Cheap Eats in Amsterdam
Amsterdam can be an expensive town for dining out. But as in all major cities, there are ways to get around high restaurant prices. Albert Heijn grocery stores throughout the city have many choices in ready-made fare. Fast food options include all the usual chain suspects, plus a slew of shoarma and falafel options, and such uniquely Dutch fast-food options as FEBO and herring stands.
Zeedijk 4-8, 1012 AX Amsterdam, Netherlands
Skek describes itself as “loving, honest and curious.” Run by and for students (get 25% off with student ID), this eco-friendly café off Amsterdam’s Red Light District serves no-frills, mostly organic snacks, meals and drinks. Portions are generous on lunch/dinner menus featuring Dutch classics like bitterballen and tosties, plus burgers, soups, salads and creative entrées that are great values even if you’re well past your student years. Fronted by a cozy living room and bar serving wine, beer and cocktails, Skek has no manager, maître d’, five-star chef or snooty sommelier. A staff of 30 students cooks, serves and entertains, learning the restaurant business as they go. Use of seasonal products means the menu changes frequently, with new creations showcased at Tasting Evenings featuring 10–15 previews of menu additions for €15. As Skek is both restaurant and talent showcase, young musicians perform four evenings a week. Open Mics, themed parties, game nights and pub quiz challenges are regularly scheduled. On the high walls of the dining room, young artists display papier mâché cows, abstract landscapes, arty portraits and other works. Don’t expect haute cuisine or five-star service at this mellow pub. What you’ll get is no-fuss food served with a side of talent that may include klezmer bands or singers belting out pop/hip-hop tunes. While their performances may bowl you over, the bill won’t, especially if you’re a student entitled to that deep discount.
Warmoesstraat 21, 1012 HT Amsterdam, Netherlands
This is not your everyday burger joint. From the outside, Burger Bar looks like a typical fast food dive, with a neon sign above a door leading into a narrow, brightly lit interior. Outside tables are likely to be packed with Amsterdammers and there might be a wait for a stool at the bar or one of a few tiny side tables. There’s no ambiance whatsoever, but when your order arrives, you’ll know why you came. For simple, quality food, from juicy burgers to chicken and portobello mushroom sandwiches, Burger Bar does not disappoint. Especially if you’re looking for a quick snack or meal at 4am. With three outlets in Amsterdam, this local favorite offers gourmet burgers in 200- or 270- gram sizes. For a few euros more than a Bic Mac, bite into a juicy patty made with 100% freshly ground Irish, prime aged U.S. Black Angus or Wagyu beef—pure Kobe deliciousness on a locally-baked sesame seed bun. Burgers are grilled as you watch and served with fresh lettuce, tomato, pickle and creamy sauce. Optional toppings include bacon, cheese, grilled onions or mushrooms, avocado, fried egg and/or jalapenos. A side of Belgian fries—crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, delectable with mayo, samurai sauce, blue cheese or other gooey toppings—completes your meal. The outlet on Reguliersbreestraat is a great spot to grab a meal before a movie at the Tuschinsky, around the corner. Others on Kolksteeg and Warmoesstraat fit the bill after the bars and everything else in town has closed.
94 WNKL Leidseplein
Any list of cheap eats in Amsterdam would be remiss if it didn’t include FEBO, the Dutch culinary tradition of eating from a wall of fast food vending machines. With 20+ outlets in Amsterdam, it’s easy to find a FEBO de Lekkerste (literally, FEBO the Tastiest). If it’s past midnight, chances are you’ll bump into a handful of Dutchies there, trying to inconspicuously grab a late night frikkandel (minced meat hot dog) or kroket. At the push of a button, out comes a hot snack for munching on while peddling home over cobblestone streets. No one knows exactly how long those mayo-laden burgers are allowed to sit there under heat lamps in FEBO windows. But no one seems to care, especially at 3:00 in the morning, after the bars and nightclubs have closed and there’s no other option for a before-bed snack.
Binnen Oranjestraat 14, 1013 JA Amsterdam, Netherlands
It was a late Saturday afternoon in Amsterdam. The sun was almost piercing and locals were joyous, thronging cafés and shedding layers. After all, they had suffered weeks of spring’s damp and gray homecoming. Knowing the extents to which I will go and the lengths I’m willing to travel for a good sandwich, my friends took me straight to Small World Catering whose unalloyed success keep the small space thrumming with customers at all hours of the day. Make your own sandwich or choose between a variety of warm or cold combinations on different types of bread (go with the brown!) proposed by the Australian owner and his convivial staff. And if you’re not in a sandwich kind of mood but find yourself in the neighborhood, the freshly-pressed juices, locally-roasted coffee, vibrant salads and delectable desserts should do the trick. If there aren’t any available seats - which is likely - take your meal to go and head for the canal.
Wijde Kerksteeg 5, 1012 GW Amsterdam, Netherlands
Just saying it like it is. Such is the case at High Snack, located in the center of Amsterdam. While not necessarily known for its culinary delights, Amsterdam accommodates tourists who suddenly (and not-so-mysteriously) get the munchies. High Snack is just one of the many places where tourists and locals alike can get a quick Dutch treat.
