Wherever I go I love to eat where the locals eat. I love to find these local eateries away from the main tourist grid serving local food for the right price. Places packed with locals speaking an exotic foreign language. Bars where people come after a hard days work to unwind with family or friends. Small bistros where the service is informal, the price correct, the food freshly prepared. I love to blend in with the locals, trying local specialities, tasting the local drinks, served without compromises to the difficult taste of tourists. Places where the owners are proud of their work and the public appreciates the fare. Where I get the satisfaction of finding this really special place experiencing the real soul of the city, the real feel of local culture.
For those visitors of Bruges that are like me looking for the real local deal when it comes to quenching your hunger for local culture and food at the same time, I have made a non restrictive guide to some of the best eateries in Bruges. This list will be updated whenever I find a new place that deserves the label “Best local eatery in Bruges”. Because there is nothing worse than a disappointing lunch or dinner after a perfect day in Bruges!
The list has something for everyone, for every budget and taste. The one thing they all share is happy customers!
Amuni is a recent addition to the scene of Italian restaurants. Not the cheapest place, but they serve decent, fresh, honest, authentic slow Italian food. The restaurant features a modern relaxed interior and is located close to the main square. The menu focuses on pizza’s and pasta. Reservations are a good idea.
’t Brugs Pitahuis, wins in the category of tasty, fast en cheap while not being a ‘frietkot’. In Belgium pita is often categorized as low quality fast food but ’t Brugs Pitahuis is an exception to this rule where good quality kebab is served with a smile. You can eat meat (pork, chicken or lamb) or vegetarian, and choose between small or large portions. A great place if you are looking for a cheap decent eatery, just around the corner of the main square. Best bring cash, because you cannot pay by card.
Le Pain Quotidien is an old time favourite in any city in Belgium. Here you get freshly made dishes using fresh organic bread, lots of vegetables and fruits, making for a guilt free breakfast or lunch. And if you need to stock up at home, take some bread and pastries when checking out. Drinks are delicious and it is a great stop for coffee and cake. Do try their fabulous cheese cake or lemon tart. The Pain Quotidien features a great garden terrace in the back and a more lively terrace in front on the Simon Stevinsquare. Only for breakfast (open at 7 AM) and lunch, they close at 7 PM.
Ellis Gourmet Burger is the place for fancy burgers. It is a chain restaurant, that is loved by many for combining a fancy interior wit high class meat burgers. I must admit that I find the location in Bruges a bit less cosy than in some other cities, but the food is the same. Not the cheapest place, but the quality is guaranteed.
Sanseveria Bagelsalon if you are looking for a light lunch. They serve breakfast, lunch and cake. The bagels are filled with lots of great ingredients. They serve great homemade lemonade and ice-tea. The decor is vintage, hip, and comfortable. Perfect place to have a chat with your best friend over something to eat. The price is a bit higher than a sandwich somewhere else, but you get better quality for it. They also have salads and quiches.
Cafe De Republiek, is actually a bar that also serves food. It can rightly claim to be the most popular bar with young and old alike in Bruges. It is located in the same building as the art-house movie-theatre, so many visitors of the cinema automatically end up here after a movie. In summer they have a large outdoor garden, a great place to unwind with friends on a warm evening. They renovated the interior not so long ago and with it their menu, which is now even better than it used to be. They serve a 15 euro lunch every day. Better be on time on busy evenings because it fills up quickly. Open every day!
#Food – fresh, fair and fabulous, serves healthy burgers and salads and the menu has a good choice of vegetarian and vegan dishes. They recently moved to the edge of the city, close to the Scheepsdalebrug. If you are staying in the neigbourhoud, they also have a take away automat! Maybe an idea if you are on a budget and staying in the Ezelstraat.
Marco Polo Noodlebar, another favourite in the category, yummy, light, cheap and healthy food. This is the place we go when we suddenly decide we do not want to cook, do not want to get fries but want to eat something quick and healthy. It is a small place, perfect for a quick bite. They serve very delicious noodle soup, and I can highly recommend their wonton soup. The owners are very friendly and prepare your noodle soup freshly while you wait. They also have a take away service.
Pizzeria Sforno, is without a doubt one of the places with the best Italian pizza’s in Bruges. The restaurant is a bit out of the centre, but after a visit to Damme a good spot to stop on your way back to Bruges. Do make reservations in advance, the restaurant is small and always fully booked. Their pizza’s are more expensive than the ones from the fast food chains, but they are the real deal, with thin and very crispy dough. They also do take-away.
