The Pancake Bakery – Pancakes
Moeders – Traditional
Brasserie de Groot – New Dutch
Restaurant De Luwte – Modern
Razzmatazz – Modern
On my first trip to Amsterdam, I hadn’t done much research about the food scene beforehand, since it was a fairly last minute trip. And so it was that I arrived in the city with few expectations about what the local food would hold or a list of restaurants to try. It’s unusual for me to travel this way, but it can be fun. I had five days of adventure and discovering ahead of me.
The thing I noticed right away is that many restaurants have a large section of pancakes on the menu. I actually passed up a couple places at first because I find pancakes to be OK, but mainly for breakfast and I was leery of a restaurant that would lean so heavily on them. What I didn’t do on this first pass was really take a look at the list of pancakes and their toppings. It was only on my second day as I passed a restaurant window and saw a diner’s plate that my interest was piqued. I stopped to look at the menu and my mouth watered. The pancakes that this lovely city serves are nothing like the fluffy, cakey stacks that we topped with Syrup in America. They are actually more like crepes, though I’d say a little less crisp in the center and a little more eggy and chewier.
My first Dutch Pancake experience was wonderful. The pancake completely covered a large plate and was topped with thick diced bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and cheese. The flavors were incredible together and since it’s served open-face, the topping to bread ratio was much higher. I was sold immediately and made sure to partake over the course trip. You’ll find the pancakes offered with sweet toppings, of course. But every restaurant has it’s own savory takes such as smoked salmon and cream cheese, ham, cheese and egg and many vegetarian options.
The other local fare I sampled was tended to be hearty, even at the more fussy restaurants. I found that the traditional food feels like German with a Scandinavian accent. There’s also some overlap with Belgium. Thick, hearty stewed beef served with red cabbage was standard, as were sausages with mashed or boiled potatoes. If you’re looking for traditional fare in a funky, eclectic atmosphere try Moeders. This casual eatery features walls covered with donating photos of patron’s mothers’ (moeders). You can create your own three course meal or dine ala carte. The food so incredible the only issue I had was choosing, so the prix fixe approach is a good idea. I settled on a hotchpotch, a steaming mound of mashed potatoes with a gravy center topped with a local sausage, a meatball & a thick slab of bacon. I highly recommend it, especially on a chilly winter’s night.
Another staple on menus here are bitterballen. These fried little meat fritters are packed with flavor. You’ll find them somewhat similar to a Spanish or cuban croquetta, except that they are often served with a sweet, spicy mustard sauce for dipping. We popped in for happy hour at Brasserie de Groot one evening and sampled some. Once you’ve tried them you’ll understand why no trip to Amsterdam is complete without at least one batch.
As cities go, Amsterdam surprised me with its culinary offerings, but again, I had come with no preconceived notions. My only regret is that I only had five days to enjoy the food scene. I could have used just one more pancake afterall.