Belgium's new 'frites' stands more than just a chip off the old block

Belgium's new 'frites' stands more than just a chip off the old block

BRUSSELS - AFP
Belgiums new frites stands more than just a chip off the old block

In Belgium, where hot, salty chips smeared with mayonnaise are a national institution, tampering with traditional "frites" sounds like a recipe for trouble. But the capital Brussels is giving a futuristic makeover to some of the official stalls where the famous potato delicacies are sold to eager locals and tourists.

Eight nondescript "fritkots" owned by city authorities will be decked out with dazzling mirrored facades and special lighting.

City planners and operators alike say the upgrade will make the stalls, which are due to reopen in late 2019, as memorably Belgian as the food they sell.

"Without frites Belgium doesn't exist," said fritkot operator Vuistema Kemal, whose stall in central Brussels is one of those being upgraded. He said that chips "represent Belgium around the world."

Brussels planners launched a competition last year to find a new design for what they call the "Fritkots of the Future."

"We thought 'and what if we give a model?' a model that is identifiable just like the telephone booths of London," said Marion Lemesre, a senior economic affairs official for the city of Brussels.

The issue is a serious one in Belgium, whose claim of inventing "frites" is disputed by its bigger neighbor France.

While all the stands will have the mirrored facade and lighting effect, each revamped fritkot is to have two colors unique to the location. One color will be used for the sign on top of the fritkot, and the other will be for the interior tiling.

Brussels has dozens of privately owned and operated fritkots too, but only locations owned by the city of Brussels are set for remodeling, including the fritkot outside the Atomium museum, a key tourist draw, as well as Place de la Chapelle, near the city's famed antiques market.

The city will also finance the creation of two new fritkot locations, one of which will be placed at another popular historic landmark, Mont des Arts, in the city center.

Brussels, frites, fritkot