Can't-Miss Dining Experiences in the Dutch Capital
By Christina Newberry
Photo: fruit and vegetables on display at a market
Eat your way through a market
For the obligatory herring and cheese, head to a local market. The Albert Cuyp Market is one of the most popular, but you’ll find neighborhood markets throughout town.
Come hungry because you’ll also want to try the mini-pancakes known as poffertjes, a fresh and gooey sweet stroopwafel, a cone of frites with satay sauce and onions, and maybe even a smoked eel.
Try a modern take on Dutch home cooking
Many classic Dutch dishes are hearty winter fare that you’re more likely to find in a home kitchen than on a restaurant menu. Sure, Dutch families love their stamppot (mashed potatoes with sausage and kale), but it’s not often viewed as a meal for dining out.
You will, however, find a couple of standout spots taking inspiration from traditional recipes to serve up a modern take on Dutch dining that’s both delicious and date-night-worthy.
Wilde Zwijnen is two restaurants in one: a dining room and a more casual eetbar, where dishes are smaller and meant for sharing. The latter is a wonderful place to settle in for an evening of beet bitterballen, fresh local fish, or whatever else is in season.
De Kas is another great choice, tucked in a lovely greenhouse in Park Frankendael. They grow their own food onsite and on a farm in the Beemster area of the Netherlands. The fixed-price menu changes regularly to feature the freshest ingredients in every season.
Test your stomach’s limits with rijsttafel
The Netherlands’ colonial history is complicated, but it left the country with a rich food culture and a uniquely delicious dining option: rijsttafel.
Literally meaning “rice table,” it’s a set-menu feast of very small Indonesian dishes for sharing among two or more people. The dishes range from spicy vegetables to satay skewers to salads to rich curries, all served with a generous portion of white and yellow rice.
Sampurna, near the flower market, has been serving satisfying rijsttafel for more than 25 years and is a solid bet in a very central location. For a more modern version, head west to the high-ceilinged Restaurant Blauw near Vondelpark for top-notch service. Or, for a gentle introduction to rijsttafel for those who may not love spice, try Mama Makan, a beautiful room where the multi-course meal ends with a flavor explosion of tropical fruit and sorbet.
Join locals in line for a top-notch roti roll
Surinamese food is also woven into the Dutch culture through colonial ties. Rather than a sit-down feast, Surinamese dishes are often served as quick takeaways in the form of a sandwich (broodje) or flatbread roll (roti) packed with flavorful meat, potatoes and vegetables.
For arguably the best roti roll in town, head to Roopram Roti in Amsterdam East, where you’ll have to wait in line to order at the counter. If you don’t want to scarf down your roll under the fluorescent lights, head around the corner to Oosterpark for a picnic. During the summer, you might come across a free outdoor concert or festival to go with your meal.
If you walk away from your dining experience wanting to know more about the Netherlands’ colonial past in Indonesia and Surinam, the Tropen Museum offers a good overview that doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of this legacy.
Taste your way through town on a food tour
If you’re short on time or just looking for a good introduction to Dutch food from a knowledgeable local, a food tour can be a great bet. Eating Amsterdam Food Tours (part of Eating Europe) offers tours through Amsterdam’s various neighborhoods allowing you to sample several different foods while also learning about the city.
For the most immersive Amsterdam experience, try their Amsterdam Food and Canals tour, which starts with poffertjes in a 110-year-old Amsterdam café, winds its way through a dozen local food and drink stops, and ends with wine and cheese on a classic boat as you navigate the city’s canals.