Cheap Eats in Bruges

I love Bruges, this idyllic town captivates me, but with hostels an average of €18 a night and meals ranging from €7-25 it’s not the cheapest city to spend your time in.

Imagine my delight when stumbling upon Brasserie Medard; an inconspicuous, hole in the wall, family run type of joint that’s full of locals and cheap eats! I arrived maybe 40 minutes before closing time and was greeted by a young man. Despite all tables having a reserved sign on them, he sat me down and handed me a menu. The atmosphere seemed fairly nonchalant and homey, with a group of older locals chatting together while occasionally yelling into the kitchen to chat with the chef as well; clearly they were regulars and everyone knew each other, which reinforced my belief that this place was a good decision.

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It’s a little bit difficult to order as the menu is only partially translated into English and the server couldn’t speak English, but I managed quite well anyway. 🙂 I ordered a glass of red wine and a small spaghetti from the snack menu. I don’t know if snack 20161017_193237translates the same from English to Dutch, but if that was their idea of a snack sized spaghetti portion then they have serving sizes big enough to rival America. The spaghetti rang in at only €4 and the glass of wine just €2.50. While tucking into my super sized meal one of the women from the table next to me asked me something in Dutch, and after seeing my blank face she repeated, “delicious?” I smiled and nodded enthusiastically, making her laugh. She even made a point to say goodbye to me before she left (she may have been a couple glasses of wine in by that point but she was still lovely).

I wandered home having made barely a dent in my wallet and stomach close to bursting, not even tempted by the sweet aroma of fresh waffles drifting through the air.

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Quick facts:

Located just off Grote Markt on Sint-Amandsstraat (maybe 30 meters down the road from the square).

Snack menu certainly delivers…”small” saucy, cheesy, spaghetti is €4 and is more than enough

Do not expect much English

NOTE: After looking up reviews of Brasserie Medard, I was startled by the reviews on trip advisor and feel like I must include a bit of a warning. I may have just been lucky as I was seated served without a problem, but apparently this might not be a very tourist friendly place. Many people complain that the owner is a very rude man who has a strong dislike of anyone who isn’t Belgian and they were often denied service and essentially pushed out the door. I did not see the owner while I was there, just a woman in the kitchen and I assume her son or other family member serving. I had a pleasant experience, but I suppose if you do find yourself in Bruges and craving some spaghetti, proceed at your own risk… and good luck!

 

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Belgium’s Best Hot Chocolate

Belgium, undeniably, absolutely nails it when it comes to all things chocolate. When I was in Brussels I sampled some mouth watering waffles but Bruges introduced me to a whole new delight: Belgian hot chocolate. 

I don’t mean to say I’ve never had hot chocolate, I’ve had more than my fair share (as a child I literally required a mug of hot chocolate in the mornings before I could talk, function or be in any way remotely pleasant. This was obviously pre coffee years). However, I had never had hot chocolate made with Belgian chocolate. So once I settled into my hostel I set out to find that hot mug of heaven.

Out of an the tea rooms in Bruges, I walked into De Proeverie.

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De Proeverie sits just across the cobblestoned street from it’s sister chocolate shop, Sukerbuyc, inconspicuously nestled up next to the canal on Katelijnestraat. De Proeverie sells a tasty selection of cakes, pastries, scones, ice cream, tea, coffee, and (most importantly) hot chocolate.

Not only do they use Belgian chocolate from across the street, all ingredients are arranged on a tray and you allowed to concoct your own perfect cup of cocoa! It’s a delectable DIY treat.

20161017_155110At €4.50 this is arguably a bit of a ‘treat yourself’ if you are budget traveling, but it is definitely worth it. You will be given a tray with a cup of steamed milk, sugar cubes, a chocolate20161017_155142 stick to melt into the milk, whipped cream, and 4 extra pieces of chocolate. So not only do you get hot chocolate but you can also sample a bit of dark, milk, and white 20161017_155300chocolate as well as a chocolate truffle. You know, in case you wanted to pop across the street later after having a taste of what they offer. 😉

 

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Thai Basil Chicken: WIN

Since coming back to America my adventuring has been put on hold and I have been focusing on reconnecting with family and friends I haven’t seen for the past 4 years of being abroad.

