recommend Les Rulles, Owa and the WinterKoninkse. Skol

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Les super filles du tram

Posted by rachelinbxl on July 29, 2011

So after all that ‘chic’ eating during the Resto Days, it was about time to go Back to Basics. I realise that burgers are not the most basic food item, especially in Brussels, but fries are included in this meal!!
Les super filles du tram near Place Flagey is by no means like McDonalds, but it is a burger joint.  I’m not sure where the name comes from, but the walls are decorated with super-hero images, on the Brussels landscape. It’s kind of funky, but not the comfiest of seats, and the tables are fairly tightly packed. I had heard the service was slow, but we had a very swift experience at 7pm on a Friday! The restaurant was fairly empty.

Big Joe

Big Joe

They do have things on the menu that are NOT burgers, and they do have vegetarian options (the veggie burger sounded really good), but we stuck to traditional and had a burger each. Next time I might have to try one of the fish burgers… I had Big Joe, because it had bacon as well as the burger, and cheese! It was a good burger (well cooked, but not overdone – the ‘medium’ that I asked for really). The bacon was not as good as in the UK, but one cannot expect that. There wasn’t a lot of salad, and they had not overdone the sauce (ketchup and mayo are available). I was especially impressed with the fries – which were really really good (and the level is high in Belgium!). I liked the flower pot method of serving them too!

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

My friend had the Mushroom Burger, which is not vegetarian but also the 100% beef patty, but with LOTS of mushroom sauce – almost too much really! They also have Chouffe on tap – which is a bonus! So beer, fries and a burger. Total of 16 euros each, which is more than McDonalds of course, but fair for how full I felt and the quality of the food. Of course a meal for two for less than 30 euros would also be good and that’s the reason this doesn’t get an A-rating.
We didn’t stay for dessert as there are good ice creams nearby, and Cafe Belga for mint tea etc….
Maybe another time. The salads on the table next to us looked tasty too, so perhaps another visit is on the cards.

Les Super Filles du Tram
22, Lesbroussart 1050 Elsene

Food: B
Atmosphere: B
Service: B
Price: B
Languages: French, English

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No troubles brewing at the Brassins

Posted by rachelinbxl on September 13, 2010

I take real delight in the beer restaurants in Brussels. I like beer with my food, and they are a good location to take visiting friends. It’s a good way for each of us to try a different beer, some traditional Belgian food (some cooked with beer) and they are generally not overpriced.
For the visit of a Swedish friend, I tried Les Brassins for the first time. They do not make their own beer, but have a reputation for producing good Belgian fare and have a good choice of beer. They are also near the cinema near Toison d’Or where we hoped to catch a movie.
Firstly, the walk there from Stephanie was an eye-opener. The street is very small and very deserted. I thought I must have taken a wrong turn. I’m not sure I’d want to walk there alone at night!
We were one of the first people there; I had reserved and we could choose our table. Within half an hour though (before 8pm) it was packed. It has a very bar/cafe feeling. It’s cosy, but not chic or overly comfy. We were seated on wooden chairs. The fixed menu is basic, but the suggestions of the day were extensive. We stuck to the basics to check the quality!
1 order of stoofvlees/carbonnade/beef stewed in beer, one Brassins Burger, 1 serving of fries and 1 serving of stoemp (belgian mashed potato mixed with a vegetable… the special of the day was with peppers – red, yellow and green).


The beef stew was plentiful and in lots of beer sauce. The meat was tender and of high quality. We both agreed that the sauce could have done with a little more ‘kick’. Beer makes a sauce quite sweet, and this was other lacking mustard, pepper, or some spices. I added a bit of pepper, and enjoyed it with the stoemp. The stoemp was excellent. The best version I have ever tried. The fries were also good, and the sizes of both portions were perfect (we finished them and almost regretted it). The burger was a normal burger really. Good for 12 euros.

We tried 2 of their beers of the month (maya and st idesbald). And then my friend had a Breslienne ice cream. The ice cream is artisanal and was very good. They also serve Illy coffee.
Total cost: 46 euros for 2 meals, 4 beers, a dessert and a coffee. A very good price. The service was friendly, prompt, but not overbearing. The place was busy, perhaps even bustling. Not a place to sit for hours, but a good place to enjoy a meal.
The only draw back is that they do not brew their own beer, and the street is slightly daunting alone! They offer cheap lunch menus also. Shame it’s too far from where I work.

Les Brassins
36 Rue Keyenveld
1050 Brussels (Ixelles)

Food: B
Atmosphere: B
Service: B
Price: A
Languages: French, English

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