Date Night in Belgium
Beer, sausies (sausages), more beer, chill atmosphere and great service are just a few things on the menu of Belga, one of the newest restaurants on Union Street. I am a Belgian enthusiast. Beer, chocolate, sausages, beer and smothered fries: in a nutshell, all things that come from Belgium are spot-on, hence I am SUPER excited that Executive Chef Freedom Rains and Certified Cicerone/bar manager Ryan Murphy have graced us with Belga, Union Street’s first dedicated Belgian restaurant.
Situated on the corner of Union Street and Buchanan, Belga has the ideal corner-unit location, and, with patio doors that open on to the street, guests are effectively transported to Europe without a passport stamp. Stroll in through the main entrance and plop down in a spot at the bar or be seated by the hostess in one of the bays of the large dining room. The decor emulates a cool upscale bistro with immaculate finishings, but don’t be fooled, this spot isn’t lacking personality or energy. The noise level grows slowly as the night fades, adding to the gregarious nature of the venue.
Sit down and begin perusing the double-sided menu, one side for beer, one for food. Yes, you read that correctly. Belga is serious about their selection, offering multiple beer categories to suit all your beer needs. If feeling something more familiar, go the contemporary route, or, for full- frontal Belgian beers, stick with the classics. Trendy ciders and sour beers are represented here as well. Feeling overwhelmed? Never fear, the servers are super knowledgeable and will guide you to the beer(s) of your dinner dreams. And if beer isn’t your cup of beer, sidle on over to the wine and cocktail portion which offers well-balanced cocktails and a generous selection of vino.
Belgian food is truly some of the best I have ever tasted. I discovered one of my all-time favorite drunk eats while backpacking in Bruges during college: fries smothered in mayonnaise and served in a paper cone. My experience in Belgium and the beer-soaked memories I made there will not easily be forgotten, and, luckily, Belga is able to take transport me back any time. To start, we ordered some traditional and non-traditional items: a couple of pints, fries with garlic aioli and curry and traditional ketchups and beer battered rock cod and malt vinegar aioli.
Fries are a fixture of Belgian cuisine, and when covered in, or served with, sauces, they’re just the right kind of delicious. As a result of immediate inhalation of fries and ketchup, no photographs could be taken for fear of missing out on fries or confusing camera phones with fries. Instead, I will try to describe the fries as accurately as possible: they were perfectly fried and crisp, and the ketchups perfectly, well, ketchupy. Likening a fry to a vehicle for transporting Curry sauce to my mouth is uncommon, but now feels natural post-Belga. The beer battered rock cod, though seemingly a non-traditional Belgian item, was flaky with a thin, crispy coating of well-seasoned batter. Don’t skip the aioli, but try the fish Han Solo first, promise you won’t regret it!
For the main event, a sausage board, naked and afraid of our mouths, with mustard, mashed potatoes and a side of broccoli with anchovy butter were ordered. Four sausages arrive on the board, all juicy and flavorful. Spread on a little mustard and potatoes and enjoy. The broccoli, with a smattering of briny, anchovy, buttery goodness, was excellent as well. No excess descriptions required here because it was all so good.
In summation, Belga is an excellent addition to the Union Street restaurant scene. With a great location, outgoing and knowledgeable staff and uniquely Belgian menu, this is a spot that will surely keep guests coming back. Do take my word for it because this place is amazing, but can you just go ahead and try it already?