Ghent, Belgium

Having spent some ten years living in the city as a student and employee of the university, I had the chance to explore a large number of places to eat, from very basic to slightly more extravagant. I came to enjoy a large number of them, and believe it is actually hard to find a bad place to eat in this wonderful city. It is a shame that many international tourists tend to forget about this place, they all go for the big three, Antwerp, Brussels and Bruges, and ignore the diamond that sits in the center of this triangle. Ghent offers a great combination of scenery, beautiful medieval buildings, famous art (the Adoration of the Lamb) and lots of shopping. It is also not too touristy, like Bruges and things are a bit more spread out across the city. In this food itinerary I will try to highlight some of my favorite places, focusing mainly on savory food, and not the sweet stuff, which I reserve for another entry.

But for now, please enjoy the Ghent Food Itinerary.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • De gekroonde hoofden, all you can eat spareribs, and I don’t feel like exaggerating when I say that these are superb. I’ve been coming here several times per year for many years now and it still remains a solid favorite. It is a protein feast, eat till one is ready to explode and then stuff in a dessert! The ribs come in four flavors (natural, honey, spicy and sweet and sour) and you can change flavor at every ordering, and if you feel stretched but cannot resist one more, you can always ask for a half one, facing the scowl of the chef 😉 The restaurant itself is also a nice place with atmosphere. Make reservations as they tend to be full almost every night! You eat in shifts, so be wise to get in early for your slot and enjoy a long sitting.
  • Het vosken, solid reference in the heart of Ghent. Sitting in between the two main churches, this cozy restaurant serves a great mix of local cuisine and traditional dishes. This includes the famous Flemish beef stew, Gentse waterzooi (even now in a fish variation), some delicious pork sirloin with goats cheese, a nice assortment of salads and so on. Lovely selection of beer as well to savor while sitting outside watching the many tourist wander by.

Flemish Beef Stew

  • Thalia: a small and cosy restaurant in the Sint Pietersnieuwstraat, located very close to my old Alma Mater. It serves a variety of simple dishes and snacks, but with substantial portions. There is always a dish of the day, which provide an unexpected delight, and they are well known for the quiches or a good salad.
  • Klaverblad: one of the many nice restaurants in an area known as ‘Patershol’. This windy network of small streets offers lots of great restaurants to go enjoy a nice meal. Some are very traditionally oriented such as this one, but others have a more worldly flavor or experiment with new combinations. They offer good menus with assorted wines for a decent price, and they have so far never let me down.
  • Looking for something a bit more fancy? There is a nice restaurant, the Foyer, located on the first floor of the City Theater, very close to het Vosken. They offer a range of dishes, and always have a good suggestion menu. Well worth a try if you are feeling a bit more formal. The Opera house was reopened a few years ago, and now also has a restaurant adjacent, Café Theatre. Somewhat on the expensive side for my liking, as I prefer a more down to earth style.
  • The Kastart is famous for its spaghetti, a must have indeed if you like this stringy delight. It comes with a rich creamy tomato sauce, with lush amounts of cheese and in a portion ranging from normal to superhuman. Absolutely recommended!
  • Het Lepelblad, very close to the Kastart is one of my more recent discoveries. Thanks to a friend I got to discover the rich variety of dishes with fresh ingredients, and a nice varying menu of weekly specials. A small and cozy restaurant, and if the weather is nice, great to sit outdoors and just enjoy a spot of sun, not too far from the heart of the city.

I’d also like to recommend a typical student food, called a ‘broodje’ or little bread literally. This is half a freshly baked baguette covered with any type of topping you can think of, and in funny combinations with or without vegetables. Think Subway but then with proper bread and a much better choice of options! There are many places all over the city offering this food, which is convenient to have on the go. One of my favorite places is the Faxfood, which offers a wide variety of types of topping, good luck choosing what you feel like without feeling overwhelmed by a wall of choices! Generally near faculties one will find places that sell this type of food, look for busy ones during lunch hour, a tell tale sign of quality!

I hope you can all go out and explore some of these delights, and just sample as you go along. I have rarely eaten badly in Ghent, and there is always something new on the horizon. One of the latest hit restaurants is called “Balls’n’glory”, I have yet to go sample its delights.

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