Any trip to Belgium should be filled with food adventures— Belgian food is truly delightful! The historic city of Ghent offers an excellent selection of great food, ranging from casual pubs to high-end fine dining. You can really feel the pride and pleasure residents take in their restaurant scene. In this blog post, I am highlighting 13 local and authentic restaurants and bars for foodie travelers to enjoy during a visit to Ghent.
I think Belgium is one of the most underrated foodie destinations in Europe. There are many different influences on Belgian cuisine, like French, Flemish, and South African, which create this unique fusion cuisine that is distinct. Living in nearby Cologne, Germany, I love taking the train to Belgium for little weekend foodie jaunts.
Ghent is one of my favorite places in Belgium, and I have visited a couple of times! Located in the heart of the Flanders, you will find comforting Flemish specialities in Ghent, some of which you’ve maybe never heard of. Rich fish stews and cured meats are only the beginning! Additionally, foodies can discover exciting global cuisine, veggie forward menus, and the freshest seafood you could want in Ghent.
Breakfast & Coffee
Offering what is truly the best espresso in Ghent (and maybe all of Belgium), Take Five is a must-visit coffee shop in my opinion. I went back three days in a row! It’s just that good. The minimalist space has colorful accents and friendly baristas that welcome you into the coffee shop. It feels comfortable here. There is a street side patio that regularly has customers sitting outside sipping their caffeinated delights.
Located directly next store to Take Five, Kultur Bakery is a logical place to grab a small croissant or baked treat after sipping down a perfect espresso. It doesn’t hurt that it is also delicious bread. They specialize in sourdough loafs, but there are plenty of snackables too. There are even vegan baked goods, like a vegan croissant or pastry.
This old school Italian coffee bar feels like a hidden local gem. You can see regulars sipping espresso and reading the paper. Stark red walls, schoolhouse pendant lighting and a massive Italian espresso machine all accentuate the vintage charm. I was especially impressed with the visual espresso menu that explains with little pictograms over 20 different espresso drinks, all of which are available to order.
Lunch & Fast Casual
Part food market, part minimalist vegan restaurant, BEO is tucked in the back of a bustling Asian and health food grocery store. We actually walked past it once before realizing it was set inside. This is the perfect place for lunch, serving up a creative plant-based small plate menu. Ghent is one of the leading vegetarian & vegan friendly cities in Europe, so it is unsurprising that almost everything here is vegan. The plating is beautiful and makes the cuisine feel high end.
For a vibey place just steps from Ghent’s major attractions, Otomat is a Belgian pizza chain with a couple locations around the county. The fast-casual (but huge) multi-story restaurant offers artisanal wood-fired pizza with red sauce or white sauce options. Gourmet ingredients and unique flavor combinations make this affordable lunch option feel luxurious. You can also get pizza to go if you are tempted to eat your slices outside along the canal.
Sample a variety of local cheeses and charcuterie at this deli with a bustling atmosphere on one of Ghent’s liveliest market squares. You can choose your own plate or go with one of the preset charcuterie plates. I really liked that Groot Vleeshuis offers options that specialize in local and traditional Belgian ingredients. There is a large outdoor terrace if the weather is good. It is an ideal place for people watching.
With the most gorgeous interior in Ghent, Pakhuis offers an atmospheric dining experience built inside a renovated warehouse. The towering two story dining room with full glass ceiling was designed by a Portuguese architect. You can feel the attention to detail, which really sets the stage of the refined and delicate menu to come. The kitchen crafts traditional Belgian brasserie food with a sophisticated and seasonal touch. Think fresh catch-of-the-day over a bed of tender asparagus, or a goat cheese salad with strawberries, hazelnuts and a rhubarb vinaigrette.
The cutest little interior courtyard and understated dining room hides behind a simple historic facade in Ghent’s oldest neighborhood. Roots is one of the best affordable fine dining restaurants in Ghent. Their seasonal farm-to-table menu changes throughout the year, but always keeps a large focus on seafood and vegetarian dishes. You’ll have the option to do a 3 or 4 course tasting menu for either lunch or dinner. The staff is truly kind, willing to answer all of your questions about unfamiliar ingredients or make suggestions for the perfect wine pairing. With a casual atmosphere and delicious food, this is a lovely place to enjoy a meal.
If you want a Michelin star meal during your time in Ghent, look no further than Oak. This highly regarded restaurant offers upscale cuisine in an approachable, romantic, and warm atmosphere. You’ll have the option to select a 5, 6 or 7 course tasting menu with corresponding prices and wine pairings. The food is impeccable and the plating is stunning. The neighborhood surrounding the restaurant feels like a local area as well!
Traditional Flemish cuisine is the star of the show at Meme Gusta. This rowdy restaurant feels like you are dining in someone’s house and that is exactly the point – the chef pulls inspiration from his grandmother’s recipes. The pure vintage vibes here are just my favorite. The food is unpretentious and absolutely delicious. They are most well-known for the Meme Gusta stew. I think this is a must-try dish on your first visit. It is a pork cheek stew made with vegetables and a rich brown sauce, paired with frites and salad. You will not be disappointed.
Ghent has plenty of local watering holes to explore, but I recommend making the slightly out of the way journey out to Hal 16. Located about 10 minutes north of the city center, this is an innovative redevelopment project in Ghent’s harbor area. Built into an old warehouse, Dok Brewing Company is a creative microbrewery that blends contemporary and classic styles of brewing to craft unique Belgian beers on their 30 different taps. We had a lovely afternoon sitting on the sun filled patio sampling a variety of different brews!
Offering a selection of over 200 Belgian beers, Trollekelder is the perfect pub to bring a beer lover. My father in law was obsessed with this place, and we had more than our fair share of brews sitting on their terrace. The menu is divided by style of beer, ranging from tripels and quads to lambics and fruit beers. There is a Belgian beer for everyone here! The wood-clad interior and funky troll themed decor adds that layer of funkiness that you expect from an authentic local place. There is a sizable patio in front under the shadow of the St. Jacob’s Church. Trollekelder was recommended to us by a local expert, and it did not disappoint.
If you’re in the mood for cocktails instead of beer, I can’t recommend The Cobbler enough. Housed inside the 1898 Post Hotel in the heart of downtown Ghent, this upscale cocktail bar feels like walking into a rich person’s private bar. The decor is impeccable, the sunset views over the canal are unparalleled, and their drinks are top notch. Many of their cocktails feature an ingredient I wasn’t familiar with — jenever – a juniper brandy traditional from Belgium. As I learned, Jenever pairs nicely with a number of traditional cocktails like Old Fashioneds or Gin and Tonics. The price tag for cocktails at the Cobber is steep, but worth it.