Friterie Maison Antoine: more modern but will still be in Place Jourdan

A Belgian institution, “La Friterie Maison Antoine”  is being transformed.  

It will move into a new shop from its present wooden “frying hut “ in the middle of the Place Jourdan in Etterbeek, one of the 19 municipalities of  the capital of Belgium. The new building  is still under construction on one  of the sides of the square.  In between, Maison Antoine will operate from a “foodtruck”.

After a series of meetings at the Municipality of Etterbeek with  people living and working in the area, and lots of ‘impromptu’ interviews with  those who regularly use the square for shopping or lunching, the Municipality has decided that Place Jourdan will be completely transformed: the parking in the centre of the square will disappear and the pedestrian area will be enlarged so as to have more space for people to walk and sit around, sipping beers and other.

However, there will be a “victim”: the hut of  “La Friterie Maison Antoine”.

The “historic” “frying den” , one of the most famous in Brussels, will then become a modern shop with a modernised frying area more in line with the stringent regulations demanded by Belgian health authorities .

For many supporters of the ancient establishment, it will not be the same thing even if the “frites” wrapped in a paper cone and topped by all sorts of “sauces” will still be delivered in healthier surroundings.

Among the “famous” who graced “Maison Antoine” of their presence, the most recent one was the German Chancellor Angela  Merkel. While attending one of the interminable European Councils for European Heads of State and Government, Angela got hungry and decided (why not?) to go down the road to Place Jourdan to Maison Antoine to buy a “cone” of “frites”.  In the deserted Rue Froissart, blocked to all other human beings apart police and soldiers,  one could have seen a small group of people, bodyguards and all, reaching the “hut” of M. Antoine and “not” queueing. The order had been probably done by phone. Somebody took a photo of Angela with her “frites” looking a bit surprised at all the interest caused by her presence!

Among other famous customers of Maison Antoine we can mention the rock “glory” Mick Jagger, and the Belgian “chansonnier” Johnny Halliday. “Maison Antoine” is an institution that will somewhat disappear but will re-appear a few months later when the new building,  the property of “la Regie des Batimens”  will be ready.

When the “hut” in the square was still open (now it has been closed waiting for the completion of the building works),  one could tell the popularity of the shop by counting the number of people in the long queue on the pavement, while the smell of frying pans wafted through the square.  A gigantic “cone pour frites”  towered nearby, to indicate to the prospective shoppers “where” the famous Antoine was situated.

It was so famous that even the prestigious American newspaper “The New York Times” wrote an article about it with the title “The best French fries in the world”.  Not all the Belgians agree: many consider it overrated and too expensive, but the reputation of the “fritkot” will not be tarnished by a few critics.

Launched in 1948 by Antoine Desmet and his wife when they became too tired of moving from one fair to another around Belgium, “La Friterie Antoine” has been gaining popularity every day. It started with reduced opening times (two hours in the morning and two in the evening) then the whole family (including their three children) where involved in working there for longer hours for most part of the day and a good amount of hours at night (closure was at midnight  but when the queues were too long to be exhausted in the short period of the “official” opening times they went on ….frying).

Now it is the third generation of the Desmets who are managing the “Friterie”. It will be them who will have to move from the old “Antoine” from the present “hut” into a building owned by the “Regie des Batiments”, the property office of the Etterbeek Municipality. For Etterbeek, “it will be a considerable improvement” they say at  the office of the Bourgmestre Vincent De Wolf .

The present building of “Antoine” is also he property of the Municipality. After a few months in the “foodtruck”, they will move at the beginning of Autumn into the modern shop across the road where there will be also a roof to shield the queues from the rain. The friterie will then have a new look, more space around and even a special window where they can leave their request and take refuge in a bar waiting for their “frites” to be delivered…. sipping beer, of course.