Lekker! Delicious Places to Dine in Amsterdam

While lekker usually refers to food, lekkerding has evolved into slang that describes a hottie.

Here’s my challenge to any Dutchie: Go one full day without uttering the word lekker and I will personally treat you to the lekkerste experience of your choice listed below. So what does this most ubiquitous of all Dutch words really mean? Originally used to describe something that tastes yummy, like stamppot—a dish made with mashed spuds and mashed weeds, e.g. carrots (wortel stamppot), kale (boerenkool stamppot) or endive (andijvie stamppot)—its meaning now extends to something, or usually someONE, deemed hot, alluring and sexy. You might refer to your hunky neighbor as lekker, but don’t call your boss that within his/her earshot unless you’re prepared to trade your day job for a roll in the hay.

To further complicate things, lekker also can mean pleasant or sweet. At bedtime, you can say slaap lekker, meaning “sleep well” or “sweet dreams,” to your mom with no sexual overtones or “lekker, man” when your friend tells you he’s won the lottery. On the other hand, if he’s really a creep, the whole thing could be niet lekker—not nice. The most confusing part comes when the Dutch pair lekker with gezellig (see previous post) for the ultimate superlative: lekker gezellig. In Holland it doesn’t get any better than that…until you get to heerlijk or wildly deliciousDutchie Nirvana! For purposes of this post, let’s assume lekker refers to food that tastes delicious, served in an environment that exudes gezelligheid (coziness). Here are a trio of places to find it in Amsterdam. Eet smakelijk!

Since 1990, Moeders has been popular for fine Dutch-fusion fare served in a homey ambiance.

Moeders (Mothers): If smells emanating from this homage to moms everywhere were caloric, I’d be obese. Having lived next door to it for three years, I’ve salivated on numerous afternoons over the aroma of tangy spare ribs and suddervlees, slowly simmered meatmy favorites on an international menu that also includes a Dutchified Rijsttafel, substituting culinary specialties of Holland for rice. Zo lekker! Imagine, a “rice table” without rice! Opened in 1990, Moeders serves lunch, dinner and high tea in an informal, homey ambiance that’s as lekker than its food. Photos of guests’ mothers, eclectic table settings, antique biscuit tins, vintage tea pots and other kitsch make it decidedly gezellig—especially the outdoor patio, open May through September.

In Holland, pannenkoeken are served for lunch or dinner, but never breakfast.

The Pancake Bakery: Dutch pannenkoeken are nothing like American pancakes, French crêpes or Israeli blintzes. Prepared in a special cast-iron pan, they’re flipped before one side is completely done, resulting in a softer interior texture than their international cousins. Sweet toppings include strawberries, whipped cream, bananas, Nutella and Grand Marnier. Savory options encompass ham, bacon, cheese, mushrooms, chicken and sausage. Whichever you prefer, they’re all headliners at The Pancake Bakery. Set on the Prinsengracht in a historic 17th century warehouse a stone’s throw from Anne Frank’s house, this dimly lit Amsterdam fixture serves up traditional pannenkoeken and poffertjes (small pannenkoeken, often cooked with apples and crowned with melted butter and powdered sugar. Since 1980, it’s drawn locals and tourists with a gezellig vibe and infinite array of topping combinations, including bacon and salami with syrup, an acquired taste for Americans.

Arabian specialties are the order of the day at Nomads.

Nomads: East meets West in this Arabian-themed restaurant on Rozengracht created by the same folks who gave us supperclub. More relaxed than its upscale cousin, Nomads features a domed dining room lined with cozy niches, velvet cushions, red mirrors and a magnificent mosaic floor. Guests dine shoe-less, reclining like royalty while sampling hot and cold mezzes (small dishes) served on enormous copper trays. Wash your meal down with mint tea or a specialty cocktail, then sit back and digest specialties like falafal, tabouleh, couscous and tahini-spiced kebabs while a belly dancer gyrates or resident DJ Jimmy Jazz entertains with modern Arabian sounds.  

20 comments

  1. Interesting pictures + simple, but humorous sentences + insights into authentic Dutch language, culture and life + practical local tips = A great travel journal with a great combination of great elements, Lekker!

    P.S. How would you pronounce Lekker?

