4 Days in Amsterdam w/ food obsessed family
My wife and I will be staying near Brouwersgraacht and Prinsersgraacht at the end of March with three children. The adults are looking forward to a couple of quiet dinners at de Kas and Marius, but we need to keep the kinder happy. We tend to organize our family vacations around food, and find that it is a terrific way to explore a city with children - the treats tend to distract them from how much they are walking...
I have spent a fair amount of time on this board, as well as the very informative sites dutchgrub and spottedbylocals and have determined that the following should make for good destinations:
Cakes: Patisserie Kuyt
Cheese: de Kaaskamer
French Fries: Yleminckx
Sandwiches: Broodje Bert, Small world, Singel 404
Am I missing anything in those categories?
Categories that I would like more guidance on are
Pancakes: Is Amsterdam Pancakes! the best?
Indonesian: I still have fond memories of rijstafel at Sama Sebo as a backpacker 30 years ago, and would love to share the feast with our kids. But I'm confused as to where to go...Looking for good food, comfortable surroundings, not touristy and not too crazily expensive. Tempe Deloe? Restaurant Blauw? Or should I leave the past alone?
Coffee: Real coffee, not coffehouse "coffee"...Good places to buy beans (we're staying in a flat and will be able to brew our own) or expressos, preferably near where we are staying.
Eet cafe: Cafe de Reiger sounds great for dinner with the kids. Is that a good choice, or do you have another favourite?
Herring: More fond memories, stoked by the delicious imports we get each June from the North Sea here in NYC. Any particular stall we should track down? Is there a particularly good shop to buy herring?
Bread: Fournil de Sebastien sounds delicious, but a bit far from where we are staying. Any recommendations closer by?
Icecream: Always good for a pickmeup when the nth museum of the day proves a bit daunting...Any recommendations?
Thanks so much for any advice you can offer us - and for all the excellent info we've already gleaned. And any tips for things to do w/ our children (ages 17,14, and 9) in town beyond the welltrodden highlights would be greatly appreciated. And I promise to post when we get back!
Brouwersgracht must be one of the most beautiful canals in Amsterdam, so it's a lovely place to stay. It's other advantage is that it's round the corner from Haarlemmerdijk and Haarlemmerstraat (one is the continuation of the other).
Loads of exciting foodie things have happened on or close to these streets in recent months, so you could in theory spent a whole trip just discovering this area! De Pizza Bakkers, whose formula comprises pizza and prosecco, has opened a branch at Haarlemmerdijk no. 128, Tea Bar at no. 71 is a nice antidote to all the coffee swilling around Holland and Vesper is an excellent little cocktail bar opposite Small World Catering on the side street Binnen Oranjestraat - the latter probably not so interesting for the kids but the parents might want to wind down here after a day of sightseeing.
For coffee, you can try Espresso Bar Tazzina actually on Brouwersgracht at no. 139. Or if you're looking for beans, Screaming Beans opened on the Nine Streets, a little further down in the Jordaan, earlier this year. They've got 'normal' beans as well as some more exotic stuff like Sundried Panama and Unwashed Yirgacheffe from Ethiopia.
Also good for cheeses is Tromp on Utrechtsestraat, which is almost opposite Patisserie Kuyt.
Blauw is a great place for Indonesian, although relatively formal, especially if you're eating with kids. One of my favourite low-key Indonesian places, which is also slightly off the beaten track, is Cafe Kadijk on Kadijksplein (it's a short walk from Artis Zoo and in a picturesque old neighbourhood). It's small so you should try and reserve a table but the food is good, relatively cheap and there's a nice terrace out front in warm weather.
I haven't been to Café Kadijk, but I'm familiar with that neighbourhood and it would appeal to me more as a family destination than the fancier ones mentioned above. That is close to the zoo, also the Resistance and Jewish Museums, and the Hollandsche Schouwburg, a former theatre used by the Nazis during the war as a place to intern Jews before sending them to death camps http://www.hollandscheschouwburg.nl/en (sorry if this is too depressing, there are very pleasant things in this area too). The Resistance Museum has a "junior" version, taking us back to the wartime experiences of four Dutch children.
Back to FOOD, which is the essence of this site: right next to the Resistance museum, Plancius is a very nice café for all ages. http://www.verzetsmuseum.org/museum/en/visitorinformation/restaurant When the weather is nice, it is very pleasant to sit out on the pavement.
You must visit the street markets: The largest one is Albertcuypmarkt, in the Pijp, and Dappermarkt, a very "multicultural" place in the East End, is well worth your while too. At all street markets and other busy places, be VERY watchful of your possessions. Amsterdam is a very safe city, but distracted tourists make good targets for pickpockets.
