Where Amsterdammers Eat: Local Favorites
Locals take a casual attitude toward food in the Netherlands. Service is mellow if there at all, but Dutchies don’t mind. Unlike Americans, they linger over food at informal joints with high-quality food or grab street snacks like herring, fries smothered in sauce, or brodjes (sandwiches). Many Amsterdammers will claim they’ve never bought a kroquet at a FEBO, but you’ll find them in the wee hours at these coin-operated eateries.
Warmoesstraat 51, 1012 HW Amsterdam, Netherlands
If a juicy burger named after a local drag queen doesn’t whet your appetite, one of Getto’s stiff cocktails should have you dining like a diva at this local favorite. Since 1996, it’s been an “attitude-free” zone for gays, lesbians and anyone else—a dress-down burger bar with a camp vibe, named one of Amsterdam’s best restaurants in 2013. Don’t be put off by Getto’s setting on seedy Warmoesstraat, amidst sex toy shops and gay cinemas. Beyond stoned tourists, enter a welcoming space for folks of any sexual persuasion. While not really kid-friendly, it’s a fine place to bring your mom or blinged-out date, regardless of gender. Past a rainbow-hued bar and lounge dripping with disco balls, a dimly-lit dining area is decorated with grunge-style art and a funky blackboard. Choose from international starters like Mexican nachos, Dutch bitterballen, Indonesian samosas and Chinese dim sum. Quaintly named cocktails include “Horny Maxima” and “Pink Pussycat.” Warm salads with Gorgonzola sauce are popular, as are blackboard specials that sometimes include kangaroo, Australian wild boar or fresh fish. Creative burgers, priced around €13, feature big slabs of beef, chicken or turkey, served with thick fries and salad sides. Vegetarian options include a Truffle Polenta Bean + Nut burger topped with apple slices, melted cheddar and BBQ sauce. Staff is friendly and specials are under €20. If that’s not chill enough, Elvis the snow-white cat can often be found purring amidst the diners.
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.
If artful cuisine served in sleek yet homey ambiance appeals, it would be sinful to miss Envy, a chic pearl on Prinsengracht, honored for the sixth consecutive year by Michelin. You’re not likely to commit gluttony at this Italian deli-inspired tapas bistro, unless you opt for a tasting menu by award-winning Chef Michael Wolf. Starring such delicacies as pig cheeks and lacquered eel, plus cold dishes, deli meats, cheeses and desserts, these feasts are great for special splurges. In Envy’s narrow interior, a world of food preparation opens, with chefs preparing culinary masterpieces in full view of diners. Perched on high stools at a long wooden table, we lusted after sausages, cheeses, oysters, jams and wines showcased in 26 oak-finished refrigerators with gleaming chrome handles. While nothing is for sale besides menu offerings, the display inspired us to dive into Dutch raw oysters served with a shot of shallot vinegar and lemon garnish. A selection of Dutch sausages followed, seasoned with wine-preserved garlic, rosemary, lavender, black pepper, chili and fennel. The Envy concept came to owner Bert van der Leden after he visited many Roman delicatessens that offer samples of their products. In that tradition, Envy proudly serves sausages by Brandt & Levie, run by three former chefs who traveled around Italy searching for the best meat shops’ secrets. The chefs-turned-butchers now make their own sausages just outside Amsterdam, using Dutch pigs and fine herbs.
