Belgian Cuisine in the U.S. Capital: Belga Café

Yesterday, I was in Washington, D.C. for the third time in a month and I have to say that I completely changed my opinion on the U.S. capital.

After spending time only on the National Mall, in the museums and around the monuments and memorials before, I considered D.C. to be a formal and serious place. I thought it consisted of nothing more than government buildings, huge museums and wide, characterless streets.

However, when visiting Washington, D.C. yesterday, I ended up in an entirely different part of the city, a part I didn’t even know existed. The only reason I decided to go to the southeastern area of the Capitol Hill district was that I knew there was a Belgian restaurant there—Belga Café.

Belga Café, Belgian restaurant in Washington, D.C
Belga Café

I was pleasantly surprised to find it that this particular district in D.C. is characterized not by large concrete buildings but by historic stone row houses, tree-lined streets and various eclectic shops and ethnic restaurants. It honestly seemed more like the Old Town of Alexandria than downtown D.C. to me. I kind of loved it. Plus, the food at Belga Café was great—which is why I went there in the first place.

Capitol Hill district in Washington, D.C
Capitol Hill district in Washington, D.C

Belga Café – A Great Belgian Restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Belga Café is owned and run by award-winning Belgian chef Bart Vandaele, incidentally the husband of a Belgian news correspondent for a major Belgian TV channel. The restaurant is designed to resemble the typical, charming cafés found in Brussels, and it definitely does. I happened to be there on a Tuesday, which is “mussels day” at Belga Café. I wanted to get myself a pot of mussels anyway, so that worked out pretty well.

Belga Café, Washington, D.C
Interior of Belga Café

What I loved most about this Belgian restaurant in Washington, D.C. is that its menu describes its dishes with their authentic Flemish names first and has the English translation underneath it. It felt a bit like home. The menu, by the way, consists of classic Belgian food, such as mussels, shrimp croquettes, steak frites, Flemish stew and vol-au vent, in addition to a selection of Belgian beers unlike any other I’ve ever seen in the United States.

Mussels and fries at Belga Café, Belgian restaurant in Washington D.C
Mussels and fries at Belga Café, Washington D.C

I had mussels and fries, the quintessential Belgian dish, accompanied by a Maredsous 8, one of my absolute favorite Belgian abbey beers. For about an hour there, I felt like I was back in Belgium. I loved it and I will definitely go back to this great Belgian restaurant in Washington, D.C. during future visits to the city.

If you’re visiting the U.S. capital and you’re in the mood for some delicious food and a unique beer (or two), Belga Café on SE 8th Street in Capitol Hill is a great suggestion.

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