Sale e Pepe, for Italian food that is not a pizza. They serve Sicilian food, using the best ingredients, many imported from Italy. The cook is Sicilian, and she cooks with passion. Be aware that they will serve you ‘authentic’ Italian dishes. Expect simple dishes using the best fresh ingredients. Only for lovers of real Italian cuisine!
De Stoepa, is another old time favourite of locals in Bruges. It is located close to the train station, the lake of love and the beguinage. They have this beautiful garden where it is great to sit on a sunny afternoon. They serve Asian fusion comfort food. It is a place that is perfect for an informal lunch or dinner with friends or family. In summer and on weekends you better make a reservation to avoid any disappointment.
Narai Thai, one of the best Thai restaurant in Bruges. That means; Thai cooks in the kitchen. (Only Thai can cook like Thai, believe me, even I who lived in Asia for eight years cannot live up to the expectation of the Thai when it comes to their food) They tend to prepare their dishes less spicy for Western customers, but if you ask they will spice it up for you. Just do not ask for spicy ‘Thai style’, they will put extra chilli in just to test you…. Try some other dishes than the usual suspects, you will be surprised by the variety of aromas! They have a take away service.
Nous, a small high end restaurant using the new style of food sharing. The food is gastronomic, classic with modern and often Asian influences. The service is good and informal. The atmosphere is classic with good music. A place for a special dinner, in a classy small scale restaurant.
Rock Fort, for a special dinner. Rock Fort is a classy restaurant, serving great food, in a classy high end interior. Come here for a special occasion. They have really original dishes using fantastic ingredients, and they serve it in a very original way. One of the classic high end restaurants in Bruges. Closed on Saturday and Sunday. They also do take-away!
L’Estaminet, one of the older bar-bistro’s of Bruges (it exists for more than 45 years). Located in front of the Astridpark, one of the beautiful green spots in Bruges, but also very close to the central square. The authentic brown pub interior is very cosy, and invites to sit inside on a cold winter day. In Summer they have a covered terrace in the front, with views over the park. Their spaghetti is famous, great for a cheap quick lunch or dinner and a good Belgian beer. They also do take-away.
De Wijngaert, a grill restaurant, the place to be for a barbecued steak with classic Belgian fries. It is a family business and especially in winter a great warm cosy place to eat. Close to one of the famous tourist spots; the beguinage and the Minnewater (Lake of love).
Tanuki, definitely the best Japanese restaurant in Bruges. The chef used to live in Japan, after which, together with a Japanese sous-chef opened this Japanese restaurant in Bruges. But save up a little first because quality has its price. A restaurant for a special occasion.
Sans Cravate, one of the Michelin star restaurants in Bruges. Located just inside the ring-road in Bruges, at the Kruispoort in the shadow of our famous wind-mills. The restaurant has a grill, and serves modern dishes. Since the coronacrisis they reinvented themselves and expanded with a Bar a Vins and a shop.
Tête Pressée, located outside central Bruges, close to one of the main entrance roads. This original small restaurant serves gastronomy, with a focus on local produced products, using traditional cooking styles, aiming for nostalgic experiences. A great place for an out of the ordinary lunch or dinner. In the shop you can buy their dishes to warm up at home. (An idea for those who stay in a holiday home) Because of corona the re-opening of the restaurant has been delayed till september 2020, only their shop where you can buy prepared dishes to reheat at home is open now.
Brutal by Bruut, located in the centre of the city, is a small but very refined restaurant, in a romantic setting next to one of the canals. They serve dishes that focus on the traditional Flemish kitchen, using high quality local ingredients prepared with respect for the authentic taste of the product. They offer wine that team perfectly with the served dishes. The restaurant is tastefully decorated, the service friendly and very attentive. You have to make advance reservations, do not count on luck to find a table when walking in. (you can reserve your table online) They also have rethought their concept and are now a wine bar serving à la carte dishes. The restaurant is open Monday to Friday from 12 to 9 PM. They also do take-away.
Locàle by Kok au Vin before is a real gem of a restaurant. I don’t know why for someone living in Bruges it took us so long to find this restaurant. We ate here for my birthday at the time it was still ran under the name Kok au Vin. They have since rethought their concept and now serve funky food with attention to its local origin. They have a lunch formula from 12 to 3 PM where you can choose three or four bites and appetizer on the house to share for 33 and 40 euro pp. The tasty dishes are made with fresh ingredients, served on beautiful ceramic ware and the sourdough bread is soo good. Open Wednesday to Saturday 12 AM to 10:30 PM.
