In a city known for shimmering canals, Golden Age mansions, world-class museums and edgy counterculture, eating can be an afterthought—ironic considering the Dutch ruled the spice trade in their 17th-century heyday. Still, there’s some fine fare in Amsterdam, including local delicacies like herring, bitterballen and poffertjes, available at street stands, cafés and on the Eating Amsterdam Jordaan Food Tour.
You can go Dutch with hearty comfort food at Moeder’s or Bistro Bij Ons. Or opt for international flavors in a culinary melting pot fed by a population encompassing 180+ nationalities. In the mix are some of my favorite Amsterdam restaurants serving food from around the world, geared for a wide range of budgets and palates:
AMERICAN: Graceland Bar-B-Que. Come for the authentic Texas barbecue, stay for the bluegrass music. Carnivores will salivate at piles of brisket, flank steak and spareribs while fish-lovers eye crab cakes and blackened catfish. All are served with classic Southern sides like coleslaw, collard greens, hush puppies and sweet potato fries.
ARGENTINEAN: Caramba. This Jordaan favorite has been offering authentic Latin American cuisine in Amsterdam for more than three decades. Run by several generations of an Argentinean family, the cozy restaurant serves fajitas, beef ranchero, rib eye, tacos and enchiladas that might rival any you’d find in Buenos Aires. A cocktail menu features margaritas, mojitos and piña coladas.
BRAZILIAN: Do Brazil. If it’s beef you’re craving, this Brazilian steakhouse off touristy Leidseplein has been serving up big portions of grilled meat, as well as Brazilian stews and mixed grills, since the late ’80s. Killer caipirinhas and tropical cocktails round out the drinks menu.
CHINESE: Nam Kee. Immortalized in De Oesters van Nam Kee (The Oysters of Nam Kee), a popular novel made into a movie, this brightly-lit eatery specializes in traditional Cantonese cuisine. The fabled oysters are served in pools of silky black bean sauce garnished with crunchy scallions.
EAST AFRICAN: Abyssinia. Named for the Ethiopian Empire that reigned from the 12th—20th century, Abyssinia specializes in authentic African dishes once prepared by Ethiopian nobles. Your feast arrives on a silver platter, layered on a giant pancake. There’s no cutlery, so yank a piece with your hands and pick up some spicy morsels while sitting on colorful rattan furnishings and woven baskets. For a sweet treat, order a mango, banana or coconut beer served in a calabash shell.
FRENCH: There’s a new gastrobar off Leidseplein that makes fine French cuisine accessible to all. With classics like onion soup, escargots, foie gras and frogs’ legs priced from €10–15, Ron Gastrobar Paris, the latest brainchild of Michelin-star Dutch chef Ron Blaauw, is a great place for a posh yet affordable lunch or pre-theater dinner off one of Amsterdam’s liveliest public squares. €10 lunch specials like Oeuf Bénédict and Croque Monsieur, plus splurges like a Plateau De Paris with crab, lobster, mussels, shrimps and oysters, bring a taste of Paris to Amsterdam, sans snooty maître d’ or tuxedoed waiters.
JAPANESE: Yumi Sushi. Serve yourself from a rotating conveyor belt at this brightly-lit diner off Max Euweplein, where plates are color-coded according to price and the bill is calculated by counting plates. Nothing stays on the belt for more than two hours, so you can be in and out quickly if time is an issue.
INDIAN: Katmandu Kitchen. This casual eatery in the heart of the Jordaan is owned by a Nepalese family. Choose from tandoori and vegetarian dishes, curries and masalas served with sauces and marinades infused with exotic spices.
INDONESIAN: Swieti Sranang. Despite its humble appearance on the posh Brouwersgracht, Swieti Sranang serves up some of the best—and most affordable—Indonesian and Surinamese food in town. The tiny hole-in-the-wall reflects Amsterdam’s immigrant influences with Indonesian and Surinamese-inspired sandwiches, snacks, rice, roti and bami/nasi specialties.
Waterkant. This tropical-themed bar and restaurant serves casual fare on the waterfront behind the twin towers of the Q-Park on Marnixstraat. At colorful tables on an expansive terrace, you can watch boats passing by and the Nassaukade street scene over specialties like peanut soup, curried duck spring rolls, fried dumplings, roti roll, and Jamaican Jerk ribs.
MEXICAN: Rose’s Cantina. Since 1982, this sprawling cantina has drawn locals for Latin flavors on a street known for its plethora of dining options. It’s just the spot for killer nachos and Mexican favorites like chili con carne, enchiladas, empanadas, as well as fruity margaritas and minty mojitos.
Salsa Shop. Mexican street food is served in surroundings no more glamorous than a Guadalajara street stall at this build-it-yourself taco and burrito bar off Rembrandtplein. It’s a good feed for under €9—great for a late-night snack after catching a flick at the nearby Art Deco Tuschinski Theater.
SPANISH: A La Plancha. This aioli-scented tapas bar transports diners to Spain in the heart of Amsterdam’s Jordaan. Ignore the menu and let the chefs prepare appetizer-size portions of your favorite Catalan and Andalusian specialties.
La Paella. Make a satisfying meal of small tapas plates at this tiny bistro near Amsterdam’s Red Light District known for Spanish delicacies like Patatas Bravas, Spanish Croquettes, Albóndigas and Chorizo Español. But the real deals here are the paellas—rich concoctions of saffron rice, chicken, rabbit, seafood and/or vegetables. At €14–20pp, they’re are not everyday meals. For special occasions and group sharing in a convivial atmosphere, they’re a treat.
VIETNAMESE: Taste of Vietnam. If a big bowl of pho is what you’re after, this small restaurant off the Herengracht serves a variety of Vietnamese soups, noodle dishes and stir fry favorites. Snack and sampling menus include a selection of soups, warm and cold dishes, and desserts flavored with Asian spices.
Do you have a favorite Amsterdam restaurant? Add it in the comments below!