Eating Belgian food at Brouwer’s Cafe in Fremont


Last year, some friends and I went for dinner at Brouwer’s Café, a Belgian pub/restaurant in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. The menu is pub food, which means that everything comes with frites and a choice of several dipping sauces, none of which is ketchup. One of my friends spent some formative years of her life in the Netherlands, so she was familiar with frites and asked for curry ketchup. Unfortunately, they didn’t have it. (But I know a great German deli that does carry curry ketchup…)

I tried to stay somewhat healthy with a salad, but the croque monsieur pretty much cancelled out any fat-avoidance forgoing the frites may have offered. As we munched on our frites, I wondered how the Belgians managed to eat such profoundly fatty food and not blimp up like Americans. My friends revealed the secret in one word: nicotine.

Comments (39)
  1. DavidE says:

    I have another one: corn. We Americans pretty much live on corn-based foods, and corn syrup is what is making more people fat. Not me, of course – I’m naturally fat. ;-)

  2. Alex S says:

    For "ethnic" food and proper beer, I’d rather go down to the George and Dragon for some Shephard’s Pie. Yum!

  3. Vishy says:

    How interesting! I was just salivating over the thought of eating at Pommes Frites (http://www.pommesfrites.ws) in New York City as I came across this post. They have many many dipping sauces that are not ketchup, but their collection can certainly be improved. I, for one, think fries with Buffalo wings sauce or with chile-chocolate sauce might be interesting.

  4. KristofU says:

    Of course, our favorite sauce is mayonaise. Mayonaise baby, yeah !

    And indeed, fries and mayonaise and all the other stuff is indeed pretty fatty, and the reason we don’t balloon is…we don’t eat it every day :)

    Just once a week or so.

    All the other times we eat cooked potatoes, vegetables, pasta, rice, soup …. plain old regular stuff

  5. KristofU says:

    Never knew that it is actually ‘mayonnaise’ in english.

  6. KristofU says:

    Never knew that it is actually ‘mayonnaise’ in english.

  7. KristofU says:

    Never knew that it is actually ‘mayonnaise’ in english.

  8. KristofU says:

    Never knew that it is actually ‘mayonnaise’ in english.

  9. fat food? You forget to add the beer to the bill!

  10. Tucker Dwynn says:

    The best sauce for frites is tartar sauce!

  11. JenK says:

    Tried the Three Lions in Redmond yet? It’s the latest expansion of The British Pantry & Neville’s (http://www.thebritishpantryltd.com)

  12. Ovidiu says:

    Oldie, but goldie:

    "We all know that Heart Disease is the #1 cause of death in the U.S. But think hard about this: In Japan, they’ve got a diet that is low in fat and they have less heart disease than the US. While in France, the diet is very high in fat, and they also have less heart disease than in the US. In India, almost nobody drinks red wine and the heart disease rate is lower than in the US. But in Spain, everybody drinks too much red wine and sure enough they have less heart disease than the US. Algeria has the lowest sexual activity rate, and they’ve got less heart disease than in the US. But Brazil has the highest sexual activity rate and sure enough…the heart disease ratio is lower than in the US. Drink, eat and make merry all you want. It’s speaking English that kills you."

  13. John Topley says:

    But Americans don’t speak English! ;-)

  14. Gary Owen says:

    We used to go to Brouwer’s quite often but stopped.  We liked the beer and the food, but found it wasn’t worth putting up with the horrible service.

    Most of the waitstaff are complete jerks.

  15. pndmnm says:

    Brouwer’s is good (if a little overpriced), but for frites in Seattle you’ve got to go to http://www.belgianfrites.com/ , on Capitol Hill under Neumo’s.

  16. Andrew Ho says:

    If you’re ever visiting San Francisco, swing by Frtjz in Hayes Valley (there’s also a fancier one in Ghiradelli Square). Funky atmosphere, frites and plenty of dips. They even have curry ketchup.

  17. Anonymous Coward says:

    I stayed in Belgium for a month with an old friend, and his mother used to make us steak and frites for breakfast/brunch/"some meal that doesn’t exist in America", all of which would generally be slathered with some mayo-derived dipping sauce.  

    Needless to say, it was like having a brick inserted into your stomach, although I do have to admit it tasted much better than a brick.

  18. Sjoerd Verweij says:

    The trick is to eat LESS of it. Portion sizes in the US are absolutely ludicrous. If I go to have lunch in a restaurant and get more than two pounds of food, something is wrong.

  19. Cody says:

    There’s a restaurant around here that sells the "Mt. Himalaya" burger.  It’s a 2-pound burger designed for 4-5 servings.  If you eat it alone, they give you a free one next time you come back.

  20. Cody says:

    Edit:  It’s the Everest, not the Himalaya, what was I thinking?

