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NYC's Belgian restaurants take in soccer rush

Customers entering Belgian restaurant Petite Abeille's 20th Street New York City location probably won't take long to decide where to sit during Tuesday evening's Belgium-United States World Cup game.

On one side of the bar, American flags hang over a group of tables in sight of a TV. On the other side, Belgian flags drape benches and rafters, also in good viewing space.

Co-owner and dual Belgian-American citizen Christophe Jadot expects customers to fill both sides, and even his family will be divided during the game.

"My wife is American, and we'll be sitting on opposite sides of the bar," Jadot said.

Belgium fans gather at Petite Abeille on 20th Street in Manhattan to watch the FIFA World Cup.
Jacob Pramuk | CNBC
Belgium fans gather at Petite Abeille on 20th Street in Manhattan to watch the FIFA World Cup.

The World Cup has boosted business at the restaurant's 20th Street location throughout the tournament, but the Belgium-U.S. pairing should yield a "crazy" turnout, Jadot said. The restaurant's Belgian roots—combined with the fervor surrounding the U.S. advancing to the knockout stage of the tournament—should yield huge crowds.

Petite Abeille hasn't rolled out many promotions or specials ahead of the game. Throughout the World Cup, the restaurant has offered $4 Stella Artois beers even when Belgium isn't playing. But Belgium fans at Petite Abeille on Tuesday said it draws Belgians in the area for the country's games, regardless.

"It's the place to come if you're Belgian," said Wendy Laurent, who came to the restaurant in a red, yellow and black Belgium jersey and hat around noon on Tuesday.

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Laurent, who is originally from the U.S., absorbed enthusiasm for the Belgian team from her husband Michel Laurent, who grew up in Belgium and has known Jadot for about 20 years.

Her husband sent her a text with a picture showing draped Belgian flags over most of the windows of their house, leaving one for an American flag.

"We don't know what flag is coming down yet," she said.

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They came to Petite Abeille about four hours ahead of the game's 4 p.m. start time, and said they expected to stay through its entirety. Michel showed up in a jersey, bringing along sunglasses and a wig in Belgian colors.

Jadot couldn't immediately provide figures for the restaurant's sales during World Cup games, but said that he has seen business increase during games. One part of Tuesday's possible crowd, the group of eight that was expected to join the Laurents on the Belgian side, would probably spend "a couple hundred dollars" there, Wendy Laurent said.

A smaller Petite Abeille location on 17th Street didn't see as much World Cup business as the 20th Street location, the restaurant's manager Jorge Valdon said. The branch has actually drawn more crowds for United States games than Belgium games, he added.

Valdon mentioned the restaurant was attempting to promote one of its standard menu items ahead of the game—Belgian waffles topped with berries to take on the appearance of both the U.S. and Belgian flags.

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For the U.S. flag, a pocket of blueberries sits in a corner, with horizontal red and white stripes made with raspberries and whipped cream. The Belgian flag is made with three vertical stripes of blackberries, mango and strawberries.

Despite dual citizenship, Jadot said he supports the red, yellow and black of Belgium, as he grew up there. From a business perspective, though, an American win wouldn't hurt either.

"If the U.S. wins, it's good for us because it's good for business," Jadot said.

— By Jacob Pramuk, Special to CNBC.com

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