Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Top 5 "Don't Miss" Amsterdam Meal Bargains

I've simply not been mentioning food enough, that's pretty clear. I've not talked grub or dropped AD references enough, so I'm doing both today.

For those planning a trip to Amsterdam for the March 3rd USMNT friendly, or for anyone who might visit any time really, I have for you the absolute top food deals in town. They are all both relatively cheap for their cuisine genre and unspeakably delicious. And by unspeakably, I mean, if you'd ask how it was as I ate, I'd grunt 'Can't talk... eating' at you.

Bottom line: whether you are on a budget or not, I would absolutely recommend you not skip these joints (no pun intended). You will be sorry in a way you'll never understand if you do. So pop it in the Blackberry or bookmark it on your iPhone or whatever it is you do to remember such things.

After each bit of descriptive fawning, I will give two ways to get to each pick: the easy, fast way and a "nice day for a walk" map link.

Foooooood goooood.

#5 - Kam Yin

(Warmoesstraat 6, open everyday noon-midnight)

Despite a prevalence of them, it can be nearly impossible to find even a passable Chinese restaurant. Everything is so bland and just... lifeless. Not only does Kam Yin offer some inventive, lively Chinese cooking, they also have the Mokum staple that is roti - a dish from Surinaam consisting of curried meat and veggies served with a potato-y pancake for rolling.

This place has main dishes ranging from €5-10, yet another reason it is a local favorite. The Dutch love a bargain!

Easiest way to get there: It's basically just across from Centraal Station, at the start of the Red Light District area... so just get yourself to Centraal Station.
#4 - Café Luxembourg

(Spui 24, open Su-Th 9AM-1PM, F & Sa 9-2)

This place is especially good on a nice day, when you can sit out front and people watch. It's a great spot and this is a great traditional Dutch café, with a bar, wine and cigar lists and eclectic menu of tasty dishes.

This is the most expensive of the five picks, but I think you'll agree this place is worth €10-15 a head for lunch or dinner. My personal favorite is the uniquely delicious Chicken Caeser Salad, though many of my friends swear by the flatbread open salmon sandwich that has a funny name I can't remember right now.

Easiest way to get there: Well, let's see... take tram 1/2/4/5/9/14/16/24/25 from wherever you are to the Spui (pronounced "shpow") stop. The place is right on the square by where the tram tracks bend towards the Flowermarkt. Check the map, though, because this is a short hop from many places you may find yourself and it's a fun area to walk.

- The Pancake Bakery

(Prinsengracht 191, open everyday 11AM-930PM)

Hands down, the best Dutch pancakes in town, with an unreal number of possible topping combos, both sweet and savory, both traditional and crazy. Of the "normal" choices, I would most heartily recommend the bacon and the apple cinnamon. You can expect to drop €10-11 for a pancake and drink, but it will fill you up pretty good for a while.

I also have a couple of other suggestions. One is to expect a 15-30 minute wait for a table if you go during the day on the weekend unless you show up at opening time. The other is... avoid the stroop. It looks like syrup, but it is much more like molasses. I don't know how anyone eats that stuff. I just go for a powdered sugar sprinkle myself (yep, even on the bacon pancake).
Easiest way to get there: Take tram 13, 14 or 17 to the Westermarkt stop, walk down the canal to the left of Westerkerk, past The Anne Frank Huis to just before Brouwersgracht.
#2 - Sari Citra (Ferdinand Bolstraat 52, open M-F 2-9 PM, Sa 3-9)

I had never eaten Indonesian food before I came here, had never even heard of it. I am now fully obsessed with it. It's like... Chinese food gone wildly exotic and Homer Simpson lip-smacking drooly out of this world.

Sari Citra is not just the absolute best Indonesian food in town, it is among the cheapest. You can get one of many sampler plates for about €7, build your own (which usually ends up being around €8-10 per... don't let them give you too much rice/noodles to start, no matter how good it is!) or you can spend a little more to go the multi-course rijstafel way with several dishes on hand for about €15 per person.

My standard plate is bami (fried noodles without compare), ajam ketjap (chicken in mild spicy sauce) and toemis boontjes (Indonesian green beans). Sometimes, I'll throw on a couple spicy meatballs or some sweet 'n sour chicken or the fantastic smoor daging (beef tips in a mild sauce that is impossible to describe). And if you like your food super spicy, all of these options have a tongue-scalding alternate version. They also have plenty of vegetarian choices and an extremely friendly staff.

To the side case, there are various Indonesian baked filled pastries and after-meal cakes - which you may need, actually. Not everyone is used to the particular ketjap type of soy sauce used, and some tummies may get grumpy after a big fill-up here. No problem; simply grab yourself some sort of cake item and some water, it'll pass.

Be forewarned: don't go near 5PM unless you feel like battling all the neighborhood folks grabbing a takeaway on their path home from work. It gets very, very busy right around 5. While this is one of the absolute best eateries in town, it is quite small. So plan accordingly and do not miss this meal. I would have displayed a picture to tempt you, but found none online that could do this food justice. It's simply that good.

Easiest way to get there: Take tram 16 or 24 to the Albert Cuypstraat stop, the restaurant is a half-block north with a yellow sign.

- Leeman Döner (Van Woustraat 160, open M-Sa until about 8 or 9 PM)

As ridiculously, mind-blowingly scrumptious as Sari Citra is, the value of Leeman Döner makes it an easy top choice. Not only is it the single best döner kebab I've ever had (and believe me, I've had a lot of them, all over Europe), but it is the single best food bargain in town at €1.95 for a large lamb or chicken sandwich.

Why is this particular Turkish delight the king? Well, it starts with their own bread, which is fantastic. Most places don't make their own bread, and none make it this good. It's almost sourdough-ish and all the way delicious when they grab it straight from the oven to make your sandwich. You may even want to grab a couple extra of those "rolls" (35 cents each) to take with for later, and fill it with whatever.

They also make their own killer chili sauce (a ka sambal, an ingredient unique to Amsterdam döners), and drizzle moisture/flavor over both meats by planting an onion and a tomato at the top of each spit. It doesn't sound like a huge touch, but it really makes the meat burst with flavor.

In addition, they have good Turkish pizzas, croissants and various baked sweets. The place is tiny, so don't expect room to sit down inside during the day.

A little extra tip: they will tend to assume that Americans can't handle the chili sauce, which makes them go overboard on the garlic sauce. Unless you get the old lady making yours, ask them to go easy on the garlic sauce or you will have a very messy sammich. The mama, however, makes them perfect every time. She gives no sambal quarter.

Easiest way to get there: Take tram 4 to the Lutmastraat stop and walk back a block.

- Greg Seltzer


jason said...

i assume Leeman Döner is the place you took me when i was in amsterdam. whatever it was that place was good. the main thing other than the goodness i remember is that it was small and the heating elements for the meat was right there burning your face off while you waited. might be better now that it's winter.

Greg Seltzer said...

That's the one.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have been taken to Leeman Doner while in Amsterdam by Greg.


There's one pancake place that I've been to all three times I've been to Amsterdam that's really good...but I can't remember what it's called and I also don't know where it is cause I always find it by accident.

If I remember correctly, it's located around or within the flower market.

Greg Seltzer said...

That is correct, Mr. New KC Wizard press officer (a ka THE ENEMY). :D

As for the Flowermarkt, there are actually two pancake places along it, one with massive windows near the corner, one situated near the middle. I've been to both, but had pancakes at neither.