When I think of Amsterdam, I recall racing G through the night by bike following a date at speakeasy Door 74, spotting Carly in the crowd just in time for one of our bottomless gin tonics at Wolvenstraat1 and a weekend of hotspot hunting with Arjen for my city guide.
The lamb roti, always shared with friends from my velvety white couch, with tender chunks of meat and an Indian-style gravy from takeaway restaurant Usama, a few doors down from my house, also comes to mind. So does the BLT2 from Caffe Esprit, discovered on lecture breaks with Rosanne and Carly, which I'd recreate for overnight guests for years to come–a sarnie recipe so tasty, an ex-boyfriend couldn't resist asking for it inappropriately short after our horrible breakup.
Then there was the late morning with my roommate Stef at Winkel 43, where he introduced me to the apple pie that beat all other pies in a single bite of the crust. The first time I tried Maldon Salt (with crusty carbs and olive oil at Restaurant Fifteen, where I used to work for a while.) And long afternoons of craft beer tastings on sunlit terraces, like that of Brouwerij 't IJ, or at brown cafes like De Brabrantse Aap.
Plus, in my mind's eye, the red vinyl tablecloth with a strawberry print from my student home's shared kitchen table emerges in panorama, where I huddled with friends over Bosnian stuffed peppers smothered with crème fraîche and stamppot3 with a twist: including crunchy salty bacon bits, soft goat cheese, and oval slivers of red chili peppers. And, oh yeah, that one smoked-out dinner because a towel caught fire in a room down the hall.4
I also recall a few phases. Like a pizza phase (more or less just a Fuoco Vivo phase), a hunt for the best burger, a specialty coffee immersion, a sushi expedition, and a long-lasting sandwich phase. The latter includes a few go-toes like the mini baguette with hot pastrami, mustard, old cheese, pickles, and onions from 't Kuyltje; Broodje Bert's signature burger sarnie; tomato-rubbed bread with Serrano ham from Ibericus; homemade pitas stuffed with döner from Leeman; the shoarma bun with hot sauce from Mesut; toasties with a mixture of two kinds of cheese and three members of the onion family from Caulils, and Ram's Roti's dangerously addictive chicken in peanut sauce pressed between more good ol' white bread.
Still, once I met G, my gastronomy explorations flared further as we rounded up the city's bar and restaurant scene and hosted many aperitivos and tiny dinners with gourmet groceries and market hauls at our home in de Schimmelstraat. It's not an exaggeration to say that I have few memories of Amsterdam that don't involve entertaining or dining out.
Here's a map and list of my all-time favorite spots in Amsterdam.
Bring a snack and coffee and settle down on the grass, watching the eclectic array of people rollerblading, picnicking, and jigging to their tunes. Or come for a run or bike ride.
I love the industrial vibe of the Westergas area. And have fond memories of skating here and having drinks at Pacific and Troost.
Really good milk-based coffees, a cool selection of beans, plus a few shelves of coffee gear.
My absolute new favorite in town. I always go for the batch brew, which tastes like a fancy manual filter. G loves the cortado. Their bakes are from Ulmus Bakery. And the daily Ten Kate market at their doorstep.
I come for the mellow hood vibe and to get beans.
Good, good coffee. Pair with a sweet from SUE Bites Bar down the street.
The oysters and steaks are what you're here for. Which also happens to sum up my last meal before going into labor with Dylan.
I like to squeeze into one of the window seats in the back for a glass of champagne and a steak tartare–both fitting choices for an art deco treasure like this one.
We go to Mesut for our Adana Kebab (spiced minced lamb skewers) and Pita Shawarma fix.
The tenderloin steak served with a pan butter jus is what the crowd comes for. However, the Bali Steak with sambal jus is entirely on point too. Loetje also offers veal and chicken liver, which you don't see much on a typical Dutch menu.
A whole roasted chicken with your choice of sides and a fluitje of draft beer makes for one perfect dinner for two. It also works well for takeout.
With so many wines by the glass on the menu, why not create a flight with a white, orange, and red. Then hand your reins to the staff and let them pick the dishes to suit your wines. I recommend scoring one of the sidewalk tables for an early dinner, but reserving inside for a late one.
Famed for their Broodje Bert Burger - A baguette with grilled lamb koftas and salad. Too busy? Consider take-away and find yourself a spot on the canal edge. Don't forget napkins.
Plenty of great wines by the glass, a regularly changing three-course menu (served at a perfectly lazy pace), and delicious bites on the side, all in a cozy spot. Makes for a swell dinner with a couple of friends as you can just let go and let the staff serve you well.
An old tram depot turned into a meeting spot with shops, a cinema, Hotel de Hallen, cafe Karavaan, the popular Food Hallen with 20 different food stands (The Butcher's burgers are legit), and more.
I think this was one of the first places in Amsterdam to popularize poached eggs and brunch. You can bet they have perfected the craft by now.
Both the Döner and Turkish Pizza are worth a bike ride. Buns are baked in-house.
Comfort food for those craving more than a typical Dutch cheese-sandwich-lunch. Expect french toast, kedgeree, brisket, potato hash browns, and fermented chili bloody maries with olive and lemon.
Original, bold Mexican taco and salsa flavors with in-house-made tortillas (from grinding the corn to pressing the dough). Try the Pumpkin (goat cheese, macha) and Cochinita Pibil (pulled pork, refried beans, pickled onions, habanero salsa) tacos. Also nice: the down-to-earth setting and range of Mezcal and Tequila options to make you sing along with a Mariachi band.
Classic Indian cuisine in a sophisticated, intimate setting. My pick always includes the richly spiced Gosht-E-Avadh (tender lamb in curry sauce) paired with Tandoor-baked Naan and a full-bodied glass of red.
