Antwerp cuisine understandably focuses on fish, presented with few frills in even the finest restaurants, often poached or steamed, and reasonably priced. From the chilled whelks and periwinkles (marine snails) picked out of their shells with pins, to piles of tender little grijze garnalen (small shrimp), to the steamy white flesh of the mammoth tarbot (turbot), the scent of salt air is never far from your table. The ubiquitous mosselen (mussels) and paling (eels), showcased in midpriced restaurants throughout the city center, provide a heavier, heartier version of local fish cuisine. Bought live from wholesalers, the seafood is irreproachably fresh.
Antwerp has a high number of restaurants for a city its size. Many of the traditional places, both formal and casual, are clustered in Oude Stad. There are plenty of tourist-focused restaurants on the Grote Markt, but if you look along the smaller streets around the square you'll find some excellent local favorites. Het Zuid, meanwhile, is known for trendier cafés and restaurants. Peak dining hours are generally from noon until 3 and from 8 pm to 11 or midnight. Since the dining scene is quite busy, it's best to make reservations.