Some have been around for decades thanks to their reputed sandwiches and nostalgic feel, while others have hit a sweet spot by importing regional Italian produce or rethinking a typically Belgian bread roll. These are the Brussels delis whose fine cold cuts, sandwiches, and dishes will make your mouth water.
Le Mangeoire Maison Gourmande
Bistro, Deli, Italian, French, Belgian, $$$
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Le Mangeoire Maison Gourmande | Courtesy of Le Mangeoire Maison Gourmande
Foremost among Brussels’s delis and bistros, Le Mangeoire Maison Gourmande is a mouthful but a joy for any French or Italian-oriented foodie to discover. Just walking in, a simple glance at Jeremy and Camille’s counter of expertly selected cold cuts and artisanal cheeses from Southern European lands is enough to make the mouth water. Close to the EU quarter and serving fresh salads, charcuterie plates, and Tuscan-style sandwiches, lunchtime reservations are crucial if you want to dine in. Jeremy’s all too glad to elaborate on their product choices when asked—he is proud to work exclusively with small, artisanal suppliers.
A delicious venture into southern Italy is what Rosalba’s old Gioconda Store stood for, and her new establishment in Ixelles is no different—cue a sigh of relief by every Italian-adoring Brusselaar. Her new intimate eatery annex shop, Piccola Store, still has a counter filled with takeaway pasta, grilled zucchini and eggplant, quality hams and cheeses, all conjured into pure yet delectable meals in which the ingredients do the talking. Pair those elegant dishes up with Rosalba’s wine suggestions, and the consistently contented and chatty crowds are no mystery.
A rare duck in this Brussels delicatessen list, Pistolet Original is all about the best of solely Belgian fare. Central to their two establishments in Schuman and the Sablon district is the pistolet, a fluffy bread roll for which most Belgians fondly gather around the breakfast table on Sunday morning, to be topped with whatever charcuterie, spread or cheese desired. By having theirs baked by top artisan baker Yves Guns and topping them with regional Belgian specialties such as Ardennes ham, grey shrimp from Zeebrugge, and the lesser-known bloempanch (a forgotten Brussels sausage dish) or rollmops (pickled herring), Valerie Lepla has taken the pistolet out of its weekend comfort zone and into gourmet lunch territory. Renowned chefs are regularly invited to pimp their version of a pistolet, and a small stand sells artisan jam to boot. Quality like this does come at a price though, and tags for a single pistolet can climb to eight euros for extra special ones.
A counter full of cold cuts and hunks of cheese on one side, with another overflowing with healthy and freshly prepared world cuisine directly across—Chef Arno has arranged his modern delicatessen like a master. As befits a quality deli, more hams are dangling from the ceiling and are presented on wooden shelves in Point Albert’s comptoir, their names written in chalk and a shiny meat slicer waiting underneath. While Arno Verbeke may have made a bigger splash with his gourmet toasts in the lush foyer of Cinema Galeries, his Ixelles digs remain the go-to haven for dedicated foodies too exhausted to cook their own exquisite meal. Enter Arno’s risotto, Thai soups, stuffed mushrooms, and more—to take home or eat at Albert’s long wooden table.
Red-and-white checkered tablecloths, a counter bursting with delicatessen ingredients imported straight from Bologna, and a red-painted façade nestled in the Matonge quarter—yes, we’re talking about another Italian deli in Brussels, but after three years, this unpretentious hole in the wall has already reached institution status. With a décor that could fool you into thinking it’s been around forever and a maximum capacity of about 25, Giacomo’s place feels like an authentic Italian osteria in every way—tiny but with jovial laughter and good food all around. Booking weeks in advance is the only way to taste the gnocchi, ravioloni, and “tagliatelle al ragu” (strips of pasta in a meaty sauce, considered an iconic Bologna dish) that have conquered locals’ hearts.
Au Suisse at the Boulevard Anspach boasts a culinary history 14 decades rich and has grown into a venerable sandwich institution. Opened in 1873 by the Scheggia-Togni family, the business was originally intended to be an epicérie with Swiss specialties, but it was only when they started serving sandwiches that Au Suisse really hit its stride. Inside the beloved retro look, Art Nouveau elements and old tiling remain intact, as do the most delicious stuffed américain and tomato-shrimp sandwiches in town. The establishment may have quietly switched owners in 2015 and opened up a second venue at Place Poelaert, but so far, the place’s old soul hasn’t gone anywhere.
Part grocery and sandwich shop, part enoteca and part osteria, Caffè al Dente in Uccle looks straight out of an Italian province. In the evening, everything pasta off the limited menu is served al dente, and portion wise, quality rules over quantity. Note that there’s the possibility to taste many different glasses of wine over the course of one meal. Having a spritz at the open kitchen can be lovely, but on warm nights, the earliest customers tend to settle on the front terrace or the ivy-clad back garden.
Restaurant, Sandwich Shop, Belgian, Salad Bar, $$$
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Low-key in looks but with telling queues of people out the door, De Pistolei is a local favorite that travelers usually stumble upon with confused delight. The jovial, family-run business consistently offers huge sandwiches (made with crunchy baguettes and fresh ingredients) at low prices in the center of Brussels. A quick breakfast favorite as well.