Zushi: if you are an aficionado of sushi, this is about the only spot in Bruges to have good reasonably priced sushi. But it is take-away only. Good idea for a stylish picnic in one of the parks in Bruges on a nice summer day. (but make sure you leave no trash behind!) The sushi is really good, and they have vegetarian options. They prepare them fresh as you order!
Réliva, if you want to eat natural and healthy using the freshest ingredients, following the seasons, using fresh herbs and organic products, produced locally and served in a classy restaurant, this is where you are heading. The welcome in this family restaurant is warm, seats are comfortable, the tables dressed with style, and the food is served on beautiful plates. You can choose between meat, fish, vegetarian of vegan dishes. They serve a lunch menu at 25 euro for a soup and a main course. If you choose a first and second course a la carte you pay 39 euro. They have a very interesting wine menu and a sommelier to advise you in making a choice. You can choose a bottle or by the glass. If you want to celebrate something in a cosy place with style, this is it. In summer you can also dine outside. Make reservations ahead, you can make reservations online. They don’t accept parties of more than four people, so you will never be bothered by a loud group, great for couples!
We had already tried several times to get a table at Le Lion Belge, without making reservations ahead and had never been lucky until last week. We dropped in after visiting the Christmas market in Bruges, and they still had two free tables. We took a seat in the cosy restaurant, and the waiter pointed out the dishes on the blackboard. All dishes are meat or fish dishes, so if you are a vegetarian, this is not the right place for you. We both chose the leg of rabbit. We received some small appetizers and a basket of bread. The dishes arrived timely, and were royal, with lots of veggies on the side. The meat was cooked to perfection. All other dishes looked just as tasty and royal in portions. No suprise that the place is packed every evening. This restaurant is another great place in the Langestraat, close to the windmills of Bruges. It is run by father and son, the father cooks in the open kitchen. They serve lunch and dinner. They only take reservations by phone.
The Belgian Pigeon House is a relatively new kid on the block, and a great addition to the already diverse range of great places to eat in Bruges. It has a real Belgian feel to it. Pigeon races are a typical and very old sport in Belgium. Belgium has world fame not only for its well bred race horses but also for its top of the world bred race pigeons! Pigeons have been a delicacy since medieval times. This a (grilled) meat restaurant, so if you are a vegetarian, this place is not for you, although they do have some vegetarian dishes. And if pigeon is not really your thing they have enough other mouthwatering choices. Most of the meat is grilled on the josper charcoal grill. The quality of artisanal shrimp croquettes are a good test for any restaurant serving local Belgian dishes. So we ordered two croquettes to share as a starter, and they definitely were up to standard, crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside with enought shrimps in the filling! The main dishes we ordered were rabbit the Flemish way and grilled chateaubriand and were really very tasty, served with enough vegetables and roasted potatoes. This is not the cheapest place but you get real quality on your plate, while the restaurant is really cosy, especially the 14th century cellar downstairs. Not suitable for large parties, also best make reservations ahead.
For my birthday last week my husband had invited me and our children for dinner in restaurant ‘Den Amand‘ in the centre of Bruges. The small restaurant is located in a the small side street of the central square ‘Markt’, in the Sint-Amandsstraat. The restaurant is run by a couple, she cooks in the open kitchen, he serves the guests. They serve traditional dishes using local ingredienst, with a strong focus on vegetables and they have quite some vegetarian dishes on the menu. Everything is freshly prepared, the welcome is warm, the interior stylishly decorated. Next to the normal sized desserts you can also choose a mini dessert. The restaurant has smartly been refurbished to comply with strictest corona measures. We were really pleasantly surprised and will certainly go back in the future.
