Amsterdam Dining

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Amsterdam Dining
Keeping traditional Dutch food alive in a city with such a diversity of cultures and cuisines can be a challenge. But in Amsterdam, Dutch and ethnic food coexist effortlessly, and you rarely come across a bad meal—although service can be hit-or-miss.
Photo courtesy of Venkel
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    A Friendly Coffee Scene
    In some cities it can be a challenge to find unique, friendly cafés that locals frequent, but Amsterdam has always bucked this trend. With the city's large population of students and young professionals, there's no shortage of places where you can hang out, drink good coffee, and eat a fresh meal. The Jordaan teems with lovely spots that have small gardens and terraces, some attached to independent art galleries as a bonus. In De Pijp around the Albert Cuypmarkt, you can also find a great selection of cafés, including Venkel, which serves organic dishes from the market.
    Photo courtesy of Venkel
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    Fine Dining
    Amsterdam shed its reputation for stodgy meat-and-potatoes meals long ago. Today the city's fine-dining scene contends with restaurants in Paris and New York. Most luxury hotels have their own restaurants headed by highly regarded chefs. For fine French dining, try Vinkeles at the Dylan Hotel, and for modern Asian fusion, head to MOMO at the Park Hotel. They both serve contemporary cuisine and cocktails and are places to see and be seen at. For a memorable dining experience, book a private canal cruise with a four-course meal (just be sure to choose a company with food that's as good as the ambiance).
    Photo courtesy of Amsterdam Marketing
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    Explore Local Beers
    Belgium may be better known for its beers than the Netherlands, but Amsterdam, aside from the famous Heineken, has a superb selection of local brews, from crisp Pilsners to refreshing blondes and warming dark ales. To learn more about them, sign up for a brewery tour. Brouwerij 't IJ runs small-group tours that include a beer at the end. Located at the foot of a windmill in the Eastern Docklands, the small brewery has a beautiful terrace. Tours are also offered at Brouwerij de Prael, a microbrewery in a 17th-century canal house in the heart of Amsterdam's Red Light District. If you're visiting in October, the PINT Bokbier Festival offers a chance to try award-winning local beers and is held in Beurs van Berlage, the former stock exchange.
    Photo by Olaf Speier/age fotostock
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    Spring Herring
    It may not be to everyone’s taste, but spring herring, or Hollandse Nieuwe, is serious business in the Netherlands. The fishing season is just six weeks long, so good catches are something to celebrate. The first barrel is auctioned each spring and can fetch more than $100,000, which is donated to charity. This Dutch delicacy isn't cooked; instead it's soaked in a mild preserving liquid and served with chopped raw onions or pickles. You often finish with a shot of genever, a juniper-flavored gin. Herring stalls can be found all over Amsterdam. The traditional way to eat the herring is to hold it up by the tail, tip your head back, and slurp it down. Don't worry, you can also spear it with a little pick adorned with a Dutch flag.
    Photo by David Kosmos Smith
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    Traditional Street Eats
    Snacks in central Amsterdam can look like those in any other major city at first glance. But if you know where to look or ask a local, you’ll discover that some of the most delicious options come from the city's street stalls. The Albert Cuypmarkt has a fantastic selection of street food in one place; head to the stalls with the longest lines. Start with bitterballen (crusted, fried ragu, shaped like meatballs and served with hot mustard), krokets (croquettes), or patat (fries) with special mayonnaise sauce, and follow with a dessert of warm stroopwafel (syrup-filled waffles) or poffertjes (small pancakes dusted with powdered sugar).
    Photo by Round the World Arnette
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    A Taste of the Colonies
    Thanks to Amsterdam's mix of cultures, it’s easy to find just about any type of cuisine in the city. If you can only try two, go for Indonesian and Surinamese food. The Dutch colonized Indonesia for 300 years, so it's not surprising that Indonesian food in Amsterdam—from takeout to fine dining—is about as good as it gets. Utrechtsestraat has a few Indonesian restaurants where you can find rijsttafel, an assortment of small dishes to share. Surinamese food is usually served in a more diner-like atmosphere and can be found around the Albert Cuypmarkt in De Pijp. West Indian curry with flaky roti is the specialty in these cafés.
    Photo by Michael Adubato
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    Going Dutch
    Homestyle Dutch food is warming, hearty, and back on many menus after a longtime focus on Asian and fusion cuisine. Today the revival of grandma’s kitchen is in full swing, with such dishes as stamppot (mashed potatoes and vegetables served with sausage) and snert (split-pea soup) popping up in restaurants across town. Moeders, a Dutch food institution on Rozengracht whose name means "mothers," draws a diverse clientele with its home cooking. You’ll also find many traditional dishes in the Jordaan district's independent cafés. For a more upscale Dutch meal with a twist, De Kas is a converted hot house where food is grown on one side and served on the other.
    Photo courtesy of Moeders
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    Say Cheese
    Amsterdam is a top destination for cheese aficionados. Specialty shops and delicatessens sell countless varieties, many of which you've probably never heard of. Nettle, cumin, mustard seed, and just about any other herb and spice are often added to take wheels and blocks of cheese to the next level. For the most dedicated foodies, Reypenaer Cheese Tasting Room offers the opportunity to learn how to evaluate the various qualities of cheese. Afterward, head to De Kaaskamer (The Cheese Room) in the Negen Straatjes or the national chain store Kaashuis Tromp to stock up on your favorite types.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Historic Caf├ęs
    Cafés are one of Amsterdam’s cultural hallmarks. Away from the Irish pubs and the overpriced tourist joints on Damrak and Leidseplein, you can find local cafés that have served coffee, meals, and beer to the city's inhabitants for centuries. Many are bruine cafés that are basically pubs named for their dark interiors, the result of years of smoke accumulation. This may not sound appealing at first, but if you stop by one to warm up in the winter or to people-watch outside in the summer, you’ll see why Amsterdammers love them. Try Hofje van Wijs, on Zeedijk close to Nieuwmarkt, where coffee beans have been roasted since 1792, or the crooked Café de Sluyswacht, built in 1695, opposite the Rembrandthuis.
    Photo by Bjorn Svensson/age fotostock
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    Cocktail Hour
    Though considered more of a beer city, Amsterdam is also home to great cocktail bars. On weekdays they fill up with the after-work crowd, and on weekends they're open into the wee hours. The Jordaan district has lots of bars; one standout is the James Bond-themed Vesper, which serves up fun and trendy cocktails. For a unique experience, try the ultra-hip, speakeasy-style Door 74. Purposefully hard to find, the bar's attentive staff and inventive cocktails make it worth the effort to track down. Same-day reservations are accepted via a special phone number on Door 74's website. If you want a grand view to go with a classy drink, make your way to Twenty Third Bar in Hotel Okura Amsterdam or SkyLounge Amsterdam at the DoubleTree by Hilton.
    Photo courtesy of Vesper