While living in Amsterdam, I wrote a non-fiction book titled ‘Flavors of Life’. ‘Flavors of Life’, is a collection of inspirational tales about Amsterdam restaurateurs. In the process of writing the book, I learned that the Dutch capital offers nearly three thousand restaurants, cafes, and bars. So where should you start when you want to experience the favourite food places of the locals?
I truly believe in trying local cuisine while traveling, or living elsewhere, and so naturally, when in Amsterdam, I wanted to eat Dutch cuisine. You will always find locals at a coffee place or restaurant willing to share their favourite spots in town. To find the hidden gems in the city, I asked waiters and my own Dutch work colleagues where I should go out for dinner and what dishes I should try. Sometimes they acted surprised, wondering, ‘You want to eat our cuisine, our ‘stamppot?’ The traditional Dutch kitchen has different varieties of stamppot, which consists of mashed potatoes with some vegetables, usually “rookworst” (smoked sausage), and sometimes diced bacon.
My favourite spot for Dutch cuisine is Restaurant Moeders (Dutch for “Mothers”). The owner uses his favorite recipes and serves delicious Dutch comfort food. The place feels like being in your grandmother’s kitchen again. Moeders opened in 1990 and, for the opening, the owner asked all his guests to bring a plate, glass, and cutlery, which are still set in the restaurant today. The interior walls are also lined with pictures of mothers from around the world, which adds to the appeal.
Haesjes Claes is a typical, authentic Amsterdam restaurant named in honour of a lady who was born in 1475 and was the founding lady of the first orphanage in Amsterdam called Burgerweeshuis. The orphanage Burgerweeshuis was opened sometime in the year 1520, and Lady Haesje Claes died in 1544. The orphanage is now transferred to the Amsterdam Museum in which you still can find the living situation of the orphans back then. The restaurant, which began in a small monumental building, has now expanded into more than six of the neighbouring monumental buildings. These have been converted into a number of dining rooms, which are connected together with small halls, stairs, and corridors.
If you want to get a feel for an Amsterdam canal house, don’t miss Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs. This tiny establishment has four tables and serves only pancakes – its specialty. The charm is that you must walk up these narrow, steep stairs to access the dining area. Once you reach the top, you are welcomed by the two friendly owners. Charming tea pots hang from the ceiling and little Dutch trinkets accent the room. Reservations are recommended for all of the above three restaurants.
If you don’t want to dine inside but instead would like to grab a bite to eat while enjoying the city, you should go to the Albert Cuyp market, the largest daily open-air market in Europe.Here you can buy typical Dutch food like ‘stroopwafels’, ‘haring’, ‘poffertjes’, or ‘frietjes’. It’s a strolling lunch, in a way. When someone asks me what I miss most about The Netherlands, I always tell them good coffee, fresh baked bread, and the local grocery stores where you can buy both.