Ordering chips in Brussels reminds of that Seinfeld episode with the ‘soup nazi’ where you had to order your soup in a painfully specific way, straight to the point, with no small talk. There are a few ‘chip nazis’ in Brussels. It can be a little daunting. A Polish man, with a poor grasp of French, was scolded for not answering quickly when asked if he wanted his chips wrapped or open. I was frowned upon when I asked what pili pili sauce is (it’s a creamy chilli sauce). Another customer was told conversation was for friends at a bar, not for those waiting in his queue. At least the chips are good.
Chips, frites, fries, pommes, whatever you call them, they’re big business in Belgium. Belgium is known as the home of fries and locals and tourists swarm to the most popular chip shops, sometimes queuing up to an hour for the hottest chips in town. The competition is strong for the title of the ‘Best Chips in Brussels’ so I set out to consume as many chips as possible to find out for myself.
The tastiness of chips is completely subjective of course. Personally I don’t like my chips too well done and I’ll always choose a sauce like poivre (pepper) or pili pili over traditional mayonnaise and ketchup. If you want a true Flemish specialty, try the dark carbonnade sauce. My list of the best chips is based purely on taste. I’ve ignored atmosphere, service and price even though at some places you’ll have a better experience than others.
Place Jourdan 1
It wasn’t immediately obvious that the crowd huddled around this hexagonal building were actually in line to order the most famous chips in Brussels. I spent my time in the queue noting at least six different languages being spoken by my fellow chip lovers. Either Belgium is more multicultural than I thought or Maison Antoine has become a tourist attraction. Probably both. After a short wait I got my cornet de frites, brimming with chunky, crispy, salty chips. This place deserves its top status. Rating 9/10.
Avenue de la Couronne 71
The lingering aroma of deep fried food is unavoidable you as you approach Fritkot Bompa, a hole in the wall chip shop surrounded by Portuguese cafes and bakeries. The plump yet crunchy chips are lightly browned and coated with a generous shake or two of salt. Order your sauce on the side (à part) to avoid losing the crispness of these perfect chips. Rating 9/10.
This small friterie on Place Flagey produces overly crispy chips with too many off cuts for my liking but it’s highly rated by the locals. Maybe I caught them on a bad day. Rating 7/10.
Friture Pitta de la Chapelle
Place de la Chapelle
Long, thin and dry, the chips at Pitta de la Chappelle resemble McDonalds French fries more than what I consider typical Belgian chips. A cardboard cup of sauce perched above the bursting cone of chips prevents the sogginess of sauce smothered chips but that’s not enough to overlook the deeply cooked potato. The best reason for visiting this friterie is its location off Place du Grand Sablon, the chocolate hub of Brussels. Rating 5/10.
Rue Henri Maus 49
Exhausted after circumventing the crowds in the Grand Place, I took a breather on one of the back streets and pulled up a stool at Fritland. As the staff chat amongst themselves in Albanian, they serve up some of the crispest chips in central Brussels. Head to Maison Antoine or Fritkot Bompa if you fancy the best in the city but the location of Fritland makes it hard to resist. Rating 7/10.
Friterie Chez Clementine
Place de Saint-Job
Friterie Chez Clementine is a bit out of the way if you’re staying in the centre of Brussels and I wouldn’t bother going if you don’t have your own transport. The chips here are thick, fried to a perfect golden crisp and you automatically get your sauce on the side. The chips suffered from a serious lack of salt but they were otherwise perfect. Rating 8/10.
Other top chip stands worth trying:
Friterie du Miroir
Place Reine Astrid 1
Friterie Chez Fernand
Avenue Georges Henri 187
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Note: Belgian chips are traditionally double fried in 100% beef fat so they are not suitable for vegetarians.0