Waffles. Beer. Chocolate. Fries. There was no way I wasn’t going to love this place.
Belgium, a tiny country chock full of everyone’s favorite things and whose capital was less than two hours by train from Paris. For those doing the math, that meant that I could start my day with croissant and middle and end it with smorgasbord of carb-loaded goodness. Where do I sign up and why has it taken me this long to figure this out?! I blame you internet.
Half a day and one hostel check in later, we were in Brussels. Our first stop upon arrival was, of course, for waffles. The second, was for frites. (We are nothing if not dedicated to our craft.)
Any search for ‘best fries in Brussels’ will lead you to Maison Antoine, so that’s where our quest for the perfect fry began. Who were we to argue with the masses? We were but lowly peasants on a search for deep fried truth.
Just outside the city center it stands, a small and unassuming fritkot on Place Jourdan that might be anything save for the massive cone of legs out front (legs=fries?). It’s been there since 1948 and is now run by the third generation of the original family- not the cone of legs, the stand with fries.
We had walked the 40 minutes from Le Funambule and their famous 1€ waffle to Maison Antoine, thus working off our waffle and readying our stomachs for ultimate fry consumption. (I’d like to take a moment to point out that potatoes are a great source of fiber so basically they’re health food.)
Since it’s popular with tourists and locals alike, we came prepared for lines upon lines, but were pleasantly surprised to find empty benches and open counters. Maison Antoine is at most a 10 minute walk to the European Parliament and all that entails, so avoid the lunch rush like the plague.
When Maison Antoine first opened, the only food they sold were fries and the only sauces available were mayonnaise and mustard. Now they offer everything from cheeseburgers to escargots, something called fish fingers and a whopping 29 sauces.
But we were here for the fries and quickly ordered deux cornet (because when asked if I’d like to share one my words said, “if you want to” but my eyes said “I will cut you”) avec the traditional mayonnaise, the you’ve-died-and-gone-to-heaven samourai and the spicier-than-samourai-so-I-suppose-appropriately-named, Américaine. We are a spicy bunch after all.
3.30€ buys you everything you need in life. A cornet of fresh, piping hot frites and some tasty sauce. What makes them so great? A bunch of stuff. Need more info? Fine.
The frites found here are fried not once but twice, the traditional way: in 100% beef fat. Want to let that marinate for a sec? Beef. Full stop. Fat. First they’re blanched at a low temperature, taken out to drain and cool, and then refried to golden brown perfection when you order. This results in the best of both worlds: crispy outside, fluffy inside aka the stuff potato dreams are made of.
Each fry should be about the girth of a small finger. Fritkots used to peel and cut potatoes by hand but nowadays get packages of fresh, pre-cut sticks delivered daily. I’d say somewhere between skinny fries and steak fries lies the Belgian frite. Like, if awesome and spectacular had a fry baby, this would be it.
Lastly, they arrive in a handy paper cone with a tiny fork for maximum ease and portability, and because when you’re that flawless you don’t need anything flashy.
So basically why are Belgian fries better than any other fry? BECAUSE THEY INVENTED THEM.
In 1680, fishermen along the Meuse River began to supplement their catch with slices of potatoes fried in oil. In the winter when the river would freeze, those fried sticks would serve as a substitute. Which means for over 300 years they’ve been perfecting those tasty bits of deep fried goodness. No one is on their fry level. NO ONE.
We sat on a bench and watched as lines formed and customers peered happily into their cornets (Totally get it. Don’t worry if you unknowingly whisper ‘I love you’ to the cone of golden magic, everyone else is doing it too, with their eyes). We discussed the merits of the double fry (I will no longer accept any less). We briefly debated heading to one of the charming cafes that allow you to bring your frites along while you enjoy a beverage (Or we could save that money and buy more fries). We sat on a bench until the skies turned gray and unleashed a fury of a rainstorm.
So I suppose you could say that it looks just like any other fry. You could say that they’re the same as the fries the Greek place down the street puts on your gyro. You could say these things, but you’d be wrong. And you’d be asked to leave my bench immediately. These fries are a national freaking treasure.
We did our due diligence and sampled a number of other fritkots across Brussels and Belgium, all in the name of research of course. But the frites at Maison Antoine remained a favorite. Was it because they were the first, or was it the beef fat? I guess we’ll never know.
Getting to Maison Antoine is simple and worth it. You can take our route through Parc de Bruxelles. Or you can hop on metro lines 1 or 5 to Place Schuman and walk 15 minutes from there.