Antwerp, Belgium was never on my list of places to visit until a friend in Germany asked if I wanted to meet her there on a September Saturday. Just an hour train ride from Rotterdam, I figured it was an easy day-trip.
Easy to get to, hard to leave.
The only other time I had been to Belgium was my visit to Brussels a few years back, which was enjoyable, but did not make other parts of Belgium as desirable to visit. (But as I wrote in my Maru Restaurant post, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and will absolutely visit Brussels again.)
The city, simply put, is beautiful. In just the first couple hours, I wrote down a handful of restaurants I want to visit in the future, including Super Mercado, which was closed at the time. We walked through a farmer’s market on our way to lunch, wandered through the shopping district, and spent most of the afternoon in the garden of a small beer cafe - so small that at first I thought we had walked into someone’s home.
(Side note: check out the website Beer Hunter. This guy named Michael Jackson passed away in 2007, but his blog has been saved. Take a minute to look at what this beer enthusiast started doing in the mid 90s!)
It was a perfect place to spend time catching up with my friend. We had no agendas in mind, other than to meander. There were plenty of small distractions and unexpected delights that we could have explored, but we only had so many hours (and meals) in the city. The day flew by, and I wish we could’ve spent the whole weekend together in Antwerp.
If you have been following my personal journey in my newsletter, I’ve been busy keeping my life together and less focused on dining at various Asian restaurants (a sad existence, I know). So when we arrived in Antwerp, I hadn’t done any research on where to eat!
As we approached the restaurant, I grew hesitant - was a Vietnamese restaurant in the old City Center really that good? Yes, yes it was.
Our group of seven plus a baby ordered a variety from the menu at Pho 61, including Vietnamese carpaccio, fried won tons, dumplings, bun cha, and pho. If you enjoy the funky freshness of Vietnamese cuisine, as well as raw beef, the carpaccio was delightful. The won tons and dumplings were standard delicious (not many are included in a single order though).
The highlight though of the meal was, of course, the pho. The broth was hearty, with a strong cinnamon flavor. As I’ve mentioned previously, the pho here doesn’t seem as salty, and at times is too oily. This pho was indeed not as salty as in the States, but thankfully was not oily. I had the pho with beef balls, which I recommend, though others seemed quite pleased with their sliced beef. I heard the bun cha was pretty good, too.
If you’re with a large group of people who just want some good, flavorful food in Antwerp, visit Pho 61.
Pho 61, Grote Markt 42, Antwerp, Belgium 2000, +32 3 232 90 13