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!
’t Risico is a bar that serves pub food that will not cause a dent in your wallet. You can have the classic spaghetti bolognese, a pasta, a salad, a tosti or chili con carne. The café boasts a great atmosphere with great music and a sympathetic owner behind the counter. In summer you can while away a warm evening with friends and a beer in their garden at the back. They are only open in the evenings.
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!
Foodbar Vino Vino is a bar as well as a tapa restaurant. You can walk in for just a drink or for dinner. They play great music creating the ambiance of a traditional brown bar. The menu is a selection of freshly prepared small dishes to share, based on Belgian classics prepared with a twist. The cook has a very good reputation and his wife makes the best cocktails. They only accept cash.
#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 the place 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.
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, without a doubt 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.
Lb°DbB – Lunchboutique De Belegde Boterham, de perfect lunch spot for a light lunch, serving sandwiches quiches and salads. The classic lunchspot close to the shopping streets and the central square. Nice interior. Closed on Sundays.
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.
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.
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. Just next to the restaurant the owners also opened an informal gastro-bar: Hubert Gastrobar, for lunch or dinner. Both places have a grill, and serve modern dishes. Reservations are highly recommended.
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)
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 have a set lunch formula for 40 euro (appetizer, first course, main course and dessert). In the evening you can choose between a four or five course dinner (55 or 65 euro pp), from a limited choice menu. You cannot eat a la carte. They offer wine by the glass 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)
Kok au Vin, 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. We chose the Bib Gourmand three courses dinner for 37 euro. Every dish was cooked to perfection, using the best local ingredients, and smartly brought on the plate. The restaurant itself is beautifully designed, and the service impeccable. I cannot find any fault here. Highly recommended for a smart dinner experience. This is the kind of restaurant that pays tribute to our country as a gastronomic jewel. You can also choose a 4 or 5 course menu or eat a la carte. At lunch they serve a three course menu at 29 euro. And their drinks, like the cocktails, are up to a high standard. You can reserve your table online.
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!
Bistro Pro Deo, a cosy, homely place where you can have an informal lunch or dinner, close to the windmills. The welcome is warm, the food homecooked, and it tastes really good. This is one of those places I would love to visit as a tourist if I was looking for some local fare and atmosphere. There is a daily changing lunch for 15 euro, which includes a soup and a main dish. The music adds to the groovy atmosphere. And they serve the real Brussels waffle as one of their deserts. The Flemish beef stew is only available in the evening. Best make reservations ahead because we are not the only fans of this little restaurant.
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 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.