Singel, 1013 GA Amsterdam, Netherlands
Eating raw herring is a right of passage for many who visit Amsterdam. Order yours from the friendly Dutch matrons in blue and white-striped aprons at Stubbe’s Haaring, a herring stand with a view on the bridge over Singel Canal, just off Haarlemerstraat. For decades, this local institution has satisfied the fish cravings of Dutchies and visitors with lightly brined herring, smoked eel and other delicacies from the North Sea. Unless you want bragging rights, there’s no need to eat your buttery snack Dutch style, grabbing it by the tail, throwing your head back and lowering the fish whole into your gaping mouth. Most locals eat it in a less flashy way: cut up into small pieces, covered with onions and sweet pickles, topped with a Dutch flag. It’s served on a waxed paper plate, sans bread or cutlery. Use the flag-festooned toothpick to stab the soft, mild-flavored morsels and bring them to your mouth. For a more filling meal, order a broodje haring (herring sandwich) on a soft, white bun, filled with fish, pickles and onions. Eet smakelijk!
With its signature sandwich―a whole wheat or white pita pocket filled with crisp falafel balls, topped with a choice of 15 salads, plus sauces like red or green chili, tahini and garlic―Maoz has been satisfying hungry Amsterdammers since 1991. In 2006, it expanded into other European markets, as well as cities in the U.S. and Australia. It’s now a global brand throughout Europe and North America, known for healthy, filling and fast vegetarian food. Founded by an Israeli couple who emigrated to Amsterdam in the ‘90s, the chain emphasizes locally sourced ingredients for its freshly prepared fare. Gluten-free falafel are made from fresh chickpeas ground with herbs, vegetables and spices, shaped into balls and flash-fried in zero-trans fat vegetable oil. Like most legumes, chickpeas contain protein, fiber, vitamin B, antioxidants and iron. Add the health benefits of gluten-free and vegan salads like chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, marinated beets, pickled carrots, baby eggplant, chickpeas, tabbouleh, coleslaw and lightly fried broccoli and cauliflower, and you have a healthy, delicious Mediterranean meal at Maoz. Culled from the word for courage or strength, Maoz has locations on Leidsestraat, Muntplein and Damrak in Amsterdam. No-nonsense menus include Vlaamse Frites (Belgian-style French fries), sweet potato fries and fresh juices, in addition to vegetarian sandwich orders that come with unlimited trips to the salad bar―guaranteed to fill you up for about €6.
It may not look like much and there’s certainly no need to dress up. But despite its humble appearance on the posh Brouwersgracht, Swieti Sranang serves up some of the best—and most affordable—Indonesian and Surinamese food in town. Owned by Henk van de Weerd and Juliet Chang, the tiny hole-in-the-wall reflects Amsterdam‘s immigrant influences with Indonesian and Surinamese-inspired sandwiches, snacks, rice, roti and bami/nasi specialties. Swieti Sranang is the perfect source for casual lunch or dinner fixings. Pick up a few Indonesian sandwiches, a bag of banana or cassava chips, a few loempia and kip sate sticks, and you have the perfect ingredients for a canal-side picnic. All dishes are lovingly prepared by Chef Juliet, who was born in Indonesia and raised in Suriname. Most sandwiches and snacks are priced under €3, while main meals are €9 or less, making it easy for two to fill up for about €20. You can sample a few selections from the menu on the new Jordaan Food Tour, (http://www.eatingamsterdamtours.com/jordaan-food-tour/), offered Tuesday through Saturday, beginning at 11am.
Hannie Dankbaarpassage 47, 1053 RT Amsterdam, Netherlands
Inspired by the likes of Copenhagen‘s Torvehallerne, Madrid’s Mercado de San Miguel and London’s Borough Market, Amsterdam‘s Food Hallen has been a hit since its debut in October 2014. On weekends, the indoor food court is packed with locals and tourists looking for a choice of ethnic flavors and foods in a gezellig (if noisy) environment. In the maze of stalls, vendors proffer everything from Vietnamese street food to gourmet hot dogs, pizza, burgers and fresh-baked bakery items. Familiar names like The Butcher, Caulils, Wild Moa Pies, Bbrood, Pink Flamingo and Petit Gateau are represented alongside more foreign newcomers like Bulls and Dogs and Viet View. There’s something for everyone in the mix, at prices just above what a fast food meal will run you in Amsterdam. The food court is within De Hallen, a transformed tram depot now housing cafés, upscale restaurants, a public library, movie halls, eclectic businesses and a hotel. The €37.5 million multi-use project has given new life to an Oud-West landmark that had fallen into disrepair, while also contributing to gentrification of a multicultural pocket on the edge of Amsterdam’s historic canal ring. Eet smakelijk!
Before Salsa Shop opened in 2014, searching for a good taco in Amsterdam could be a doomed, Quixote-like quest. Despite ruling the spice trade in the 17th century, Dutchies apparently never developed a taste for fare with a bite, as traditional Dutch dishes are typically bland, with none of the piquant flavors found in Mexican favorites. That may change with Amsterdam’s Salsa Shop off Rembrandtplein, where Mexican street food is served in surroundings no more glamorous than a neighborhood stall in Guadalajara. Borrowing Subway’s build-it-yourself concept, customers select their dish (taco, burrito, burrito bowl, tacos or salad), then choose what meats, veggies and toppings to stuff into it. Carnivores can opt for Barbacoa or Carnitas (spicy shredded beef or pork), or grilled, marinated chicken or steak. Top it off with corn, grated cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo, and/or creamy guacamole. Salsas range from mild cucumber and yogurt to fresh peach habanero and zingy salsa verde. For more adventurous palates, the smoky pineapple chipotle salsa has heat, while those with a real tolerance will savor the aptly named fiery yellow habanero. Wash it all down with beer or a slushy margarita. Whatever you order, it’s a good feed for under €9, but don’t expect more than zingy fare made with fresh ingredients and naturally-raised meats, served in a bright, fast food-style joint—great for a late-night snack after catching a flick at the nearby Art Deco Tuschinski Theater.