Amsterdam is not known as a foodie destination. Which is a shame, since it has everything a gourmand might want. Most foreigners don't even know what Dutch cuisine is — perhaps something involving raw herring on toast?
Which is their loss really. After spending a week in Amsterdam, I am happy to report that there is something delicious for every taste and budget. Here are some of the best stuff that I ate while I was there.
Although "Belgian Fries" come from their neighbor to the south, vlaamse frites are a quenticentially Dutch treat that you will find all over the country. There are no lack of vlaamse frites stands all over the place, but perhaps the best in Amsterdam is in the downtown shopping district in a tiny alley at Voetboogstraat 33.
The place is obviously a tourist destination at this point. But you find just as many locals on line for their only dish, fries in a paper cone. You have a wide variety of sauces to choose from. My favorite is the "war sauce," which is a combination of peanut satay sauce and mayonnaise, with raw onions sprinkled on top.
It's perhaps the best helping of fries you will ever have.
The Dutch have a well developed sweet tooth, and the town is rife with bakeries, ice cream shops, and candy purveyors.
Salty Dutch licorice is … an acquired taste. I enjoy it, but not everyone's cup of tea. Better to move on to their many fine baked goods.
Most understandably popular are Dutch stroopwafel (and their cousin the stroopkoeken), little tiny waffle sandwiches with hard syrup in between them. They are best enjoyed fresh and hot from a street vendor. But here is a video of the second best way to enjoy them.
My friend Maria pointed me to this awesome little ice cream shop on Prinsengracht near Elandgracht called het Ijscuypje. They have a fine selection of rich and vibrant flavors, from hazelnut to pistachio to various fruit.
But my all time favorite Dutch treat is appeltaart (apple pie), which you can find in most every cafe in the city. But unless you know a Dutch gramma who can make you her own recipe, the best place to get a slice is at Cafe Winkel 43 in Noordermarkt. I recommend getting it with the whipped cream and their fine mint tea.
I was there on a beautiful sunny day. Sitting outside, enjoying a slice of appeltaart with a bunch of sunbathing locals was an fantastic way to spend the afternoon.
The Dutch have a number of Germanic influences, favoring potatoes, root vegetables, sausages and preserved meats, and hard cheeses. It's not particularly delicate or refined, but it is tasty and hearty.
(Side note: In my home country of the Philippines, the only cheese we know of has historically been Dutch edam cheese. I presume that's the legacy of the Dutch trading company on our islands.)
To sample Dutch cooking, I recommend going to a ridiculously quaint little spot called "Moeders" ("Mothers") on Rozengracht. True to their name, this is a place to find home-style Dutch comfort food.
It's worth going just for the decor. The walls are decorated with seemingly thousands of tiny pictures of mothers of their patrons from over the years. The miss-matched dishes and cutlery look like they were stolen from a hundred Dutch kitchens.
I had the "hotchpotch," a hearty dish of mashed potatoes with sauerkraut, a large link of sausage, a giant meatball, and mound of bacon, and a rich gravy for pouring and dipping everything in.
Their three course meal is a great deal, including a starter, main course and dessert for 20-30 euros. Just don't plan on doing much afterwards.
Holland has a rich tradition of welcoming people of various cultures to their small country. Ethiopian, Turkish, Mexican, and Thai food is easy to find. Most notable though is the wide proliferation of Indonesian food all over town, a legacy of Holland's colonial past.
Indonesian food is so common that rijstafel, the traditional Indonesian combo plate, has been called the Dutch national dish. There are wonderful Indonesian places all over town. I went to Long Pura on Rozengracht, which has attentive service, authentic decor, and three different versions of rijstafel.
My order included chicken satay on skewers, beef rendang, pork in a sweet soy-based sauce, chicken in a curry sauce, veggies, shrimp crackers and fragrant rice.
There are of course a number of American fast food places around town, from McDonalds to Pizza Hut. Try and avoid the temptation. But if you must have American food, I recommend Burgermeester on Elandgracht. It's perhaps the best burger you will have on the continent.
Fair warning: the burgers are huge. When I went there, two other Americans were digging into the "regular" burger, while all the dutch people I saw were ordering the minis. I should have heeded the locals. For just 10 euros you can get three minis, choosing from their "royale" (with eggs, truffle oil, and pancetta), duck burger, fishburger, mushroom burger, and many more varieties.
Sadly, they did not have vlaamse frites on the menu. Which is just as well, cause I would have had to order some, and that would have sent me into a serious food coma.
The other very Dutch fast food variant is the automat. "Febo" is the dominant chain, but there are others you will see open at all hours of the day or night. They all feature the same things, an assortment of fried and greasy food for one or two euro that you buy by putting the coins in a slot and opening the corresponding window. Their main advantage is that they are cheap and open all night, so best enjoyed after a night of drinking when you get the munchies.
I prefer getting a "pizza" from one of the many Middle Eastern spots you find all over the city. Typically around seven euro, these pizzas are basically large pita bread that are piled up with veggies, lamb or chicken meat, and a yogurt sauce and hot sauce. Very tasty and very filling.
Anyway, this is just what I encountered. A bit of research and hobnobbing with locals should be enough for anyone to have lots of great meals in Amsterdam. Good eating!