  21. E Mead says:

    Frites are served, in Belgium, in huge amounts at lunch, which is the main meal.  Or as a snack from a wagon in much smaller amounts, about a McDonald’s large.  My husband’s favorite sauce is Banzai and mine is Bearnaise.  If they have Belgian frites in Seattle, that’s a good reason to go there.  I’ve had the NYC frites and they are authentic.

    Belgians are at genius level with mussels, too.

  22. ::Wendy:: says:

    I agree with Sjoerd Verweij that american portion sizes are huge compared to European and American’s don’t seemed to be well tuned-into their sense of ‘satedness’  I get funny looks when I turn-down perfectly good food because I’m already ‘full’.  I think I offend them.  There’s much more social pressure here to eat continually.  

    Plus,  the article Raymond cites on smoking preventing fatness specifically cites the case of current smokers giving smoking,  this doesn’t apply to American children or a substantial proportion of american adults.  I think its a substantial red herring.

    another striking thing about american processed food (e.g. breads,  sauces etc) is the incredibly high sugar content.  It’s as-if they like to dull the flavour of their food by soaking it in sugar,  everything.  Most food-stuff’s here are too sweet for my UK trained taste.

  23. Matt says:
    1. Its all about the portions – that’s how the Beligians stay trim.  American-style portions are too big.

      2. It’s taken you a year to write this post?  You have a good memory!

  24. Simon Garcia says:

    i don’t think it has to do with portion sizes but more to do with genetics as well as exercise, I lived in belgium for a year as an exchange student and I ate at least 3 times a week fries, the thing is most ppl move around in belgium in bicicles. at least most teenagers and kids at school. even my exchange-dad used a bike to get to work (he worked nearby). so having to bike at least 5km for school makes u burn calories, and that’s nothing i had some friends who had to bike 20km back and forth. btw my prefered sauce was something called speciale sauce wich was meat sauce made with beer ;-> and mayonaisse. to this day i still prefer mayo over ketchup for fries

  25. Avner Kashtan says:

    I’m far from an expert on American cuisine, but I’ve been driving around the US for the past month and I’ve made some observations. The first is that cheap restaurant food is extremely greasy. Seriously, if you want to eat out for less than $20 per entree, you’re going to get greasy, greasy food. It doesn’t matter if it’s Mexican, Chinese, pizza or the ubiquitous fast-food burger-joints – you want to eat healthy, you’ll have to shell out.

    I’m trying to think of equivalent cheap-eat places in my native Israel and while some are fatty and greasy enough to satisify any American fast-food devotee, there are also things like Hummus which aren’t as bad, and fresh vegetables are much prevalent even in the cheapest eateries.

    Another thing – I heard a radio commercial a few days ago urging housewives to make sure their family eats 3 servings of dairy a day – milk, cheese and cream. Even if we ignore the 50’s-ish <i>Lady’s Home Journal<i> tone, we’re talking about urging people to add even more milkfat to their diet. This is prevalent in most places I’ve eaten – if all else fails, smother it in cheese.

    You can say what you want about keeping Kosher and the important of not mixing meat and cheese in Israel, but at least it prevented the cheese-smother from invading the Israeli fast-food mindset.

    I could go off on a rant about mild, tasteless American cheeses, but that would lead me off on a rant about mild, tasteless American beer and mild, tasteless American coffee and that would simply take too long. :)

    Caveat #1: This writer has found good food, good cheese and even good beer anywhere he looked in America, you just have to avoid the mass-produced brands.

    Caveat #2: There is no good coffee east of the Rockies.

    Ok, I think I’ve annoyed, offended or (even worse) bored enough people here for now.

  26. igor_levicki says:

    Americans are so obese due to way too much calories in those super-sized meals in fast food restaurants (up to twice the daily need for an average human in just one meal!) and ton of sugar everywhere (donuts, soda, candy bars). They also tend to sit/drive more and walk/run/cycle less than the people in Europe.

  27. ThomasDe says:

    I’m very glad you enjoyed it…

    As a Belgian fellow-microsoftie I’d be happy to show you around ;)

  28. RubenP says:

    What’s the obsession with dipping your fries in ketchup? That’s a big no-no in most of Belgium and the Netherlands. And with reason. Yuck! Mayonnaise, tartar sauce, frietessaus (a low fat mayonnaise immitation popular in the Netherlands), heck even chilli sauce (won’t find that here in BE/NL). But ordinary ketchup drowns every bit of taste the fries have with sugar.

    Now, having tasted McD’s French fries, I do understand where the habit came from ;-)

    A Dutch habit (among kids) you could try is fries with applesauce. Another is peanut sauce (satay sauce), which is quite nice.

    But the worst of all, for which we Dutch deserve the title worst cuisine right after the Brit’s green peas: fries with mayonnaise, peanut sauce, sometimes (curry) ketchup, and bits of raw onion *together* ("patatje oorlog", i.e., "fries at war", for obvious reasons).

