This is a picturesque city with an exquisite cuisine. My family and I adventured across the city by foot and marveled at the wondrous Grand Place (pronounced “Gran Plazz”). We were taken aback by the beauty of being trapped inside a square of four gilded, Renaissance-esque buildings. It was a real treat, especially when the buildings were lit up after the sun had set. The only slight disappointment was the much-famed Peeing Boy or Manneqen Pis. The little feller was less than a foot tall! But we had the pleasure of watching him be dressed in robes campaigning a brand of Belgian beer! We saw many other sights such as the Royal Palace and Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, but in addition to the historical spectacles, Belgian has great food!
At the “Gran Plazz”, we found many overpriced, touristy cafes and waffle stalls bordering the square. But if you venture through the side, cobblestone streets, you will find more authentic and reasonably priced food. Here we discovered a chain health store with gluten-free choices that is comparable to Au Bon Pain. It was called Exki. I got a delicious “glutenvrij” chocolate muffin that had melted Belgian chocolate in the center! Another great place just a few minutes walk from the “Gran Plazz” is Australian Homemade Ice Cream. Yes, I know, I was in Belgian eating so-called Australian ice cream! However, if you do choose to have a leisurely meal at one of the touristy cafes for the scenery, you will find a variety of gluten-free salads with smoked salmon, Flemish ham, or smoked trout. If you have a bigger appetite, you can order Moules-Frites (mussels with world-famous Belgian “frites”, or fries). Mussels are well-known in the Belgian cuisine. Just be careful to order your mussels “natural way”, because sometimes the sauces have wheat in it. This is a traditional meal always served with frites. The Belgian frites are something you must try before leaving the country! They are double fried to a crispy perfection.
As for tea time, if you’ve settle down at a coffee shop, you will realize that all drinks are served with a little brown biscuit called “speculoos”. This is similar to gingerbread cookie come cinnamon thin. These are not gluten-free. But if you visit a local health shop, you can find gluten-free speculoos! The particular shop I visited was located in Ixelles (southern Brussels). I bought gluten-free raspberry tort, orange almond cake, Belgian chocolate chip cookies, and of course, speculoos! Unfortunately, we were unable to find any gluten-free Belgian waffles during our trip.
One last piece of advice, eat plenty of Belgian chocolate when visiting! Whether its white, milk, dark, pralines on the inside, or hazelnuts on the outside. I suggest visiting Leonidas for some of the best chocolate. Also, the marzipan is gluten-free! So try some while you’re at it.