Judging Restaurants – Belga Cafe

Since folks questioned St. Arnold’s Belgian Restaurant/Pub that recently opened up at 1827 Jefferson Place, NW, I thought it would be fun to judge one of the oldest Belgian restaurants in DC – Belga Cafe. Belga is located at 514 8th Street, SE on Barracks Row. Their Web site says:

“Belga Café is the original Belgian restaurant in Washington DC and a great place for authentic Belgian food and Belgian Beers. Combining an intriguing atmosphere with excellent, light & healthy interesting food.

Belga Café is a little bit of Brussels on the Hill, with an open kitchen and sidewalk café.”

You can see their menus here.

Is the oldest Belgian in DC also the best?

33 Comment

  • The brunch is fantastic. The cornbread waffle with pulled pork is excellent.

    Wait times can be long at peak times, but they do take reservations.

  • Went there once on a weekday evening with about 10 people. They seated us with no problem and the place was not busy by any means. We all ordered beers and a some appetizers to share. Once we got our beers the executive chef came over and told us we had to leave if we didn’t plan on ordering dinner. He stated they were too busy to have us in his half empty establishment. He ordered us to leave immediately without paying. So we downed our beers and through some money on the table for the poor waiter who stood there mortified.

    Plus one for the free beer, but minus one for being treated like I’m a child. My group and I would have drank a good amount and had a sizeable tab. There loss.

    Since we all had our beers

    • I’ve never had a problem, but I was hanging out with a few friends this weekend who all had terrible experiences with the staff there.

  • Overrated and overpriced.
    Better choices available on 8th St.

  • They are not stroller-friendly, so I’m not a fan. I went a few years ago on a weekday with my sleeping baby in a stroller, but they would not let me in with the stroller, despite the restaurant being half-empty. I would understand the concern during busy brunch hours, but not when there was clearly room to spare.

  • A little overpriced but a good indulgence. Brunch is delicious and I’ve had a good dinner there as well. The beer list is drool-worthy for those who are enthusiastic about Belgian beer (as I am!).

  • By far one of the best restuarants in all of DC.

    This isn’t bar… so sitting around and drinking beer is not the kind of establishment one might expect for happy hour. Try Church Key on 14th instead. Nor is it the best place to cart your kids around. This is a Chili’s or TGIF’s that has crayons and baby chairs. China Town has plenty of family friendly joints.

    I have ordered dozens of dishes from Belga, including the specials and it has always been fantastic.

    Ive heard of the exec chef having meltdowns from time to time, but I have yet to witness it in my 30+ times there. I don’t blame the guy, running a top notch restaurant would be stressful!

    In regards to all Belgian places in DC, hands down the best.

    • “Nor is it the best place to cart your kids around. This is a Chili’s or TGIF’s that has crayons and baby chairs. China Town has plenty of family friendly joints.”

      If you’re going to direct the Capitol Hill residents with kids (and there are a lot of ’em) to a crappy chain restaurant, NoVA is a lot easier to get to than Chinatown.

    • Oh, wise and benevolent arbiter of how I raise my kids, whatever did I do without your sage advice?


      • I’ve never met you or your baby, but I’m telling you that your baby is almost certainly irritating to people who are trying to enjoy a nice meal out at an expensive restaurant. There are places in this world that aren’t appropriate to bring someone that is potentially loud and stinky and has no possibility of enjoying it. Would you bring him/her to an art museum, or a concert or a film festival? No one’s “telling you how to raise your kid,” it’s just that a lot of us feel that some parts of life should be sacrosanct from having to hear screaming and smell poop.

        • The one time I ate at Belga Café (it was a pretty tasty, if overpriced, brunch), the experience was nearly ruined by the couple sitting next to us with their crying baby in a stroller jammed between the tables. That’s exactly what I want to listen to when I’m out having an expensive brunch. A crying baby.

    • Hey folks, it’s entitled hill trash vs. restaurant fanboy time. I love this show! ::popcorn::

    • I don’t have kids, but I am pretty sure the reason there are so many parents on the Hill is that they don’t want to live in the burbs and go to chain resturants. If you look at any restuarant on 8th Street or Penn Ave, it’s full of babies and kids. I enjoy it – part of the neighborhood feeling. Mayb YOU should stick to 14th Street if you don’t want to see kids. Oh, and I the service is so bad at Belga that I never go there.

      • I agree– and I really don’t like babies or kids at all.