Lots of eclectic choices (topping the 2-day-long fermented, rested, and proofed dough), though I tend to stick to the classic Margherita. With quite a few local, European, and worldwide awards, a reservation is a must.
My go-to dish is the Roti Kipfilet Speciaal, spiced chicken bits with crumbly curry potatoes, asparagus beans, boiled egg, and roti bread filled with yellow peas and potato, to which I always add a dash of the in-house-made golden sambal (be humble with the latter.) Before this, though, my standard pick was the Roti Vega Speciaal with tofu, tempeh, pumpkin, and eggplant. Also, try the Kipsaté, grilled chicken skewers smothered in peanut sauce.
Head for the secret bar in the back and settle for the Big Double Dirty burger and a couple of Dark 'n Stormies (Zacapa 23, Pampero Especial, ginger beer, Angostura & lime).
Expect a classic ever-changing menu with Antipasti, fresh pasta for starters, meat or fish as the main, plus plenty of Italian wine, all in a nonchalant chic setting.
A gig dedicated to ceviche. Classic is my jam. And the changing fish dishes are worth it.
Queue up for a paper cone of crunchy fries at this sidestreet kiosk. Top them with a classic choice like mayonnaise, or go for a local favorite, the Oorlog dip (mayonnaise, peanut sauce, and chopped onions.)
Tiny, dim-lit, seat-only cocktail bar. No reservations, so you need to be early or very lucky.
Have a flight of beers with a range of traditional Dutch snacks. Like, cheeses (Abdijkaas, Skeapsrond), sausages (Droge Worst, Grillworst, Ossenworst), boiled eggs, and peanuts from local producers.
A good spot for craft beers with a group of friends. Depending on the season, you can start outside and move in.
One of the very few winebars that was around when G and I met. Start with a flight.
If the sun is out, there are few more charming places than Van Zuylen's terrace over a bridge. There's a range of beers on tap and some classic Dutch snacks, like Bitterballen (ball-shaped beef croquettes).
My kind of hotel lobby lounge: spacious, serene, and grand.
I like to come here on cold, dark days and cozy up inside with a specialty tap beer and a typical deep-fried Dutch snack, like Bitterballen (though the menu also features Dutch brown cafe classics like soup, eggs, carpaccio, steak, chicken satay, and cheese toasties.) If you can score one of the terrace spots during sunnier times, the cafe also makes for an excellent people-watching spot since it's at the rim of the active Spui square.
Back in the day, when G and I discovered Door 74, they only had a phone number published. It was one of the first high-end speakeasies in town. The venue is a classic and harbors a dear place down memory lane.
Plenty of space and a mellow ambiance, as it never gets too busy. Also pleasant, they have fine champagne by the glass.
A cozy, traditional cafe for those dark, early winter evenings.
With 30+ wines by the glass, you better clear your afternoon schedule.
Large canal-side terrace, where you can work a tan and watch the boats go by.
Head straight to the tasting room for a range of jenevers and many liqueurs.
Mostly a cheese shop, strategically located in-between a bakery and wine store. Try my favorite: The Italian La Tur–a soft ripened cheese of sheep's, cow's and goat's milk. Or get a good chunk of Dutch cheese.
Caulils will put all your grilled cheese sandwich chases to rest with their flawlessly engineered toastie with two blends of cheese (the local Wilde Meadow + Swiss Etivaz d'Alpage) and a mixture of finely chopped leek, red onion, and spring onion. The shop itself, by the way, is a Burgundian dream come true.
Spices, legumes, nuts, and fatty Medjool dates.
I come here for the sourdough bread. You can get half a loaf too, and ask to have it sliced. I always do my very best to ignore all the flakey things behind the glass showcase.
Although a local chain, they only import wines from small wine farmers whom exclusively sell to them. That's how I found one of my favorite Portguese wines, Fitapreta.
Come here for the beautiful serrano hams or, as I do, for the sideshow: the baguettes rubbed with tomato and layered with serrano ham. (Take the sarnies to the nearby Westerpark, if you can wait that long.)
I like to pass by the farmer's market on the less-crowded Mondays (09:00-13:00). Though, also open Saturdays from 09:00-16:00. Happy coincidence that the best apple pie in town is near (see Sweets).
A wine boutique with beautiful wines from small producers in Spain and Portugal. Do ask for recommendations, though grab a bottle of the Toro from Botas de Borra if available.
Charming local farmer's market with stalls offering everything from organic olives and 36-hour simmered bone broths to pasture-fed meat and sustainable fish directly from the ships of the North Sea. Every Saturday, 09:30-17:00.
A cluster of nine streets separated by Amsterdam's most beautiful canals and jammed with boutiques, specialty stores, and cafes. Famous for a reason, so go as early as possible for a stroll and coffee to avoid the crowd.
I like their games and card sets for dinners, retreats, and gifts.
Pick up a tompoes, the Dutch variety of the mille-feuille.
Petit Gâteau offers French pastries like eclairs, macarons, and madeleines but is mainly known for its tiny tarts (miniminis), which come in 20+ flavors. I like the raspberry vanilla cream, lemon meringue, and everything pistachio. They also do baking masterclasses and have another branch in the Foodhallen in Amsterdam Oud-West.
The salted caramel bite, which gets its sweetness from dates, is my favorite. I also like the coconut and date truffles. Let Sue's sweets come to room temperature and then gorge them down quick.
There's no apple pie like this one. Moly, that crust. Go over the top, and have it with cream.
Catch a movie in Art Deco style at what Time Out Magazine dubbed the most beautiful cinema in the world.