The saying goes that you can ‘eat in any language’ in Amsterdam. You’ll find authentic restaurants from all over the world – Indian, Turkish, Chinese, Mexican, Greek, Italian, African, Japanese, and so on.
If you look close hard enough you’ll even find some place that serve Dutch food, but the city is home to people from more than 170 different people groups, and it looks like they each brought their own cuisine.
The Dutch themselves enjoy an international cuisine not just at home, but certainly when they’re out on the town. Authentic Dutch food is largely relegated to the so-called “Tourist Menus” you see in restaurants that, well, cater to tourists.
There are good restaurants all over town, with a particularly high concentration in the streets around Leidseplein – one of the Amsterdam’s main squares, and one of the Amsterdam’s main centers of nightlife.
As always, the best way to find a good restaurant is to ask the locals for their favorite spots.
Facts About Dining In Amsterdam
- The Dutch eat early in the evening – between 6 and 9pm, so kitchens tend to close by 10 or 11pm.
- A good alternative (hint, hint) to the ‘Tourist Menu’ is the Dagschotel (Daily Special).
- Another BIG HINT: If they place appears to be full of tourists (e.g. because it is right along the main tourist drag) try something different.
- Many cafés serve food, ranging from a selection of toasted ham & cheese sandwiches to full-blown meals. Generally, an “Eetcafe” (eatery) offers the best value.
- Many smaller restaurants – and even a good number of larger establishments – don’t take credit cards.
- Don’t be in a hurry. Most restaurants cook your food to order, using fresh ingredients.
By law, tax and tips are included in your bill. You don’t have to leave an extra tip, but most people round up to the next Euro or leave something extra anyway. Then again, leaving a bigger tip – in reward for good service – can really make someone’s day. And doing so does make you feel good as well, doesn’t it?
The Dutch eat lots and lots of patat or frieten (french fries) – usually with a large dollop of mayonnaise (frites sauce, actually – a slightly more tangy variety of mayo).
You can get ketchup, of course, but you ought to at least give saté sauce a try. This is a warm, spiced peanut butter sauce usually associated with Indonesian dishes (such as Rijsttafel). If you’d like a spicier version, some places will also give you a small bag of sambal oelek to mix through the saté. Well-recommended, but do try a small amount first.
Fair warning: If you’ve been raised on McDonald’s fries, and would like to continue enjoying your ‘Happy Meals,’ do yourself a favor and don’t eat a single serving of Vlaamse Frieten or Vlaamse Patat. This is the Belgian (well, Flemish) variety of french fries. Once you eat them, there’s no way back…
That said, Amsterdam does sport a number of standard favorites, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. But remember, you’re on vacation. You might as well try something new.
Really want a burger? You need to make your way to Pllek — a creative hang-out that is probably unlike any other restaurant you’ve seen. Take the free NDSM ferry behind Central Station, and turn right. Pllek is inside that collection of shipping containers near the water. Just trust us on this: go inside, buy a burger, and contemplate moving to Amsterdam.
Throughout the city you will see so-called ‘snack bars,’ many of which include coin-operated vending machines. On offer are various fried snacks – meat rolls, croquettes (spiced ragout in a crusty roll), hamburgers, and bami (noodles) and nasi (spiced rice) balls. If they are freshly made, they make for nice snacks. But if they sit for too long they go limp and become inedible.
Therefore, if you’re going to try a snack from the automaat, look for a place with a high turnover (e.g. a franchise outfit called FEBO). There – and at some bakeries downtown – you can opt to order a Van Dobben croquette. Have one, and that will be the standard by which you will measure all other croquettes.
Broodjes are sandwiches. Look before you buy. Some are overpriced and of mediocre quality at best. Others, such as those served at – of all places – the V&D warehouses, are excellent. Many cafes serve excellent sandwiches.
Avoid Subway (vacation!). If you find yourself near Central Station, take the free IJplein ferry behind the station to IJplein and enjoy a fantastic (and inexpensive) hot or cold sandwich at Italian coffee kiok Al Ponte.
Lots of international snacks are available all over town – from Turkish pizzas to Vietnamese deep-fried vegetable ‘spring’ rolls. If you see a place called ‘Maoz‘ do try a falafel. They’re excellent!