Hungry in Amsterdam? Good—you can satiate your appetite without going broke. No matter what your budget, have your fill of gyros, falafal, frites, herring, pizza or burgers for no more than a few euros, at dives throughout the city. If you can ignore the no-nonsense settings, Amsterdam satisfies with international fare that will have you loosening your belt long before you need to get a grip on that scrappy travel budget.
Skek: Amsterdam’s Affordable, Student-Run Café
If you’re a student on a budget, Skek may be your best bet for a wholesome, sit-down meal. Run by and for students (get 25% off with ID), this eco-friendly café off the Red Light District describes itself as “loving, honest and curious.” For no-frills, organic snacks, meals and drinks, you can’t beat it. Portions are generous on lunch and dinner menus that feature Dutch classics like bitterballen, plus burgers, soups, salads and creative entrées that are great values even if you’re well past your student years.
Fronted by a gezellig living room and bar, Skek has no manager, maître d’, five-star chef or snooty sommelier. A staff of 30 students cooks, serves and performs, learning the restaurant business as they go. A bent for seasonal products means the menu changes often, with new creations showcased at Tasting Evenings featuring 10–15 previews of menu additions for €15. Food and service can be erratic, but that’s the case in many Amsterdam establishments with more experienced staff, so don’t let it put you off; these kids try hard to please!
Since Skek is both restaurant and creative showcase, you may find yourself entertained by budding talent: singers, dancers or comedians. Open Mic and game nights, themed parties and pub quiz challenges happen frequently. On the dining room walls, young artists display unconventional work—papier mâché cows, abstract landscapes and arty portraits.
Don’t expect haute cuisine or five-star service at this mellow pub. What you’ll get is no-fuss food served with a side of talent that may include klezmer bands or singers belting out pop/hip-hop tunes. While their performances may bowl you over, the bill won’t, especially if you’re a student entitled to that deep discount.
Belly Up to the Burger Bar
Even if you’re not a carnivore, there’s no better place to grab a meal or late night snack than Burger Bar. From the outside, it looks like a typical fast food joint, with a neon sign leading into a brightly lit hole-in-the- wall. Inside, you’re likely to find a dozen or so Amsterdammers crammed at the bar and tiny side tables, chowing down on freshly cooked burgers, chicken and portobello mushroom sandwiches.
Order 200 or 270 grams of 100% freshly ground Irish, prime aged U.S. Black Angus or Wagyu beef—pure Kobe deliciousness on a sesame seed bun. It’s cooked as you watch, then served with lettuce, tomato, pickle, creamy sauce and optional bacon, cheese, grilled onions or mushrooms, avocado, fried egg and/or jalapenos. A side of Belgian fries—crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, delectable with mayo, samurai sauce, blue cheese or other gooey toppings—completes your meal.
When your order arrives, you’ll know why you came. Especially if you’re hungry at 4am, after the bars and everything else has closed. Burger Bar has outlets Kolksteeg, Warmoesstraat and Reguliersbreestraat—the latter a great spot to grab a bite before a movie at the nearby Tuschinsky.
FEBO: Window Shopping for Fast-Food
Any list of cheap eats in Amsterdam would be remiss if it didn’t include FEBO, the Dutch culinary tradition of eating from a wall of fast food vending machines. With 20+ outlets in Amsterdam, it’s easy to find a FEBO de Lekkerste (literally, FEBO The Tastiest). If it’s past midnight, chances are you’ll bump into a handful of Dutchies, trying to inconspicuously grab a late-night frikkandel (minced meat hot dog) or kroket. At the push of a button, out comes a hot snack for munching on while peddling home over the cobblestones.
No one knows exactly how long those mayo-laden burgers are allowed to sit under heat lamps in FEBO windows. But no one seems to care, especially at 3am, when there’s no other option for a snack.