YOU WON’T GO HUNGRY IN RUE DES BOUCHERS – A STREET JAM-PACKED WITH RESTAURANTS:
Crossing the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert complex, where the Galerie de la Reine and Galerie du Roi meet is Rue des Bouchers (Beenhouwersstraat in Dutch), a medieval street in the historic heart of Brussels. Rue des Bouchers is a food street, and with more than a hundred restaurants here it is sometimes referred to as the “belly of Brussels”.
A Butcher’s Street
As the name suggests, Rue des Bouchers was a butcher’s street in the Middle Ages. There was a concentration of butchers and sausage makers working in the street and as sanitation was poor during those times, Rue des Bouchers was also one of the dirtiest streets in the city. The plague that raged from 1667 to 1668 wiped out most of the butchers’ trade, but the street has kept its medieval name and a link to food.
Food Street in Brussels
Rue des Bouchers is a very photogenic pedestrianized thoroughfare, jam-packed with restaurant tables covered with colourful napery, menu boards, iced seafood displays decorated with lots of bright yellow lemons, as
well as food vendors. In the evenings the colours get more intense, with neon lights adding to the atmosphere. You’ll find cuisine of almost every nationality here and if you suddenly felt like a Hungarian goulash or a Spanish paella or Argentinian grilled steak, you’ll have no problem finding your food choice here.
Brussels’ famous food street unfortunately does not have a good reputation as a dining district and you’ll see a lot of on-line warnings about the area being a “tourist trap”, and the sharp practices by some restaurants to lure customers into their eateries. As we walked down the narrow cobbled alleyway we were approached by many waiters touting business for their establishments, but such a practice is not uncommon in tourist areas anywhere around the world. Enticements to dine at a restaurant can come in the form of cheap menus which disappear once you step into the restaurant, or a first free drink that is so small that it hardly wets your whistle, etc., but a polite “no thank you” and they generally leave you alone. The overall standard of food here is not known to be great, unless you go to more reputable or upmarket places like Aux Armes de Bruxelles.
The Original Chez Leon
In spite of the warnings, we wanted to dine at Chez Léon, a restaurant synonymous with moules frites, of which Brussels is the undisputed capital of. We have dined at many of the
Léon de Bruxelles restaurants in Paris and wanted to make a pilgrimage to the place where it all began. Léon Vanlancker started his Friture Léon restaurant in Rue des Bouchers in 1893 and generations of the Vanlancker family have carried on the restaurant business since then. The restaurant looks deceivingly small from the outside, but as we were dining, we saw streams of customers come in and they all seemed to fit in. It turns out that there are quite a number of different dining rooms on different levels of the building. Yes the moules frites was good. Being a well-established business, they had no need to tout for business and the diners just kept streaming in.
Off Rue des Bouchers, there are a couple of other small streets like the Petite Rue des Bouchers where you’ll find more restaurants. It may be a touristy area, but Rue des Bouchers is worth a visit even if don’t wish to dine here. There are many bars and pubs in the area, such as the Delirium Café, just up the road at Impasse de la Fidélité 4a, which boasts 2,000 types of beer (this apparently made the Guinness Book of Records) and is very popular with the younger drinking crowd. At the Impasse de la Fidélité you will also find Manneken Pis’ opposite number, Jeanneke Pis.
So our tip is to visit this historic food street to experience the atmosphere, but be wary of being sucked in by temptations of cheap menus or freebies.
Map of Brussels: