As the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is the country’s biggest city. The old city of canals, bridges, and distinctive architecture has enamored tourists for ages. With its amazing nightlife and easy-going drugs laws, Amsterdam has been a top European tourist destination for ages. The city truly is a place where there is a little something for everyone. Party’s go until late at night, the museums are rich and plentiful, and the history is displayed on every corner, so no matter where your itinerary takes you, you’ll have something to see and discover.
From the 12th to the 17th century, Amsterdam experienced a golden age and along with many other European powers of the era, took to the high seas to establish colonies. Bringing back spices and then eventually immigrants from around Asia, especially from the Dutch East Indies, left a mark on the food culture of the country, and especially on Amsterdam. In the 21st century, Amsterdam finds itself at a culinary crossroads with traditional Dutch foods still widely eaten, but international influences from former colonies and elsewhere taking a wider approach on what is even considered modern “Dutch” food. If you’re traveling through the city and you’re looking to indulge in the cuisine of the city, check out these great places and things to eat in Amsterdam.
When it comes to beer, the Dutch know what they’re doing. Along with their neighbors, the Belgians, and the Germans, the Dutch have a strong tradition of beer brewing. Heineken is likely the most popular Dutch beer known worldwide along with Grolsch. One’s preferred beer of choice generally depends on where one lives. Heineken is popular in the West, while Grolsch is more popular in the East. Alfa and Bavaria typically are favored in the southern parts of the country.
But, Oedipus Brewing takes the traditional stuffiness out of macro breweries and brings something both hip, cool, and new to the table. Located in Northern Amsterdam, Oedipus Brewing is a small independent brewery getting on on the craft beer scene of the city. The types of beer served here is a wide variety with alternating and seasonal changes so there’s always something new to try. The atmosphere here leans on the younger side with students and young professionals enjoying the terrasse in the summer months or the decked-out and colorful interior. Oedipus Brewing is not all about the beer. From Thursday to Sunday, local burger connoisseur Beef Chief sets up their food truck outside so you can get one of Amsterdam’s best burgers while you sip on some of Amsterdam’s best craft beer,
When your country is essentially surrounded by water, you learn that seafood becomes pretty ubiquitous. Sitting on the north bank of the River IJ, Café-Restaurant Stork is quickly becoming one of the hottest seafood spots in the city and it’s not only because the views from the dining room are stellar. Pull up a spot on the seaside terrace in the summer and enjoy a snack or light meals of fresh shrimp croquettes or order up a fresh bottle of white wine and indulge in their fruit de mer deluxe plate. The menu also covers the gamut of grilled fish, fresh-caught lobster, and a variety of fish and seafood soups. Café-Restaurant Stork also commits to responsible fishing and sustainable catching and eating seasons.
Like the dirty water hot dog is to New Yorkers, sometimes the lowest-tier of food warms the soul the most. FEBO (pronounced like Fay-bo) is a chain of fast-food snack bars commonly found around the country. Amsterdam has 22 of them. The concept of a FEBO is sort of like buying food from a snack machine. But instead of the food being prepackaged, it’s served fresh. You simply insert your money in the coin slot, open the little door, and there you go.
The FEBO is a Dutch tradition, and make no mistake, no trip to FEBO is complete if you haven’t consumed some degree of alcohol beforehand. The food here is cheap and basic with popular items such as the grill burger which is a burger topped with a sauce, lettuce, and onions, and the Frikadel, which is a breaded sausage with spices that looks more like a present your dog might leave for you. But there’s always more, so expand your horizons a little and indulge in a Bami, which is an Indonesian-inspired deep-fried square of noodles, veggies, and spices or the varieties of croquettes, including beef, saté, and veal.
When you’re a little inebriated and everything costs between €1.50-2.00. Try them all and don’t be picky.
Keeping in competition with the Belgians for the best fries, the Dutch variety of fries is quintessential snacking when you’re out and about in Amsterdam. Usually called “patat” or “frites” on the menu, Dutch fries are thick cut and served piping hot in a paper cone, then topped with a variety of sauces and toppings. You’ll inevitably see some spots around town so who’s got the best?
Grizzl: Grizzl prides itself on the freshness of its potatoes. Picked straight from the land, cut up (with the skin on), and fried immediately, you won’t find fresher fires anywhere else. Grizzl also commits itself to sustainable suppliers. Located in Amsterdam South, hit up these masters of the potato arts and indulge in their thick and creamy mayonnaise for dipping.
Vleminckx de Sausmeester: It doesn’t matter if you can’t pronounce the name, this little shop in central Amsterdam has been around since the 1950s. The shop is little more than just a counter facing the street and people line up around the block to get their hands on their stuff. So why are they so popular? Vleminckx de Sausmeester is the undisputed sauce boss of the fries world. With a variety of over 25 different sauce options, you’ll have to keep coming back to try as many of them as you can.
