Down-home Dutch cooking in Amsterdam

Dutch cooking isn’t one of Europe’s famous cuisines. Yet while it can’t compete on the world stage with Italian or Spanish cuisine, Dutch cooking can been really good and travelers to The Netherlands shouldn’t dismiss the culinary side of their trip. Here are three cheap to mid-priced restaurants that will make you appreciate Dutch cooking.

De Stadskantine
This “city canteen” at Van Woustraat 120 is run by friendly folks who decided there needed to be a cheap, quick, cafeteria-style restaurant in Amsterdam, something between the grab-and-gulp fast food joints and the sedate sit-down restaurants.

They succeed admirably. The long tables allow people to mingle in an informal atmosphere and each dish is already prepared so you don’t have long to wait. This is especially good if you’re just visiting Amsterdam, because you can rest and refuel without losing a big part of your sightseeing day. The servings are hearty and the food well-prepared and healthy. I had the turkey with tomato sauce, potatoes, and green beans. This isn’t haute cuisine; this is tasty, filling food the way you mom used to make, assuming your mom was Dutch.

De Stadskantine has only been open eight months and it’s already hugely popular. It hasn’t made it onto the tourist trail yet and the only language I overheard was Dutch. The menu changes regularly and there’s always a meat dish, a fish dish, and a vegetarian option. Entrees are all under ten euros ($13.50), a bargain for Amsterdam. Check out their website for what’s on today.Restaurant Moeders
This restaurant at Rozengracht 251 is named after and dedicated to mothers. The walls are covered with photos of them and you can donate one of your own mom. They also offer specials if it happens to be mom’s birthday.

The odd decor doesn’t stop with the mother obsession. The restaurant looks like a cross between a diner, a cafe, and the cluttered living room of some old spinster who lives with 50 cats. That’s a good thing, as you can see from their website. Oh, and none of the cutlery or dishes match because they was all donated by the diners the first day it opened.

So this is one of the most distinctive looking restaurants in Amsterdam, but how’s the food? Excellent. I had a hearty stew that was just the ticket on the cold drizzly night I went and left no room at all for dessert. Service was friendly and prompt. This restaurant fills up quickly so book ahead, way ahead if you want to attend their annual Mother’s Day party. They also serve High Tea.

Haesje Claes
This large restaurant housed in three connected historic canal homes has been popular with locals and tourists for years now. While many such places coast on their reputation, Haesje Claes doesn’t.

It’s great for dining alone like I was because the decor gives you plenty to look at. The rooms and tables are lined with old decorative tiles from centuries past, and one room has an ornate Baroque ceiling the owner salvaged from some old building. The atmosphere is homey and intimate with a relaxed, cheerful crowd and friendly waitresses.

The food was cleverly done without being pretentious. Spoiled for choice with the appetizers, I ordered the Taster, which comes with six starters including cheese croquet, shrimp croquet, potato salad, fried tripe ball, and a couple more that I’ve forgotten. All were excellent except the tripe, which was, well, tripe. The venison steak I had as a main was well-prepared too.

In all, these three restaurants should satisfy your appetite no matter how long you walked around Amsterdam that day, and they’ll each give you an insight into the underrated world of Dutch cooking. All are reasonably priced. I’d pick De Stadskantine as my overall favorite for its good value and fun atmosphere. Haesje Claes is best for a proper sit-down meal in historic surroundings. Restaurant Moeders is the place to be if you’re traveling with your mom or you are a mom.

Don’t miss the rest of my series: Lowdown on the Low Countries.

Coming up next: Amsterdam’s Torture Museum!

This trip was partially funded by Amsterdam’s Tourism and Congress Bureau and Cool Capitals. All opinions, however, are my own.