Nevertheless every year around the beginning of June I get restless because I need to find a cool spot to take my hubby to! In the end I decided on a day out in Antwerp. We lived there for a year and had a great time. But it had been at least 3 years since the last time we spent a day there. So one fine morning I tell my birthday hubby to be ready at 9:45am to catch the train.
We arrive in Antwerp at 10:30am. The sky is grey. Hope it will remain dry today because I’ve got a huge walk in store. So here we go: Keyserlei, Meir shopping street, Ox Market (my student café Kassa 4 is still there after 7 years!), Fine Arts Academy, Falcon Square, Red Light District… So many things have changed here! New buildings, cozy parks, tidy streets and corners.
Bravo to the good old previous mayor. Pity they wouldn’t let you finish the job. We walk on to the harbor and find ourselves in the ‘Little Island’ neighborhood. How things have changed even here! The quays are car-free and remodeled, the warehouses lining one side have been fully renovated – absolutely lovely and last but no least the red-bricked MAS museum (which houses Michelin star restaurant ‘t Zilte) in the middle of the harbor is stunning. The only thing lacking is a bit of sunshine, picnicking people and some lively atmosphere.Mission completed! Here’s where I wanted us to end up. It’s around noon and I have a drink and appetizer in mind before going for lunch. And where else should we go than the cozy Bar du Port!
Bar du Port
This little pub used to be one of our favorite hangouts back then. Warm and homey inside in the winter, relaxing on the terrace when the weather’s great.Here’s the place to try a ‘bolleke‘, the Antwerp draft beer made by local brewery De Koninck (€2,50). We nestle ourselves on the wooden benches and sip our beers while our eyes adjusted to the dark interior. The appetizer arrives: 2 generous slices of head cheese also known as brawn (€4). Cut it into squares, thread one on a toothpick and dip it in some strong mustard. Lovely! We share memories and notice that time has stood still here. Except for the old jack russel that used to be ignorant of all the customers around him. No trace of the fella. I lay my cards on the table and tell the birthday boy about lunch. Lining the warehouses on the opposite side of the harbor is an array of popular bistros, bars and restaurants he can choose from. Marcel, Het Duvels Genot, Lux, MAS Cafe Storm, Ellis Gourmet Burger,… His eyes light up. I think we got a burger winner today!
Ellis Gourmet Burger
Ellis Gourmet Burger opened a first restaurant in Brussels about 3 years ago. Formula: good-quality burgers topped with fresh ingredients on decent buns.
As a customer you could choose between about 6 kinds of burgers, a vegetarian option was also included. A portion of yummy Belgian fries, half a corn on the cob, coleslaw… was included.
We checked it out one evening in Brussels and were very excited. A little pricy but worth it. Like many other food gigs in busy Brussels we thought this one wouldn’t make it after some time. But we were wrong. Last year Ellis Burger opened another spot, in Antwerp. Ever since the burger chain has restaurants all over Belgium.
We walk in around 1:30pm without reservation: the place is only half full. A kind waiter shows us to a table near the window and explains the menu. We order again 2 ‘bollekes’ (draft) and see that the menu hasn’t changed much. The sides are still the same and so are the classic burgers.
The specials attract us more: blue cheese, lamb, salmon, Rossini (with foie gras) and Dierendonck. The latter proves to be irresistible. Dierendonck is a Belgian butcher who raises different special breeds of cattle on his own farm. The Dierendonck Meatlover burger (€13) is his creation consisting of 100% Belgian Red breed. Even the Bloody Boskoop Burger (with black pudding, apple and foie gras) created by Belgian chef Wouter Keersmaekers can’t make us change our minds. The waiter writes down our orders plus a portion of fries (€3,50) and coleslaw (€3,50).
We enjoy our front row seats with a view on the MAS museum and watch how the rain pours down on it. More people come in but the place is never full. I thought it would be packed since school is out and summer holidays start today but I guess most of families all made a run to the airport.Our giants arrive. Crunchy grilled buns, a slice of tomato, red onion, pickled gherkins and fresh lettuce, a little tomato ketchup and crispy fried bacon.
Dierendonck Meatlover Burger
The eyecatcher is the burger itself: thick, nicely seared and enormous. We bite in it for as far as our jaws will allow us to. We munch, nod at each other, take another bite and hum approvingly. This is the real stuff. The burger meat is coarsely ground, what a texture that adds! The flavor is deep, strong, gamey. It’s really like biting into a dry-aged steak. Stunning.We both struggle to polish off our plates. This burger bugger is huge! The fries on the side are crispy, golden and perfectly cooked. Yummy. Even the mayo next to the fries is creamy and thick. The coleslaw is crunchy: freshly grated carrots and cabbage and a couple of raisins covered with a moderate and well-seasoned dressing. Light and tasty. Well, we’re both glad we only ordered a portion of both. That was way enough! We finish our beers and pay at the cash counter. €38,40 is not cheap for 2 drinks, 2 burgers, fries and a salad but it’s worth it. We left with our bellies full and would definitely go back again.
Ellis Gourmet Burger recently opened a new restaurant near Antwerp Central Station! Check out their website for more addresses.
Ellis Gourmet Burger