Fabel Friet: Fabel Friet is the hottest and newest fries spot in the city and while other places lean a little more on the fast-food side of things, Fabel Friet tries to elevate the Dutch fries experience. The upscale-looking snack bar sources their potatoes straight from farms in Zeeland and their mayo is thick and homemade. Top your fries with fresh parmesan and truffles if you’re feeling fancy or if you’re not in the mood for fries, pick up a few croquettes.
Manneken Pis: You’ll spot the crowd lining up at Manneken Pis from a mile away. Bringing more traditionally Belgian fries to Amsterdam, Manneken Pis gets their potatoes locally as well. Then they’re chopped on-site and cooked right there, so it’s all as fresh as possible. They have over 20 different types of sauces to choose from along with a “weed sauce” if you’re feeling adventurous. Manneken Pis is also open late so if you don’t feel like hitting up the FEBO after a night out, try heading to Manneken Pis in Central Amsterdam.
Fromagerie Abraham Kef
Cheese is a big deal in the Netherlands. No visit to a shop or market is complete without buying or at least sampling some fine Dutch cheeses. The Fromagerie Abraham Kef is an experience for the cheese lovers out there who are looking to try something new, or old and sample some fine wines to go along with it. The store has been around since the 1950s and has always been one of the best and most prolific cheesemongers in the city. It was only recently in 2014 that the store expanded to include a dining room.
Located in the city center Moeders is all about two things. Stammpots and moms. The Dutch meal of the stammpot is usually a winter dish consisting of mashed potatoes, vegetables, onions, sauerkraut, and a big juicy sausage served along with it. It’s a hearty meal made to fill you up for long and fulfills the soul as much as it fills your stomach. It’s the most traditional of traditional Dutch meals.
The story behind Moeders starts in 1990 when the owner of the restaurant asks guests to bring in plates, glasses, and cutlery to the opening. All the wine glasses, mismatched plates, and old wooden tables still exist and add the weird and quirky charm of the central Amsterdam eatery. The walls are adorned with pictures of people’s mothers (“moeders” meaning “mothers” in Dutch) that customers have brought in over the years. The atmosphere is meant to resemble a home-cooked traditional meal from your mom’s house. The options are plentiful and the portions are huge, so you won’t walk away hungry. Much like when you actually visit your mom’s house.
Indonesian flavors and restaurants have been popping up all around Amsterdam for years. The former Dutch colony brought on large swaths of immigrants to the Netherlands and with them came the food and culinary traditions of the homeland. The name translates to “blue” but the restaurant is anything but. Stylish reds, whites, and black features give the space a unique feeling of design while the large family portrait on the wall reminds you that the restaurant is the life’s work of this Indonesian immigrant family.
Blauw excels at the Dutch rijsttafel, or “rice table”. A concept taken from Indonesian cuisine consisting of a small medley of several dishes. Dutch colonists in Indonesia wanted to sample different spice flavors and pallets from across the country and the concept of “sample” stuck. In fact, the rijsttafel is more Dutch than it is Indonesian. Nevertheless, Blauw is a powerhouse of smells, spices, and flavors from around the islands.
As the Beastie Boys once said; “Sometimes I like to brag, sometimes I’m soft-spoken. When I’m in Holland I eat the pannenkoeken”. Dutch pancakes or pannenkoeken are thin, crepe-like, and have a larger surface area than traditional pancakes. They are also often topped with savory toppings and not always just sweet ones.
Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs is as quintessentially Dutch as it gets. Located on the edge of the Red Light District, Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs is located in a tiny spot in a 16th-century house. The only access to the restaurant is up a very narrow staircase and once you’re up there you’ll notice the kitschy teapots decorating the space. The atmosphere is charming and there are only 4 tables available at a time. The menu consists solely of pannenkoeken. Try out savory flavors like bacon, cheese, and apple, or if you want to satiate your sweet tooth the “Bali” has banana, coconut cream, and Pisang Ambon Dutch liqueur.
When it comes to being a vegetarian, Dutch food traditionally doesn’t serve you very well. Meat, cheese, and dairy are staples but Meatless District aims to bring the best vegetarian food to the people of Amsterdam. Meatless District is a modern and cool place that resembles the city in more ways than one. With new and Avant guard dishes and cuisines popping up all the time, people more than ever are into eating meatless.
The vibe here is cozy and modern with an international selection of dishes spanning all continents. They’re open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, and focus on 100% plant-based ingredients. Not only that but their cocktail menu rivals any bar and they are dog-friendly so if you’re a local don’t be afraid to swing by with your pet.
Our Final Word
As I have stated in previous blog entries, in my younger days, the only thing I knew of Amsterdam was the red-light district. And no, I never went. In fact, in those days I had never left my home state. Then as I got a bit older, it was that in Amsterdam drugs were legal. As I got even older and started to travel more and more, I learned more about the history of the city, the architecture and the museums. Amsterdam in reality is all of that, and more. It has become quite a foodie destination with some great places to eat. The Dutch, with influences from around the world, have some incredible dishes. And while you are trying out some of their food, you can take in a world-class museum and look at some incredible architecture.
And as far as the red-light district? That is up to you.
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