Reguliersdwarsstraat 38, 1017 BM Amsterdam, Netherlands
Since 1982, Rose’s Cantina has been drawing locals for Latin American flavors on a street known for its plethora of dining options. On a busy night, don’t expect intimacy or romance, as the Reguliersdwarsstraat establishment is big, boisterous and noisy. But if it’s a fiesta you’re after, this is the spot for killer nachos and Pan American favorites like chili con carne, enchiladas and flaky empanada pastries. For more adventurous eaters, braised octopus and duck breast with pineapple-raisin salsa are on the menu. Enormous burgers are topped with jalapeños, melted cheddar, bacon and guacamole. At €18, they’re pricey, but will easily feed two, especially if you order appetizers like classic ceviche, chicharrones or quesadillas. Finish off with chocolate mousse splashed with tequila, Dulce De Leche and crunchy sea salt. Rose’s also is known for its fine cocktails and tequila library. Choose from tiramisu, pomegranate or frozen fruit margaritas or order a Jalapeno Margarita spiced with subtle agave. Mojitos are great, made with Bacardi Superior Rum, mint and lime. Rose’s is the brainchild of restaurateur Casper Reinders of Jimmy Woo, Bocinq, Lion Noir and Chicago Social Club fame. Like his other Amsterdam establishments, this one is unique―furnished with leather couches, Chesterfield chairs and exposed beams. The turquoise-green paint is an original recipe, fabricated to recreate a Mexican cantina. With a group of 50, host your private fiesta in the heart of Amsterdam.
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.
Oosterdokskade 5, 1011 AD Amsterdam, Netherlands
Just three months after opening last August, the 70-seat Samhoud Places restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars for international dishes such as sole in hazelnut sauce, chickpea and crab crepes, and eggplant moussaka. Hit the casual lounge for à la carte entrées if you’re not up for the six-course prix-fixe dinner upstairs. Oosterdokseiland 5, 31/(0) 20-260-2094. This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue.
Warmoesstraat 129, 1012 JA Amsterdam, Netherlands
Cocktail bar-restaurants typically excel at one or the other, rarely both tipple and nibble. Four month old Tales & Spirits, located in the beating heart of Amsterdam, manages to succeed on both fronts. The cocktails are both creative in name and flavor (I opted for a Fallen Lady with vodka, deep fruit flavors and a dusting of chocolate and pepper), affordable and strong for the initiated cocktail lover. Spa still water is offered on the house with each drink ordered- a nice touch when the alcohol bill starts climbing. While I enjoyed my drink, it was the food menu that caught and held onto my attention. My truffle and wild sautéed mushroom risotto was impeccable in taste and size, leaving me sufficient room to test out one of their desserts of the moment. Most of the dishes on the menu are small so prepare to order several to share. And, of course, given the spot’s short order popularity, it’s wise to book ahead.
Rozengracht 2, 1016 NB Amsterdam, Netherlands
The atmosphere is heavy, the decibel level very low, and the wooden decor both comforting, and inviting. People in this café are either locals reading the newspapers while sipping a cappuccino, or, like me, tourists who just visited the Anne Frank House - which is just around the corner - and need a down time to collect their thoughts. The Café de Oude Wester is a natural stop after an emotionally-draining couple of hours, which puts in perspective everything we know about the atrocities of World War II. How some lucky people live through it, how the city was affected by it. Was this very café the scene of nazi meetings, did it participate in hiding Jews? What these walls must have seen and heard throughout these years. The warm smiles of the staff and the aromas emanating from the kitchen are a welcome invite back to the 21st century - as if they knew exactly what was on the minds of customers.
Leidsekruisstraat 28, 1017 RJ Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam isn’t exactly known for its stellar food, so finding delicious Dutch food on a busy tourist street at an affordable price on my latest trip was a big surprise. A few friends and I wanted to try Dutch food on our last night in Amsterdam, so we decided to try a place we had passed earlier on Leidsekruisstraat, a street near the popular Leidseplein that’s lined with tourist restaurants. Between the three of us, we had eaten dozens of meals in the Netherlands. Very few of them were memorable, so we weren’t getting our hopes up. But inside De Blauwe Hollander, we discovered the magic that is hotchpotch. Hotchpotch is a traditional Dutch dish made of potatoes mashed with vegetables and garnished with meat or with cheese croquettes, pictured above. I tried the vegetarian hotchpotch with carrots, but kale, sauerkraut, sausage, bacon and liver are common ingredients. It may just be the best meal I’ve had in Amsterdam, and for under 20 Euro each including a shared bottle of wine and dessert, it may be also be one of the better dining deals in Western Europe.
