Amsterdam is a fantastic place to try cheap and tasty ethnic cuisine, with a few Dutch dishes in between. Here I suggest a few places that won't break your wallet
When it comes to deciding if I like a new city or not, the way to my heart lies through my stomach. Food impressions last. So when I went to Amsterdam for the first time I decided to be spontaneous and follow my nose or, shall I say, my stomach rumbles, and let the city work its charms on me. I only had two requirements: the food had to be good and cheap.
A good hearty breakfast is easy, given that most bars and cafés serve decent omelettes priced at 6-7 euro. Pastries with tea are just not enough for a gal like me, who wants to see as much Amsterdam in three days as possible. The Dutch seem to love eggs for breakfast, so it kept me happy. But I also wanted to try their famous pancakes. Not many places offer you quality, as I realised. Pancakes! restaurant in the lovely Nine Streets area (Berenstraat 38; tel. 020 5289797; www.pancakesamsterdam.com/) won my heart (and stomach!) as one of very few that know how to make them delicious, golden and light. Their menu is extensive offering plain and more traditional apple pancakes as well as deluxe creations with generous and sometimes quite inspiring fillings of fruit salad, mango chutney and curry, camembert and raspberry sauce. Priced from 5.80 to 10 euro, a simple apple pancake, slightly powdered with icing sugar kept me going till lunch.
Options are endless! If you decide to eat on the go Maoz Falafel is an excellent choice. For just over 4 euro you get a flatbread filled with a few falafels, hummus, salad and can have a sauce or salad refill for free. There are six outlets around Amsterdam most of them are in central locations (Muntplein 1, tel. 020 4207435; Reguliersbreestraat 45, tel. 020 6249290; Leidsestraat 85, www.maoz.nl). They are always packed because lunch there is cheap, fast and delicious!
I, surely enough, felt adventurous and wanted to sample pickled herring sandwiches. Kiosks with signs Frens Haringhandel selling this authentic treat are scattered around Singel and Amstel. I got a bun with pieces of salted herring, onions and sweet mayo topped with slices of gherkins. Heaven! Nutritious, healthy and tasty but not for everyone’s taste buds. You can also find smoked eel and mackerel on offer. The Dutch are very serious about their herring and some newspapers publish lists of kiosks selling the best tasting fish at the height of the new herring season which is in May-June.
I am not a big fan of sandwiches but the broodjes on rye bread made me salivate with excitement! The slices of bread are generous and fillings are fresh. According to expats and some locals, one of the best places for broodjes (and muffins!) is Small World Catering in the Jordaan area (Binnenoranjestraat 14, tel. 020 4202774, www.smallworldcatering.nl). It is a small place, so it fills up very quickly with hungry customers during lunch time, so no chance to linger in the lovely smells coming from the kitchen. Expect to spend around 6-12 euro unless you go crazy on their tasty cakes.
If you are very, very hungry and absolutely in no mood for any gastronomic adventures, I suggest The Old Bell Pub (Rembrandtplein 46, tel. 020 6204135, www.oldbell.nl). You can hardly beat their day menu offer of half roast chicken with fries and a little pile of tired-looking iceberg lattice for 10.25 euro. Great price, not much taste. The friendly ginger cat lazing on a windowsill and totally indifferent to the food around adds a warm touch to the atmosphere of the pub.
Being one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe, Amsterdam offers more ethnic restaurants than places with authentic fare. Very few Dutch restaurants that I visited were either pricey or full. So, going ethnic seemed like a very Amsterdam thing to do. We asked around, leafed through our guidebook and picked Los Pilones (Kerkstraat 63, tel. 020 3204651, or 1e Anjeliersdwarsstraat 6; tel. 020 6200323; www.lospilones.com ), a Mex-Mex restaurant run by two Mexican brothers. A big starter for two cost just over 10 euro and the mains around 15 euro. The menu is quite small with three vegetarian options, some beef and chicken dishes. Their version of the famous Mexican national dish for holiday feasts mole poblano with chicken enchiladas deeply disappointed me as being too gooey and not rich enough but the rest of the food was good. Any disappointment can be washed away with Los Pilones margaritas. They come with a little extra helping in a cute pitcher. I overheard someone complaining that the cocktails didn’t have enough tequila but at that stage I had had a few of lime and strawberry margaritas and could have sworn by them. If you resist the cocktails at 6.95 euro each you will eat well with 40-50 euro for two.
For hard-core vegetarians Golden Temple (Utrechtsestraat 126; tel. 020 6268560; www.restaurantgoldentemple.com) is a heaven. The restaurant serves Indian and Middle Eastern dishes, pizza and salads. Prices are reasonable enough: for 16 euro you get four dishes, a large salad is 12 euro. The restaurant feels a little too new-agey, with spiritual chanting and music nights on Fridays and custom-blend juices to suit your mood, but, hey, the food is cheap, hearty and made with love. What else a tired street wonderer can wish for in Amsterdam?
Where to stay
NH Caransa (Rembrandtplein 19) is a modern hotel for those who don't mind the noise of night life. When booking make sure to ask for a bigger room as they have two standard room sizes. Their smaller rooms seem to be quieter as some of them face back streets.
Hotel De Munck (Achtergracht 3) is located on a lovely quiet street. The rooms are very basic but clean. The breakfast room is full of character with a cheerful canary in a cage, angry small dog and a jazz radio station turned on in the morning. Off peak season you can get fantastic rates: over Christmas period I paid 55 euro for a room that normally costs 159 euro!