And always visit a local supermarket. Even supermarket cookies (a Dutch word, of course) can be butter-based and great. Check the ingredients. One product I always pick up in the Netherlands is sambals - hot, complex Indonesian spice pastes in little jars.
What a great city! We stayed on a houseboat (through vrbo) at Prinsengracht and Brouwersgracht and had a wonderful time. We also ate very well, largely due to the terrific info you all provided us with. Here are some notes on our experiences:
Best meal: Marius - my wife and I loved the delicious food, intimate surroundings, and very friendly reception at Marius. Room felt smaller than our living room at home with room for 20 diners or fewer at several large communal tables, and the staff was limited to three people: one waitress/sommelier/busser/maitre d', the chef, and his assistant. Highlights included excellent vitello tonnato, made with succulent braised veal rather than the conventional scallopine, outstanding rack of goat, wonderful vegetables, and an authentic bouillobaisse. Wine list was quite good and well-priced; I enjoyed a Cotat Sancerre for less than it would have cost in NYC. Be sure to walk here through the charming islands district.
Best pub: cafe t'Smalle - we loved sitting at the bar in the wonderful, tiny wood-panelled room just off Prinsengracht, drinking la chouffe and snacking on their spicy nut mix.
Best apple cake: Winkel by Noordermarkt - yum! Admittedly not a thorough search - only other one we sampled was the somewhat heavier, cookie-crusted version from Pompadour - where we loved the praline Easter eggs, but we find it hard to believe there's a better one out there.
French fries w/ mayo at Cafe Stout on Haarlemmerstraat...thicker cut than at Vlaminck and we much preferred Stout's mayo...everything here was very good, from the gravlax sandwiche to the celery soup.
Delicious lunch around the corner from Rembrandt's House at Cafe Puccini...again, wonderful soup, sandwiches (particularly their take on pan bagnat), and salads (we were pleasantly surprised by how much the Dutch love their greens!) And the mint tea was great, as it was pretty much everywhere we had it.
De Kas was a lot of fun, even if I felt the food was not up to Marius' and the locavore ethos is not so novel as it must have been once. Scallops were delicous, as was the veal tartare, but the beet brulee and the main course of lamb were a bit dull. Again very good wines - my favorite Fleurie - Clos de la Roilette - and a delicious glass of a spatlese the sommelier recommended with dessert. Location in a greenhouse reached by bridges is magical. I would definitely recommend de Kas, but more for the overall experience than for the food itself. Again, extraordinarily friendly reception, including an impromptu tour of the greenhouse from the chef I encountered on my way back from the restroom.
Herring sandwiches w/ onions and pickles everywhere from the stalls on the streets - beats NYC dirty water dogs hands down!
Our go to source for daily supplies of organic fruit, bread, milk, butter, coffee, eggs, pasta, pesto was the appropriately named Delicious Food on Westerstraat. The corn bread was still warm when we bought it every morning!
The only cheese we've tried so far from the four we brought home from de Kaaskamer is the Bleu de Wolvega, which fully lives up to its reputation on this board. Wonderful!
Loved the feel of de Reiger - and the ribs!
And one sightseeing note, if I might: the tour of the Westerkerk tower, which is limited to 6 people every half-hour and requires reservations, is well worth it if you don't mind steep ascents and descending backwards down stairways that might be more aptly termed ladders.
I'm sure I'm leaving out some stuff. Oh, one unfortunate surprise was that neither Marius nor de Reiger took credit cards. Since Marius isn't located near any atms that meant I had to return the next day to pay the balance of our bill, which they were very gracious about...Unfortunately we didn't make it to the Cuyp market or rijstttafel this time. Oh well, all the more reason to return to your very welcoming city!
Call Marius.. I know he´s closing the restaurant one of these days (and moving to another location down the street) and it´s real busy there now with people trying to get a last dinner before the closing.
other tips: get a broodje pom from a Surinamese toko. It will be unlike anything you ever tasted.
Check out the Goudfazant and Pont 13 for off the beaten path locations and good food (they´re connected so the food is pretty similar).
You´re probably not coming to Amsterdam for pizza, but if you crave some, the best at the moment is at la Perla in the Jordaan area (Tweede Tuindwarsstraat). Mostly take out, but a couple of tables to eat your pizza there, nice pizza guys, great atmosphere, fantastic pizza with toppings they get from Italy (if you like spicy, get the Calabrese with Nduja).
The Haarlemmerstraat is one of my favorite areas for food shopping. And don´t miss the farmers market on Noordermarkt if you happen to be here on a Saturday morning. Queue up with the locals at Winkel, on the corner of Noordermarkt, for a piece of lovely Dutch apple pie.
Glad you liked my recommendations. I hope they'll deliver! Let me try to help with a few of your questions:
Indonesian: I can imagine the kids would like the idea. Tempo Doeloe is more central and touristy and quite traditional, so might bring back those memories. Blauw is a bit further out, off the beaten path. It's slick, modern and somewhat expensive.