        There are plenty of neighborhoods that are almost exclusively free of children. Go to one of those if you don’t want them dining next to you.

      • Actually I had dinner on 14th Street last night and there WERE kids a few tables down. Such a rare sight, but they were so well behaved! Were it not for their size I would have assumed they were adults.

  • GiantSquid

    I enjoy going once in a while, but I wouldn’t say it’s the best. It’s Eurofusion food so it’s not the same cuisine as Granville Moore’s, Mannequin Pis, or the other Belgian places I’ve been to. I’ve been on the other end of Bart’s unhappy stare and it put a damper on my table’s dining experience. I don’t need to see one of the waitstaff bitched out in front of the customers. There was a period where the meat was routinely overcooked and at one point, I actually sent my steak back. However, I’ve also had amazing meals there with pleasant service. I usually aim to go on a Monday or Tuesday night so it’s less crazy.

    If you want to go with a stroller, I’ve found you have to make a reservation and count the stroller as one of the seated guests. So two parents and a baby would be a reservation for three.

  • I am going to have to agree that being asked to leave when 10 people are sitting at tables at a medium sized restaurant when they have no intention of ordering food is perfectly reasonable.

    If you want to sit and drink, go to a bar. If you wanted to drink there, find space at the bar

  • I love the food and the service is phenomonal. The waiter/us once spilled a framboise (raspberry) beer on one of our dinners white button down shirts. The executive chef was out of the kitchen before the beer even hit the floor offering to pay for the dry cleaning bill or buy a new shirt. I was with clients who travel extensively and even they were impressed at the level of service.

    I’ve also been there when we were asked to move to the bar after dinner so they could use the table for other guests. We were offered free beer and instead choose to leave and weren’t the least bit offended. Its a small restaurant and fills up quickly.

  • Had dinner there once and that was enough for me.

    The food was gross and I happened to find a lovely hair in my food and I assure you it wasn’t mine. The really gross thing is that before my meal came, the folks 2 tables from me also had found a hair in their food. I kid you not!

  • We went for brunch here once, which was pretty nice, but the prices were a bit steep for the portion size. I’d file this under “pretty good,” but if I were to recommend a Belgian restaurant in DC, it would be Brasserie Beck.

  • More protein?

    But really, not that creepy. Humans prepare food. Humans have hair. Deal with it.

  • awesome brunch – try the waffles! plus they’ve got a great selection of beer, but the beer can be pricey.

  • awesome brunch you shoul try the waffles! plus they’ve got a great selection of beer, but the beer can be pricey.

  • I’ve only had the mussels and frites at Belga so I can’t talk about the rest of the food. The mussels and frites are terrific. I like them better than Granville Moore’s, actually. The mussels were plumper. GM’s were kind of stringy.

    But I only prefer to go to Belga in temperate weather. The inside is just too noisy. (an aside — Unfortunately true of way too many restaurants in DC, why is that?)

    And I have to say, Brasserie Beck is superb.

  • I’ve had very mixed experiences over probably 10 meals or so at Belga – brunch, dinner, afternoon drinks, etc. I think 60-70% of the time either the host/hostess or waiter/waitress is rude, snotty, slow, or just plain incompetent. The food is decent, the brunch especially, although I’ve always found the moules a little lacking. The beer selection is ok – it was probably the best on the Hill as recently as a few years ago but now is a little stale in comparison with other establishments. The problem I have is that I always seem to end up going back, hoping for the 1 in 10 chance that everything clicks.

  • Had a few meals there and in no hurry to go back. Too noisy, bad service, expensive dining prices with cafe surroundings. The last time my fries were broken up little pieces no more than an inch long or so, like little cigarette stubs. Not that tasty either, frankly at the time I was thinking I could have gotten McD’s fries for a lot less and been more satisfied. Overrated, overpriced places like this with bad service are the reason why I’d rather cook at home and have guests over.

  • the service is terrible

  • Took a cute date to the Eastern Market area when I first moved to the area and had no clue where to eat. Practically lost, I decided we should eat at Belga when we walked by it. We had a fantastic meal and great service that made the date. Although she’s long gone, I still remember my beef entree that night. Mmm, Belga!

  • Best Belgian food in the DC area is at a little place in Olney called “Mannequin Pis.” This recommendation comes from a car-less DC dweller in Logan Circle. Even Tom Sietsima agrees.

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