It has been a while, due to Corona, that we tried a new restaurant in Bruges. We decided to have our Valentine dinner, the weekend after Valentine, to avoid the Valentine rush. In the Mood Foodcafé located in the romantic Minnewater park, had been on our list for some time, and since friends had been really positive about it we booked a table at 6 PM on a Saturday. They work in two evening shifts, the tables booked at 6 PM have to free their table at 7:45 PM, but you can have an after dinner drink in the adjoining outside bar, in winter under a tent with heaters. We arrived at 6 PM sharp and had asked for a table inside. Some tables are under a kind of covered semi outside area where heaters keep the place warm. In fact you hardly notice the difference between the two areas. The food isn’t cheap but really perfectly cooked and served. The service is impeccable, the interior is classy but classic, as is the menu. They don’t really cater for vegetarians, there is only one vegetarian main dish, and two vegetarian tapas. We ordered two tapas to share, and they had the size of a starter. The rather large portion of the main dish left no place for dessert, so we finished off with coffee and tea. This is the kind of restaurant you would book for a special occasion, since the bill isn’t on the cheap side.
Onesto is a newcomer just outside the Kruispoort (Cross gate), and technically outside of the city centre. But if you are in the area of the Kruispoort or the windmills, you only have to cross the bridge to get to this pizzeria. And this is not your ordinary pizzeria, this is pizza like you expect to eat it in Napels in Italy. The pizza’s are baked in a stone woodoven, made with the best ingredients, tasty tomatoes and the best mozzarella, into really tasty pizzas. The service is super friendly and efficient, the atmosphere homely, the interior cosy and in summer they have a terrace and garden to eat outside on warm evenings. Best make reservations because many have already discovered the place!
Wiphada, a small Thai restaurant in the Langestraat, has recently reopened after being closed. Their original location is now a Latin street food restaurant, I haven’t tried it yet. Wiphada serves authentic Thai food that would be approved by Thais, and believe me, they are picky when it comes to their cuisine!! You can take my word for it, I used to live in Bangkok for five years. You can eat in in the small restaurant or order for take out. (The pictures are takes at my home, we ordered take out during Covid)
Nomad, a new kid on the block on ’t Zand, turns out to be a good breakfast and lunch spot with decent vegetarian an vegan choices on the menu. They use organic vegetables sourced from their parents farm. The service is swift and friendly, the prices reasonable, and they have a nice shade terrace on hot days. A good place for a last minute decision where you can just walk in. It is popular breakfast spot on Saturday mornings when locals are coming to the fresh market on the square in front. Closed on Sundays.
Mas, a new young concept in Bruges since this year (2022). The owner of cocktailbar Bar Ran opened a Mexican streetfood restaurant where taco’s are at the centre of the menu. They have taco’s with different fillings, also vegetarian choices, snacks, sides and desserts. And cocktails from the tap! I really liked their non-alcoholic cocktail based on a lemon slush! When you enter you first have some tables where one can wait for a table while enjoying a drink and a snack. The restaurant is not very large, and fills up quickly with a hip and mainly young public. Everything is freshly prepared in an open kitchen at the end of the room. It is not a place where I will eat weekly, but it is a great addition to the restaurant scene of Bruges. You find Mas next to the hip coffee bar Cafuné in the Academiestraat.
Goesepitte 43, a recently discovered restaurant, close to the Zand square, the Old Saint John’s hospital and the church of our Lady. A cosy small restaurant, a relaxed atmosphere with great service and food. They serve a lunch on weekdays and Saturdays for 32 euro, consisting of a first and second course and an appetizer on the house. I love the special attention to veggies on your plate and the balanced and refreshing taste palette. The coffee and tea came with homemade macarons. They can serve vegetarian dishes when you mention this when making your reservation.
Laissez-Faire, is a restaurant in the same catagory as Goesepitte 43, located just outside the Ezelpoort (Donkey Gate), but within walking distance of the city centre. They also serve a weekday lunch menu at 40 euro pp. consisting of a first and second course and two appetizers on the house. The tea and coffee came with two mini boules the Berlin, one of my husbands favorites. The service is warm en welcoming, the food original and refined. And I love the beautiful ceramic ware they use to serve your dishes. It really adds to the experience.
Het paradijs, (The Paradise) is a lunchbar close to the Fish market. This place is a bit out of the ordinary in this list. This restaurant is a social project where everybody can have a lunch at 13,5 euro for a main course. The restaurant offers employment to those who have trouble finding a job on the regular job market. And people on social welfare pay less for the same meal. They offer a daily changing lunch of fresh soup and a main course next to the menu of Flemish stew with fries, a pasta or a vegetarian dish. The house specialty is salmon croquettes. The restaurant is not as posh as the others but nicely decorated and the food is freshly prepared with local and seasonal products. The website, menu and service are only in Dutch. A real local initiative!