Brouwersgracht 60, 1013 GX Amsterdam, Netherlands
De Belhamel restaurant is located near the Central train station in a very quiet residential neighborhood. It would be hard to find a prettier location for a leisurely lunch or romantic dinner - the restaurant sits at the junction of the Brouwersgracht canal and the Herengracht canal and provides a magnificent view. The interior is decorated in an Art Noveau style. The award-winning menu focuses on seasonal Dutch dishes with Mediterranean influences. The view and the food are equally impressive - highly recommended if you are looking for a beautiful, quiet spot for dinner away from the crowds. 60 Brouwersgracht, Amsterdam
We had been to Gollem for a drink and a snack (note: the meat platter is hearty) the evening before, but when we found ourselves on Overtoom after visiting Vondelpark, with Gollem just opening for lunch, we went for it again. After all, it was our last day in Amsterdam and there was beer to be drunk. The servers are very knowledgeable and helpful, and will guide you to specific styles or rhapsodize over undiscovered breweries. Fries, fried in beef tallow, were wonderful. Sweetbread croquettes tasted mostly like any other croquette, with perhaps a whiff of sweetbreadiness. The ham and Chimay cheese sandwich was good. It was all fresh, and all went very well with the wide selection of Belgian beers they offer. And for dessert? Gueuze.
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!
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.
Staalstraat 7-A, 1011 JJ Amsterdam, Netherlands
What do you get when you combine a design gallery/store with a café, beauty salon, fashion boutique and rental apartment? Add it all up and it equates to Droog, a multifunctional space that melds a 160-square meter exhibition space with an airy dining room, a tearoom overlooking an outdoor garden and a single bedroom for overnight guests. “The concept of a hotel has been reversed,” says Renny Ramakers, co-founder and director of Droog. “Whereas a hotel is...mostly about sleeping, here we have enlarged and emphasized all the aspects that many hotels also offer and made them central to the experience—and it even has a room to sleep in.” Housed in a 17th century building in central Amsterdam, Droog showcases product design in exhibitions and lectures, and invites people to plug in as they choose. In the gallery, view the latest in international furniture design, art and fashion. Shop at the Droog Store, then refuel at RoomService by Droog, open for late breakfast, lunch, high tea and early dinner, or just drinks and snacks. Head to Cosmania to up your beauty game, shop for hip fashion at Kabinet and stock up on wellness products at Weltevree. On top floor, Hôtel Droog offers overnight guests a brightly-lit bedroom, bathroom with separate bath and shower, living area and kitchen. Perched in the aery enclave, enjoy a splendid view of Amsterdam rooftops and the city below.
With its chill vibe, funky decor, warehouse-like interior and spacious terrace, Pacific Parc is a rock ‘n’ roll bistro with an edge. Situated in a former treatment plant at Westergasfabriek, the café-nightclub on Amsterdam‘s west side clearly represents its mantra, “Do not beg for the right to live, take it.” Life is good over international favorites like satay with coconut-peanut sauce, Indian lentil curry, Black Angus burgers and Dutch pannenkoeken, all priced under €20 on lunch and dinner menus. For kids, chicken drumsticks, chips, cucumber and ice cream are on a children’s menu for €8. While little ones romp on the spiral staircase, you can dine at the bar or at wooden tables in the open-zoned dining area, under a whimsical chandelier hanging from the sunroof. If you’re attending a Westergasfabriek event, Pacific Parc is a great place to meet up with friends. But there’s more to this place than relaxed ambiance, good drinks, reasonably priced fare and a menu based on seasonal ingredients. Thursday through Saturday, DJs mix hip-hop with disco and swing tunes. By 23:00, dinner seats are pushed aside and anyone who sticks around may be in for a wild night. A special “Dinner and a Movie” deal entitles you to a flick at Ketelhuis, Westergasfabriek’s cinema, plus a starter and main course (excluding drinks) at Pacific Parc for €25. While the restaurant may lack for romance, it’s a fine place to get your weekend date off to a savory start.