  29. Gabe says:

    The way to avoid American "food" is to not eat at chain restaurants or diners. For example, at Josie’s in New York (http://www.josiesnyc.com), they have all kinds of great organic foods, including Belgian steak and frites (only they’re baked so it’s healthier).

    I think Americans are fat because the population density of most of the country is so low that it’s not practical to walk anywhere, or it is practical to drive everywhere. In New York City you wouldn’t drive a mile to get somewhere because parking would likely be impossible and most people don’t even have a car. Most other places, though, you probably have a car because you need one, so why would you bother walking?

    I’m surprised nobody has pronounced their distaste for Americans liking their beverages ice cold. Beer is supposed to be served from a refrigerator and softdrinks are served in glasses half-full of ice.

    Some people speculate that American beer is so bad that it has to be cold to prevent you from tasting it, but that doesn’t make sense because I’m pretty sure that it’s pretty tasteless either way. It’s also speculated that softdrinks are served in cups full of ice so that restaurants save money (the ice is cheaper than the drink it displaces), but that also doesn’t make sense; most restaurants give free refills and the extra labor to refill people’s glasses has got to be more expensive than the cost of the drink refill itself.

  30. LC says:

    Oh yes, American "food". I have just come back from 4 days in San Francisco where I nearly stopped eating because the food was just inedible. What with the cramps from coffee overdoses and indigestion from fatty food (Salad: iceberg lettuce, cheese, ham and turkey, ranch dressing) I am amazed I survived.

    And I am someone who *likes* the odd Burger King or KFC meal!

    Also I used to smoke Gauloise bleu. A long time ago <G>

  31. igor_levicki says:

    they have all kinds of great organic foods

    Yes but eating there must be more expensive, right? So if you are poor you can’t avoid eating junk in USA.

    >Some people speculate that American beer

    >is so bad that it has to be cold to prevent

    >you from tasting it

    Perhaps, I never tried it but say Guinness also has to be served ice cold (3.5°C) and it tastes good.

    The amount of ice is a non-issue. You can go into McDonalds and ask for Coca-Cola without ice and it is stll cold enough. Or at least I can here in Belgrade, Serbia.

  32. Benoit says:

    Well, in some areas from southern Belgium (Charleroi comes in mind), people tend to be as fat as their fellow americans :)

    I think the common factor is oversized portions. You can buy there "mitraillettes" (that means machine guns), which are half-baguettes filled by frites and sauce.

    http://members.aol.com/Naoto1900/Belgium/images/mitraillette.gif

    Besides, they are mainly poor and unemployed people so they don’t have the money to buy expensive food nor do they exercize much.

  33. Vipin says:

    Avner,

    I also dislike cheeses. On short trip to Europe several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the cheese market over there with a european colleague and I could see several varieties of cheese in various colors(may be that is an effect of fungal activity). I was in no way impressed by it after tasting it while people were buying it in loads. I assume Israeli food leans more to Asian style food than the european.

  34. Jackie says:

    The dairy and white meat commercials aren’t good for you: they are good for an industry or producer. Those "got milk" and cheese commercials are paid for by the American Dairy Assoc, and the "other white meat" ads are from the pork industry (not to be confused with Congress!)

  35. Avner Kashtan says:

    Vilpin:

    I’m actually very much fond of cheeses. Smelly cheeses and moldy cheeses and cheeses in various states of distress. From Ricotta to Emmenthal to Brie. Cheeses with FLAVOR. Cheeses with character. None of this tasteless-processed-pointless-excuse-for-adding-more-fat-to-an-already-way-too-greasy-dish.

    I’ve had some very nice pepperjack in Wisconsin and I’m sure there are other good cheeses, but anything that comes in a perfect square slice is immediately suspect.

    As for Israeli food – it leans towards the mediterranean. Hummus, falafel, shawarma (what is called by the Turkish name Donner-Kebab in most places I’ve seen in Europe and the US), as well as the usual burgers, pizza and bad so-called-Chinese food.

    I would love to have more Mexican places in Israel, but those are practically nonexistent. Not surprising.

  36. Avner Kashtan says:

    igor_levicki:

    I was very much surprised by some restaurants I went to (in NYC) that charged extra for serving your drink with no ice. Luckily this isn’t a widespread policy since it’s the sort of ridiculously petty penny-pinching that really turns you off of a place.

  37. Goran says:

    @Raymond: I wondered how the Belgians managed to eat such profoundly fatty food and not blimp up…

    Erm… They eat less!?

    @Serge: You forget to add the beer to the bill!

    No, no, no! Belgians, despite all the beer, drink porto ;-)

  38. Mark says:

    Ah, croque monsieurs are yummy! My mom used to make them (and had them on the menu at her coffee shop in Cape Town).

    She also did a smaller version (a croque madame of course).

    Strammer Max is the German version.

  39. KristofU says:

    A croque madame is the version with all cheese instead of cheese-bacon.

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