One big thing I have been doing is missing my Thai diet. Not only have I reinstated breads and dairy into my diet, my portion sizes have been on the rise. Welcome back to the fast food nation! Actually, pizza aside I haven’t been eating all that much fast food, but when Louis C.K.’s joke “the meal is not over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself” becomes a reality, I mean……

Anyway, since I miss the lighter feeling of Thai food on the stomach and  I made pizza a staple meal last week in California, I have decided to change things up a bit. I’ve taken to the kitchen to attempt playing Thai chef! The great thing about Thai food is that a recipe is literally just a suggestion of what to put in it and you can bend it however you want. On the other hand, ingredients are difficult if not impossible to find.

I found this recipe for Thai basil chicken (pad grapow gai ผัดกระเพราไก่) and decided to try it out. There are three ingredients you will probably have a problem finding; Thai chilies, holy basil, and dark soy sauce.

I still haven’t found dark soy sauce or Thai holy basil, but I did get lucky with the chilies! I found green chilies at Winco and a couple of days ago I found frozen red chilies in an Asian market! If you live in the Boise area you can find them at Orient Market on  Emerald St. For the Thai holy basil I just use regular Thai basil and you can find that in most supermarkets. I’m sure you can make dark soy sauce at home but I just leave it out. It’s still good!

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The picture doesn’t really do it justice, but making this Thai dish was a definite success!!

Buengkan Passport

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Price: $$

Amenities: fans, free wi-fi, free water

Location: Just like WaWa, it is outside of town a little bit on Buengkan Road. Walkable, but bicycle recommended (especially when its hot!). On the way to the small lake and park, you will find Buengkan Passport on the left hand side of the road.

Taste: Good, strong coffee taste. I was warned before ordering that it was bitter, but I think that’s because I usually order a hazelnut latte from here which is decidedly sweeter than an espresso. The espresso was not too sweet (or bitter) and had a good flavor.Nice kick to it too.

Menu and Ease or Ordering: This coffee shop is run by a lovely couple and they can both 13055716_10206195017091095_3532891433425169286_ospeak English enough for you to order with ease. The menu is written in both English and Thai languages. The only downfall is they serve only coffee and no sort of desserts or snacks, but as long as you remember to grab a bite to eat before you get there you should be ok!

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Special Menu: For only 25 baht you get an anchan drink. Anchan is the blue/purple flower that we call butterfly pea. This drink is made with sweet milk so it is very sweet, but delicious! And pretty, too. 🙂

Environment:  I am going to be honest this review miiight be a bit biased because this is my favorite coffee shop in Buengkan, but it’s my favorite for a reason!! P’Ee runs the coffee shop and P’Bas is a photographer. Their shop is large and very open feeling. They do not have air con but only fans, so in the summer it can12973462_1695307094091021_3639034225257940752_o get a bit toasty but they have a lot of fans so you will always have one pointed in your direction. There are usually photography students that come and go to learn with P’Bas, so there is always something going on. That being said, it still has a quiet atmosphere where you can feel comfortable working, reading, or chatting with friends. The shop used to look out onto the little lake but due to recent constructio12973572_1695307027424361_6437332491007846626_on on the river there is a significantly large sand a rock pile outside. No worries though, the view it is still good and on Tuesday and Friday mornings you can sit back and watch the hustle and bustle of the Thai-Laos market. There is sometimes music, sometimes not.

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The Coffee Project

 

WaWa Cafe

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Price: $$

Amenities: fan and air con, wifi available
*but there are no outlets!

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Location: walkable, but if its hot outside it will feel like a bit of a journey. Better to take a bicycle or motorbike. Out of town a ways near the lake on Buengkan Road. It will be a small container on the left side of the road, just past Buengkan Passport.

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Taste: good, robust coffee flavor, not sweet at your request. Not the strongest in Buengkan but still stronger than most. I like it!
*my friend had an unfortunate incident with a bee that somehow made it’s way into her coffee cup, but I’ve never had a problem like that so I’m pretty sure it was a one off…just check your cup before you sip as a general rule for anywhere?

20160205_112907Menu and ease of ordering: The barista is nice but unable to speak Thai, so if you haven’t figured out how to order your favorite coffee order in Thai yet, you may be in a bit of trouble! The menu is written in only Thai 20160205_112854language, but they have the same basic espresso, americano, cappuccino, latte, and mocha as all coffee shops. They also serve various desserts, and while the menu is again in Thai- they also have pictures! I find the visuals more appealing anyway. Not too sure about a special menu as I have yet to order a dessert there.