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  2. Well it isn’t hard to see what kind of tempting delights kept you in Amsterdam – I now can’t wait to come back! In addition to the amazing-sounding food I also look forward to the hilarious social faux-pas sure to abound when I attempt to use the word ‘Lekker’.

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  3. All of these restaurants look amazing! Though your standards of what is lekker must be very high if there’s only these three. Will you be writing about what specific dishes, as opposed to restaurants, that are lekker? Like stampot, for example, I’m keen to order that. (Though I’m slightly worried about how to order food in Amsterdam, I wouldn’t want to commit a social faux-pas with my lack of Dutch-speaking skills.)

    Do you know of any lekker restaurants that specialize in vegetarian food?

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  4. Sofia, there are many restaurants that serve lekker food in A’dam…this is just a tiny taste of what the city has to offer. There are veggie options on Moeder’s menu and even on Burgermeester’s…another great place for an affordable meal. Also check out the Maoz chains…excellent vegetarian falafel. And don’t worry about speaking Dutch…just about everyone under age 50 speaks English here, usually very well!

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  5. No travel experience is complete without trying out the local cuisines
    Eating is so much more than filling our stomaches
    The type of food the locals eat, the cooking method they use the style of their restaurants, the time they eat, the pace of eating etc. tell us a lot about the local culture
    I simply can’t wait to dine in these restaurants with lekker food
    I am so fascinated by the cozy environment of Moeders
    It must be a wondeful experience to have a “family” dinner at a traditional Dutch “home”
    As I am a vegeterian, hopefully there will be vegeterian options in the restaurant 😛
    Also, I am really looking forward to trying pannenkoeken
    I have a sweet tooth and I adore pancakes and crêpes
    The picture of pannenkoeken looks absolutely delicious
    I wish I could have it for dinner now!

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    • Grace,
      Moeders has some GREAT vegetarian options, as do many places (including burger joints like Burgermeester) in A’dam. And gooey pannenkoeken are available everywhere, including my kitchen ;-).

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  6. I actually started drooling while reading this post – everything sounds so delicious! Don’t get me wrong, the food in Italy is wonderful, but I am so thrilled for the chance to experience something new, particularly if they are as wonderful as your descriptions imply. I’m curious, what is a standard Dutch breakfast like? When do people typically eat dinner?

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  7. Melissa, thank you for your response and advice. I may take you up on your invitation to stop by your place. My husband and I will be in A’dam on Dec. 17th, flight due to arrive at noon. I am hoping that we can get to Ann frank house by 3pm, which is very optimistic. I think the museum is open till 5, so we should be able to make it. Best contact method for me is email, will be in touch with you soon.

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  8. Everything really looks delicious. I’m pretty sure that I would salivate everyday if I would live even in the same block of those places. Actually I’m salivating a lot right know only because the pictures and descriptions. I can guess the damage it could be done for the neighbors of those delicious places. I hope is not necessary speak Dutch to appreciate these very look-tasty dishes, because I don’t and now I’m strongly prone to spend a lot in those places.

    I appreciated this tip.

    =]~~

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  9. Melissa, my visit to Amsterdam is fast approaching, getting very excited. I have tix to Ann’s house at 4:40, am hoping to get done no later than 6. Is your offer to meet on Monday the 17th still open? If so, please email me at vasugupte@yahoo.com, so that we can make arrangements. Thanks again.

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  10. Well, it is said that there is no known of a culture without tasting its cuisine, and Amsterdam is a city of cultural mixtures, so it can be complicated to taste all 😉
    By the way, I think my “must” will be The Pancake Bakery !

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  11. Useful word. In New England we would always say things are “pretty good.” Rijstafel sounds “pretty good.” It is more genuine and honest than a throwaway superlative like delicious or excellent. When I was once asked at dinner with his Midwest family how I liked my new boss, I said “pretty good,” and I meant it. “Only pretty good?” they asked. I said “pretty damn good.”

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  12. Lekker is my favourite word in Dutch because it can so many different things and the Dutch use it all the time. Has anyone yet completed the challenge? Also my favourite slang term in Dutch is lekker ding, roughly translating to tasty/sex thing, although, you would never say this to the person you were referencing.

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