And while we’re there we figured we might as well try some burgers, too. 

Did you know that Belgium is globally renowned for its potato fries? The small but prosperous European country is far and away the world’s biggest exporter of fries, or “frites” as they’re locally known, and if you walk around a large city like Brussels, you’ll spot frite specialty shops all over the place.

Our Japanese-language reporter and world traveler Ikuna Kamezawa, who visited Belgium recently after trying rotating sushi in Prague and Domino’s pizza in Italy, had to assume Belgians have a refined palate for frites, with so many options all around them. But that naturally leads the mind to one question: how do McDonald’s fries taste in Belgium? In a country full of high-quality frites, are McDonald’s fries of a different caliber there, too?

Naturally, Ikuna had to find out. 

First, however, she had to set the stage for the taste test by sampling super high-quality frites from a popular Brussels shop that always has lines out the door. There, you can order fries with a sauce of your choice, and Ikuna, overwhelmed by options, decided to go with the most popular Mayonnaise Sauce. It came with about ten times more mayonnaise than she ever expected.

The freshly deep-fried Belgian potatoes were deliciously crispy and so good. But then, wouldn’t all fresh fries taste good?

By the way, all Belgian frite shops provide these tiny little disposable forks, which Ikuna thought were amazing. She wished Japan would start using them too.

Right after that, she went straight to a McDonald’s in Brussels, where she found, once again, an abundance of sauces to go with your fries.

After tasting, the Belgian McDonald’s fries were…pretty much the same as any other McDonald’s fries. Sadly, despite the standard set by frites stores across the city, there was nothing special about a large serving of McDonald’s fries.

But there was still more to try! They also served Smokey Chili Tomatoes McFlavor Fries, which are apparently a Belgian standard. A medium size is 3.45 euros (544 yen or US$3.76), and comes smothered in tomatoes, onions, and something Ikuna thought tasted like barbecue sauce.

The flavor of the fries themselves was about what you’d expect, but Ikuna couldn’t help but admire the originality of such a dish, and with her tiny fork making a huge goopy mess of it, she felt like a fully assimilated Belgian!

As it turns out, Belgium is not only the Frite Nation, but also a nation of cheese lovers. Apparently, locals love to snack on cheese when drinking. In terms of Ikuna’s McDonald’s flavor journey, that meant that they had three different kinds of cheeseburgers on the menu for her to try.

The first was the classic Cheeseburger, which was 2.10 euros. Of course, they also had variations of this burger, like the Double Cheeseburger, but Ikuna didn’t include them in the count, because they’re basically the same kind of burger.

The second cheeseburger was called the “Cheese Andalouse” (2.35 euros).

It came with some kind of special sour sauce instead of ketchup, and Ikuna thought that its patty was much juicier than a regular cheeseburger. For such a small price difference, this burger was far and away the better cheeseburger, in Ikuna’s opinion.

Last was the Royal Cheese, which had a major price jump to 4.65 euros.

Compared to the regular cheeseburger, it was certifiably heftier.

However, in spite of its lofty name, it mostly felt like a leveled-up version of an ordinary cheeseburger, with about three times more of everything, including toppings. Eating the regular Cheeseburger after this huge sandwich made Ikuna feel like she’d somehow fallen from grace, so she wouldn’t recommend doing that.

All in all, there was a lot to process at a Belgian McDonald’s, but after a few trips and trying different things, Ikuna got the gist. Though there were some different menu items that were definitely delicious, one thing was clear: Belgium may be the king of frites and a connoisseur of cheese, but McDonald’s maintains the same standards across oceans regardless.

Hmm…Is anyone else hungry now? Who wants to get some Okonomiyaki burgers from McDonald’s Japan? After all…when in Rome! (Or Brussels…or Tokyo.)

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