Coffee: I went to a very nice "private dining" evening the other day at http://www.carlodiluca.com/ in De Pijp. Carlo is a real Italian who loves anything food and actually roasts his own coffee and espresso.
Eet cafe: Cafe de Reiger is a good option! Alternatives would be http://www.cafeloetje.nl/ for mostly steak and french fries or http://www.vooges.nl/ for a bit more upscale place with a Dutch / mediterranean menu.
Hope you have a great time and looking forward to your report!
Also, depending on how 'authentic' you want to get, Amsterdam is also famous for its squat restaurants: places run by legal squatter communities (it sounds weird but they're all lovingly tended). They all serve a set menu of vegan food for extremely low prices. They range from the extremely cheap and anarchic (Molli) to the very artsy and gourmet (De Peper). Your teenagers especially might think they're really cool (along with all the literature on sticking it to the man :)
I would second the recommendation for a walking lunch in Albert Cuypmarkt. The fresh stroopwafels from the stand there are to die for. There's also many little fish stores that sell nieuwe herring. Since the fish isn't prepared so much as it's just given as-is with some onions, so long as there is a steady supply of customers in the store, the fish will probably be just fine. Raw herring is DELICIOUS.
Also, this place is near the Heineken Museum (and so not too far from the Cuypmarkt) is absolutely charming. Your kids will love it, although it does get a bit crowded around brunch on Sundays: Taart van m'n Tante
For really good pancakes and a nice excursion, definitely check out the Pannenkoeken Boot. http://www.pannenkoekenboot.nl/
They have all you can eat pancakes with a toppings bar.
The best coffee in Amsterdam (according to a recent survey) is at De Koffie Salon on the Utrechtsestraat.
There is another location near the Overtoom, but I liked the atmosphere at the main one better. They also have nice croissants and nice looking chocolates from a beautiful shop across the street.
I just happened to hit some of the spots you mentioned in your post:
Vleminckx - Waited in line for these but aside from the variety of sauce combinations, I was disappointed in the fries. They were too well done with hard bits. Actually, I preferred the ones I had at the Albert Cuypmarkt, fries were a bit thicker, crispy, not overdone, and just the right golden colour.
Amsterdam Pancakes! - Great savoury and sweet pancakes. Had an apple pancake, sugar profitjes and a very good espresso macchiato. Pretty small place, try to get there when it's off-hours or you may be waiting outside for a table.
de Kaaskamer: Picked up a chunk of Bleu de Wolvega cheese, a chorizo sausage and an Italian negroni cacciatore sausage.
Puccini Bomboni chocolates: Went to the location on Staalstraat and bought 7 chocolates (med size box) and it cost about $15 euro. Ginger, plum, nutmeg, thyme, tamarind, calvados, and cranberry. I would say the price isn't that bad, averages about $2 / per chocolate and they are pretty large.
Cafe de Reiger: Excellent dinner tonight, smoked duck breast salad and a wonderful piece of perfectly cooked halibut with roasted fennel and thick cuts of potato. The meat dishes looked great but I wanted something lighter tonight.
A friend suggested to I go to Hartenkaas for sandwiches but they were closed when I got there. So I don't know how good it is, but the combinations looked great. http://www.hartenkaas.nl/
Since most these spots close by 5:00 or 6:00, I couldn't make it out to them after work last week and I just had this weekend to try a lot of them.
Also did some noshing while strolling through the Albert Cuypmarkt yesterday.
- Freshly made stroopwafel 1 euro
- Freshly made waffles with melted white and dark chocolate (you can choose whatever chocolate combination you want or you can also have jam and whipped cream) 2.50 euros.
- Kibbeling - deep fried battered chunks of cod 3 euros?
- Fries at the chip truck at the end of the street (where the Maoz falafel shop is) 2.5 euros
First off, don't miss the chocolates at Bomboni Chocolates. There are two locations, and it's among the best chocolate I've ever tasted. One piece will keep the kids happy.
A Dutch friend took me to a herring stall right around the corner from the Anne Frank house. It's in front of the church - towards the canal. I had a great sandwich and enjoyed that a lot.
At the top of the new library building (near the Central rail station) there is a great view below and also a very nice, and not too expensive, cafe. I think the kids would enjoy that and the library will remind them about books. :-)
All the bakeries in Amsterdam have wonderful breads and cakes. They are everywhere!
If you want an unusual dinner, check out De Witte Uyl. We loved our dinner there a few years ago. Samo Sebo is still in good form.
Do not miss the museum to the Resistance workers of WWII. Every person on earth should see how brave these Dutch were trying to save not only Jews but others, too. It's across from the zoo and easy to reach by tram. No one leaves with a dry eye.
Enjoy the trip...