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Brussels

belgian waffle waffles brussels whipped cream chocolate strawberriesBelgium's cuisine is best known for a number of signature dishes: moules (steamed mussels), frites (fries, dipped not in ketchup but mayonnaise) and, of course, gaufres (waffles), served warm and delicious with toppings such as powdered sugar, chocolate, fruit or ice cream. Of course, you'll also want to save a little room for handmade chocolates and Belgian beer.

Its high ceiling and cavernous dining area might make you feel like you're sitting in a train station rather than a restaurant, but Belga Queen, housed in a converted bank, is one of Brussels' prime spots for fine dining. The focus is on seafood (there's an extensive oyster bar) and local Belgian ingredients. The prix fixe business lunch is a bit pricey but not a bad deal with a menu that changes daily.

The elegant, sun-splashed dining room at Kolya (located in the Hotel Manos Premier) offers exquisitely presented dishes like tuna carpaccio, lobster ravioli and rack of lamb in garlic leaf juice. Fresh flowers and soft jazz music contribute to the serene ambience.

In the midst of all the pricey sidewalk cafes along Place du Grand Sablon is Chez Richard (2 Rue des Minimes), a cozy neighborhood hangout where beer and conversation flow freely. The unpretentious fare (quiches, salads) is tasty and reasonably priced. Plus, every weekend between October 1 and April 30, the eatery puts out an oyster bar spread.

You don't want to visit Belgium without trying a waffle, so be sure to treat yourself to one as a light lunch or a sweet afternoon snack. Vendors are legion, but we like Belgaufra (tongue-in-cheek motto: "Probably the best since 1950"), which has outposts throughout the city -- just look for its yellow cartoon logo.

If the weather is sunny, enjoy a view of Grand Place from the terrace at 'T Kelderke (15 Grand Place), or, if it's not, dine inside in a 17th-century vaulted cellar. Traditional Belgian cuisine is the order of the day here, including mussels, eel in herb sauce and mashed potatoes with sausage.

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