The Best Restaurants
Comme Chez Soi (Brussels; tel. 02/512-29-21)
If Michelin were to introduce a four-star category, Comme Chez Soi would undoubtedly be one of the first to collect the extra star. The irony about this culinary holy of holies is its name: "Just Like Home" -- maybe this is standard fare at owner and master chef Pierre Wynants's place. A hallowed silence descends on diners as they sample their first mouthful of his French specialties with added Belgian zest. This being Belgium, the silence doesn't last long, but the taste and the memory linger.
In 't Spinnekopke (Brussels; tel. 02/511-86-95)
For a different kind of Brussels eating experience, try this down-home restaurant dating from 1762. Here, traditional Belgian dishes are given the care and attention expected of more refined -- though not necessarily more tasty -- cuisine.
Le Sanglier des Ardennes (Durbuy; tel. 086/21-32-62)
This restaurant, in a hotel in one of the prettiest of Ardennes villages, has the rustic looks and ideal location to go along with its fine country food. Walking in the surrounding wooded hills is the perfect preparation for lunch or dinner here.
The Best Cafés & Bars
Le Falstaff (Brussels; tel. 02/511-87-89): Le Falstaff deserves the highest accolades for its eclectic, accomplished mix of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, and its extensive drink list. This is self-satisfied, bourgeois Brussels at its best.
't Dreupelkot (Ghent; tel. 09/224-21-20)
Ghent has no shortage of fine cafes, and you can just about guarantee that any one you enter will provide pleasant memories. 't Dreupelkot adds a particularly warm glow of appreciation, but you should know that its stock in trade is jenever, one of the most potent alcoholic liquids known to humankind. Actually, some of 't Dreupelkot's 100 varieties are fairly mild, while others have been flavored with herbs and spices. The atmosphere in the cafe is great -- it's filled with jenever buffs, not drunks.
Den Engel (Antwerp; tel. 03/233-12-52)
There are cafes in Antwerp with a lot more action, but for a genuine Antwerp bar it's hard to beat this one. A location on a corner of the Grote Markt adds to the attraction. To experience Den Engel's crowning glory, order a glass of Antwerp's own, lovingly poured De Koninck beer -- a golden-brown liquid in a glass called a bolleke (little ball) that glows like amber in sunlight streaming through Den Engel's windows.
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