Environment: the building is a small container, feels a little cozy but not too cluttered. I feel like it has the potential to get quite hot in the summer because the walls are big windows, but there is air conditioning available so it should be fine. On the bright side, windows for walls makes for great people watching if you grab your coffee on market days (every Tuesday and Friday the whole road transforms from dusty emptiness to a bustling Thai-Laos market from morning to early afternoon)!The tables seem to be good tables to do some work on, and the chairs! The chairs are amazing. Soft chairs with backs on them I could sit there all day.

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The Coffee Project

Moomprod (มุมโปรด) Coffee and Bakery

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Price: $$

Amenities: air con and fan available, free wifi

Location: Very central Buengkan on Thai Samat Rd, just past the roundabout on the main road. Moomprod is situated directly across from the old cinema that’s long since been closed down.

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Taste: The coffee here is excellent! It has a strong, robust flavor and she actually makes it per your request if you don’t want it sweet. I would also recommend the hazelnut latte.

Menu and ease of ordering: Coffee menu has all the standard coffee drinks plus a variation of teas and flavored milks. It is written in both Thai and English so its e20160130_162619asy to navigate and Note, the owner, speaks almost fluent English. So ordering and asking questions should not be a problem at all.

She is also an excellent baker and there are always plenty of treats to pick from that are displayed in the front. Trust me, they are delicious. Even if you aren’t hungry I recommend you buy a slice of apple cinnamon cake because oh my gosh….it is edible perfection. Tastes just20160130_162756 like home and it is nice, dense, flavorful and all around magical. I have yet to try her cakes but she also makes cakes that can be decorated for any occasion.

Special Menu: You can order a caramel thai iced tea and if you ask for it only a little bit sweet it is delicious! I haven’t seen it anywhere else. She also makes a white chocolate mocha that tastes amazing as well.20160130_163116

Environment: Indoor seating only but it feels open and airy. To be honest, you will be hard pressed to find a stuffy feeling coffee shop or restaurant here in Buengkan so that is rarely a problem. The family that runs this coffee shop are very friendly, and Note’s daughter, New, will probably want to practice her English with you. She’s quite clever! The wifi is good although sometimes spotty, and the tables are big enough to spread out your things if you have work to do. Although to be honest every time I go there I end up 20160130_162724enjoying chatting with people more than actually working. This is a good place to relax and kick back, but if you want to get some work done maybe find another shop. 🙂
Fans are usually running and once it gets hot enough the air con will be turned on as well. There is usually some background music playing.

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The Coffee Project

Ahten (อาเดิน) Coffee and Restaurant

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Price: $$

Amenities: air con (inside), fan (outside) free wifi, free water
*Important to note there are no outlets available!

Location: Fairly central in Buengkan city, close to the river on Ruksangub Road just off of 20160130_154935Meechai Road. It is just across the street from a temple.

Taste: even though I ordered an espresso unsweetened, it still tasted fairly sweet. Also, the coffee wasn’t the strongest and it tasted more like an iced coffee with milk than an actual espresso. It still tasted alright, but it didn’t quite have the kick I was after. Caramel latte and green tea are both good at this location per friend reviews as well. 🙂

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Menu and ease of ordering: The coffee menu had all the standard drinks on
it. It was in both English and in Thai. They have a small selection of cakes and desserts to 20160130_152357choose from that are displayed in the front. There is a full food menu as well, but it
is written in only Thai with no pictures, so if you can’t read Thai and/or aren’t feeling somewhat adventurous and willing to try out the whole “point and see what you end up with” option, you might be out of luck. (If you want to do that here its ok, it is a tame menu you won’t end up with anything too obscure!) The staff, while nice enough, can’t speak English. This shouldn’t be a big problem if you just want a coffee, but it might stop you from ordering lunch or dinner.

Special menu: I have yet to try it, but I did see espresso con panna on the menu and that piqued my interest. I have yet to see it on any other menu in Buengkan.

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Environment: I really enjoyed the environment here. The temple across the street was beautiful to look at and there is plenty of flora in the outside seating area to feel private and cozy. There is more outside seating than inside, but there are some tables indoors if you prefer. Outside seating is available both under a roof and under the sun. Fans are usually turned on outside as soon as you sit down to keep you cool. While we were there  we enjoyed relaxing music played loud enough to hear and quiet enough to enjoy conversation.

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The Coffee Project