Elandsgracht 108, 1016 VA Amsterdam, Netherlands
On a rainy summer night (thunder! lightening!), we had very low expectations of getting a table at Balthazar’s Keuken—mostly because something I read said that it was hard to get in. But there was a table, right in the back by the open kitchen, waiting for us. (The photo is of our view of the kitchen.) They serve a fixed menu. First course was a platter of appetizers, including paprika-y sobressada on bread with fried sage, beautifully anchovy-laden fried artichokes, shrimp in sage butter, and smoked mussels. For the second course we had a choice of fish (they called it red bass, not sure what that is but it was great) or meat (veal in a hearty sauce). And dessert was fresh strawberries with mascarpone laced with ginger.
No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a stop in one of the bruine kroeg, or brown cafés. These are the Dutch equivalent of Irish pubs, cozy spaces where people gather to relax over beers and comfort food. And Café Papeneiland is a classic. Stop in for a sip of jenever and a slice of Dutch apple pie.
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.
Strolling down Marnixstraat you wouldn’t suspect it’s there, unless you notice a small sign near a stairwell adjacent to the Q-Park. From Nassaukade, there’s no access, but you can see the buzzing venue across Singlegracht canal: Waterkant, a tropical-themed bar and restaurant serving casual fare on the waterfront behind the twin towers of the parking garage. The brainchild of the catering team that brought popular Bukowski Bar, Café Kuijper and Maxwell to Amsterdam, Waterkant debuted to instant success in August 2014. Seemingly overnight, the trio transformed the dilapidated night shelter behind the Q-Park into a canal-side bar and restaurant perfect for a romantic date or evening out with friends. At colorful tables on an expansive terrace, you can watch boats passing by and the Nassaukade street scene over beer, snacks, lunch or dinner. Looking to Amsterdam’s colonial past, the new hotspot features a Suriname-inspired menu with specialties like peanut soup, curried duck spring rolls, fried dumplings and roti roll. If you’re starving, order the Jamaican Jerk ribs—a whopping 16 barbecued bones served with coleslaw and fries. Or blow the budget on a whole Canadian lobster for €25. Wash it all down with traditional Parbo beer or a local craft brew.
Spui 15, 1012 WX Amsterdam, Netherlands
You might expect to find a man with a last name like “Visscher” (fisherman in Dutch) to be behind a restaurant specializing in fresh seafood. But Fons de Visscher took it a step further. Three years after his successful launch of The Seafood Bar on Baerlestraat in the Museum Quarter, the former fishmonger opened a second, larger location on the lively Spui in central Amsterdam. Since March 2015, seafood lovers have been satisfying their appetites for something fishy at the sleek bistro serving top-quality oysters, mussels, king crab, prawns and lobster. Such classics as fish and chips, bouillabaisse, steamed mussels, and a Fruits de Mer platter bait repeat customers for lunch and dinner. With its breezy interior, white tiles, exposed brick walls, and hanging white lamps, The Seafood Bar Spui feels like it could be by the ocean. A street-level Oyster Bar whets guests’ appetites as they enter. A second level hosts a bar, while two rear spaces provide quieter enclaves for diners enjoying meals alongside displays of giant King Crab legs and glass-encased oysters, crabs, prawns and sardines. The restaurant adheres to sustainable seafood practices and prides itself on its preparation of fresh, organic and line-caught fish. The Seafood Bar’s bright, bustling ambiance is hardly conducive to romance. But a wide selection of soups, salads and sandwiches starring creatures fresh from the sea makes up for a little distraction at this casual Nirvana for fish-lovers.
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.
