And Some Things About Belgian Fries You Probably Did Not Know
There are a lot of misunderstandings about the origin of fries. It is often, incorrectly, referred to as “French fries” over almost the entire world. However, in Belgium everyone knows this is not true, and fries are a typical Belgian cultural thing. Think of all the chip shops, locally known as “frituren” or “frietkoten”, you will find across the country. So where does all this commotion come from? And where is the best place to try this local delicacy in, let’s say… Antwerp? We’ll give you all the answers if you keep reading!
Some history at first
The first reliable sources refer to the existence of fries and the places where they were sold, around the middle of the 19th century. A man named Frederic Krieger, coming from a family working on fairgrounds, was locally known as Fritz. During the 19th century, more and more food was being offered at the popular fairs. The story goes that Fritz started in 1838 with a chip shop at the fair of Liège, Belgium. He was the first one to deep fry the slices of potatoe, and the people, French speaking in this part of Belgium, started talking about “patates fritz”, or “patates frites” as it is still named until today. It is not entirely clear where Fritz got his inspiration from for the deep fried chips, but certainly is that his chip shop soon became a huge success.
Mobile chip shops started popping up on all the fairs around the country, and soon after also the established shops made their entree. The first real chips shop dates from the 1880’s. The first chip shop in Bruges dates back to 1890. At the end of the 19th century, chip shops could be found in all the central squares and in the neighbourhood of train stations in many towns and cities. . Meanwhile the pommes frites also conquered the restaurants, where they would never leave again.
So Why are they today referred to as French fries?
There are two stories… The first story goes as follows: during the first World War, British and American soldiers would have learned about fries while fighting on the Belgian front. Because they heard a lot of French speaking all around them, the main language of the command of the army, and because they were close to France, they launched the name French fries.
Some people will disagree, and they refer to the second half of the 18th century, when fries were served in food stalls on the Pont Neuf in Paris. The Pommes Pont Neuf are 2 cm thick fries which are still served until today in France. Whether the first story is true, or the second, Mr. Fritz already was baking fries in Belgium in 1848, making it the first fries in history!
How Do Belgians Eat their fries?
Preferably with their fingers, or alternatively with small plastic forks. Originally the fries are served in a paper cone shaped bag, but nowadays you’ll find them mostly in cardboard boxes. It is very typical to serve them with a dollop of sauce, mayonnaise being the classic choice. Most chip shops will offer you a big variety of sauces, as well as a lot of small pieces of processed meat, in different preparations.
Another one of the more popular dishes in Belgium is frites with mussels, known as ‘Moules Frites’, a traditional meal during the season of the mussels. Other typical dishes are steak with fries, or a sweet-sour beef stew with fries, or Carbonade Flamande. However, most will tell you that fries are not just a complementary side dish, but they serve well as a great main course too.
The Frites-Museum in Bruges
The Frietmuseum will explain you everything you need to know about the history of the Belgian fries. It offers its visitors the opportunity to not only learn about the history, but also discover a variety of recipes. The Belgian potato has become known worldwide , and if you are interested in this local dish, it’s a must-do when visiting Bruges!
Frietmuseum, 33 Vlamingstraat, Bruges, Belgium, +32 50 34 01 50
The Best Places To Eat Belgian Fries in Antwerp
There are a lot of places in Belgium where you can eat good fries, and it would be an impossible work to document them all, so we will focus on the most known places in Antwerp!
Frituur N° One
Frituur No. 1 has been an established value in Antwerp for many years. This chip shop has been open day and night since 1980. Just a few steps away from the Grote Markt, the city center, this chip shop is also a real attraction among tourists. You should try the beef stew here!
Address: Hoogstraat 1, 2000 Antwerp
Fritkot De Max
Fritkot Max is perhaps the most famous frites shop in this list, and also the oldest. Here you can enjoy delicious French fries in an old-fashioned and authentic cone bag. Do you want to experience some culture during your meal? Simply walk upstairs to visit the small chips museum. Here will find more information about the Flemish frietkot-culture.
Address: Groenplaats 12, 2000 Antwerp
Having so much competition, Haute frituur decided to give it their own touch. They decided to manufacture fries from an ecological point of view. They use as many homemade products as possible, and work together with local farms and small-scale suppliers. Quality comes first here. You can order fresh side dishes, or one of the delicious monthly suggestions.
Address: Kloosterstraat 110, 2000 Antwerp
This is my personal favourite! I used to live just around the corner, and especially on Sunday evenings I was lining up for my portion of fries, a traditional moment for Belgians to get some fries and close the weekend at home. It’s a small chip shop, but they have a lot of options. I can really recommend the “tartaar” sauce, a homemade sauce that is best described as a spicy mayonnaise.
Address: Verbondstraat 112, 2000 Antwerp
The latest hype in Antwerp is the Frites Atelier, an more “luxury” edition of the classic chip shop. The concept was created by well known chef Sergio Herman. With also shops in Utrecht and The Hague, this shop has become a small chain, with a slightly Dutch touch. It’s a bit more expensive as most other frites shops, but also worth a visit!
Address: Korte Gasthuisstraat 32, 2000 Antwerp
Located a bit out of the city center, but certainly worth mentioning is chip shop, or “frituur” Lescluze. It was once an older and a bit simple shop, but the new owner has made it grow into a real gem. The manager is very friendly, and his business stands for professionalism and quality. A lot of preparations are made in-house, and there are some special options for vegetarians. It can get pretty crowded, but the waiting is certainly worth it!
Address: De Lescluzestraat 2, 2600 Antwerp (Berchem)
De Frieterij claims not to be your typical chip shop! Here the owner wants to focus on craftsmanship. For example, the usual curry sausages and meatballs, don’t come from mass production, but are more local bio-versions. De Frieterij wants to be a real neighborhood chip shop, where people feel at home. See for yourself what this chip chop can offer you!
Address: Boomgaardstraat 205, 2600 Antwerp (Berchem)
This shop is best known among Antwerp students. It is situated in the university neighborhood, where students can sit down until late at night for a tasty bite. Surprisingly enough, the owner is a French man, so here you will actually find ‘french fries’!
Address: Varkensmarkt 2a, 2000 Antwerp
There are of course a lot more chip shops around, and most of them have lots of tasty things to offer. Which one is your favourite? Which chip shop did we forget that should be in the list above? Tell us, and tell us why we should add it!