Rozengracht 106, 1016 NH Amsterdam, Netherlands
An instant Amsterdam hotspot when it opened on Rozengracht in spring 2015, Salmuera blends flavors from many Latin countries, fusing Mexican and South American favorites as its predecessor did with Asian fare. Set in the historic building that was the original Bols Distillery, most recently occupied by Chow, the lively bistro offers lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, all featuring grilled meats and seafood, ceviches, empanadas and other specialties of Mexico, Argentina and Peru. Named after the tangy brine that flavors and tenderizes meats in Argentina, Salmuera boasts a rustic charcoal asado grill, open kitchen, and upper and lower level dining areas. Whole suckling pigs roasting over an open charcoal fire, lots of dark wood, a bar with counter seating, and flickering candles add a gezellig vibe. When the weather cooperates, the restaurant’s vine-laced terrace is a great spot for al fresco dining and watching the passing scene on Rozengracht in the trendy Jordaan. Come for a romantic dinner or cocktails and “bites” like delectable Latin cheese fingers stuffed with melted Tres Leches cheese made with cow, goat and sheep’s milk; meat empanadas; Argentinean charcuterie and a street food platter featuring spicy chicken wings marinated in coffee and chipotle, Argentinean sausage roll, Peruvian potato tart, guacamole and an array of dipping sauces.
39-A Oudezijds Achterburgwal
In a city that prides itself on its reputation as Europe’s Sodom and Gomorrah, Koningsdag (King’s Day) is the one day of the year when everyone gets f*cked-up. It’s when Dutchies honor their monarch by parading down canals in festooned boats, dancing in streets and getting smashed to techno-tunes blasting from disco stages. With King Willem’s 2013 coronation, Koningsdag will be celebrated on April 26, 2014—a day earlier than future years because the new king’s birthday falls on a Sunday. Koningsnacht (King’s Night) will be celebrated on April 25, 2014. Join party-goers on Warmoesstraat, gyrating to pulsating street bands. Belly up to the bar at Stones and admire the barristers over pints of Heineken. Don’t get too f*cked up if you want to get a jump start at the next morning’s Vrijmarkt (free market), when all of Amsterdam turns into a giant garage sale. Would you part with €1 to guess a fat lady’s weight? Or let a child serenade you in Vondelpark? Or throw an egg in a stranger’s face? Have a go on Koningsdag, when entrepreneurs of all ages trade old treasures and new talents for cash. Jostle for a spot on Prinsengracht to watch buff gays in skimpy attire and beer-swilling locals on decorated boats. On Rokin, breathe in the aroma of grilled kebobs and marijuana smoke. Hold on to your hat as you spin on an aerial swing at the Dam Square carnival. However you spend Koningsdag, it’s easy to friends wandering the streets, and poking into bars and coffeeshops until dawn.
NDSM-Plein 102, 1033 WB Amsterdam, Netherlands
On a hopping night, Noorderlicht (Northern Lights) blazes with colorful lights visible clear across the IJ River—hence its name. For those drinking and jamming to live music on a waterfront terrace warmed by a roaring bonfire, the setting is more intimate. We’ve reached Noorderlicht, a “cultural café" in Noord-Amsterdam, via free ferry from Central Station. Destination: NDSM yard, a revitalized shipyard that belies its maritime/industrial heritage with warehouses and shipping containers transformed into nightclubs, hotels and student housing. Dotted with fishing villages, condos and restaurants, the eclectic neighborhood calls itself “Art City.” With its airplane hangar shape and greenhouse-like architecture, Noorderlicht enhances the funky landscape. The popular café draws creative types who come for waterfront dining, drinking and dancing. Inside, warm-hued wall hangings, wooden flooring, tables ornamented with polished driftwood and a disco ball contribute to an inviting ambiance. Seasonal lunch and dinner menus feature organic and regional dishes, plus casual fare like frites and burgers. Noorderlicht’s grassy terrace offers a spectacular view of Amsterdam city center from the other side of the Ij River. Dine on wicker chairs, cushioned couches and picnic tables as musicians perform overlooking the waterfront. A roster of events ranges from campfires and poetry readings to DJ nights that usually inspire some pumping and grinding in a young, energetic crowd.
Warmoesstraat, 1012 Amsterdam, Netherlands
Ah, Warmoesstraat, Amsterdam‘s heart of darkness, the street that never sleeps. Well, maybe...between 5:00–8:00am, after the junkies leave and before tourists arrive. Set adjacent to de Wallen, the city’s most famous Red Light District, this lively straat is home to the gay leather/fetish scene at shops like Warehouse, The Eagle, Argos, Dirty Dicks, RoB and MrB. Have dinner at Getto, an informal bistro with a less in-your-face gay vibe than other establishments on the street, offering drag queen-inspired burgers and international specialties at reasonable prices. Other dining options include Meatballs, Paella, Wok to Wok, Burger Bar and numerous holes-in-the-wall for pizza, shoarma or frites. For a nightcap hit Stone’s, a dive bar with attitude where the time is always 9:25.
2961 Kinderdijk, Netherlands
When waterways in the Netherlands freeze into glittering paths, overjoyed residents take to the ice. Visitors can buy or rent a pair of noren (traditional long-blade skates) to glide across town or take part in one of the country’s dozens of tochten, organized tours or races held throughout the nation’s 2,200 miles of canals. Check the local newspaper or the website Schaatsen.nl for route announcements. Ice skating along the frozen lanes also provides a chance to marvel at how the canals have shaped the landscape. Because a quarter of the Netherlands lies below sea level, the Dutch have relied on drainage systems to keep their heads above water. Skate the molentocht, or mill tour, in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Kinderdijk (pictured) to see 19 windmills that once pumped water from the lowlands into the surrounding reservoirs. The historic village about 15 miles from Rotterdam is a peaceful setting for one of the country’s favorite winter pastimes. If you travel to Kinderdijk to skate the molentocht, reserve a room at the Pincoffs Suite Hotel in Rotterdam. Stieltjesstraat 34, 31/(0) 10-297-4500. This appeared in the November/December 2012 issue.
Few things are gratis in Amsterdam, where you’ll probably pay for your own meal even on a romantic date. But Seasons restaurant gives new meaning to “going Dutch” with a two-for-one Early Bird Special. Set on a pretty side-street off the Herengracht, the cozy bistro is in the heart of the canal belt, near Amsterdam’s Jordaan. The menu features international cuisine, with fare like Indian Chicken Tikka Masala, Asian-inspired Miso Salmon, rack of lamb with mint pesto sauce, and an “inside-out” Beef Wellington. Even Holland is represented in the culinary tour, with a thick pea soup starter. The “buy one get one free” special is offered Monday–Thursday, 5–6pm and Friday–Sunday, 4–6pm. In addition to lowering your bill, it ensures you’ll be visiting when the restaurant is at its romantic best, before the dinner crowd arrives en masse around 8pm. Reservations are required for the Early Bird Special. Reserve online and arrive 15 minutes early to take advantage of it.
Goudsbloemstraat 91, 1015 JK Amsterdam, Netherlands
Weekend mornings are typically sleepy in Amsterdam. The town barely wakes up by noon, and many stores and restaurants are closed Sunday morning. Which leaves few options beyond local bakeries and venues serving touristy “English Breakfasts” to satisfy the urge for hearty morning fare. Enter G’s West, possibly the coziest spot in Amsterdam West for weekend brunch. Open Friday–Sunday, the former “bruin café" sits on a quiet street in Amsterdam’s Jordaan. Self-described as “an eclectic hot mess of love, lust, hunger & thirst,” the interior features whitewashed wood, funky furnishings, tablecloths printed with old comic strips, and a bar stocked with antique apothecary bottles and Bloody Mary fixin’s. Order from a sassy menu shaped like an old LP, featuring Foreplay, The Main Act, Happy Endings and Tipsy. Start with oysters on the half-shell or G’s Brunch Dip on Crack, washed down with a Bloody Bacon, Passion in the Morning or Morning Wood cocktail. The Main Act stars classic Eggs Benedict, Challah French Toast and other breakfast dishes, as well as a Chicken Waffle Burger featuring fried chicken sandwiched between sugar waffles. The same fare is offered on a Brunch Cruise that sails every Saturday and Sunday, with pick-up and drop-off at the Homomonument on Keizersgracht. As one of the only spots that serves weekend brunch in Amsterdam, G’s lives up to its URL: http://reallyniceplace.com/. Both the Jordaan venue are available for private parties and corporate events.