“Food is everything we are,” said the late, great Anthony Bourdain. “It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.”
Had the bad-ass celebrity chef ever visited Amsterdam’s Oud-West, we might have seen him slathering Lebanese flatbread with hummus at the Ten Kate street market, washing down French pastries with a ginger-infused cocktail in Foodhallen, and devouring Belgian fries topped with spicy Indonesian rendang sauce at a potato laboratory run by a scientist obsessed with the culinary possibilities of spuds—a staple of the Dutch diet.
True to form, Bourdain would have admired the multicultural influences that define the newly trendy ‘hood wedged between Vondelpark, De Clercqstraat and Nassaukade. He’d have expounded on the hard-won battle to build a mosque in the Oud-West and extolled on the creativity behind the neighborhood’s “Wall of the Poets.”
Tragically, the gifted storyteller’s chance to digest one of Amsterdam’s most diverse neighborhoods evaporated this year. But you can bring some Bourdain-inspired gusto to Trendy at Twilight, an excursion into the culinary underbelly of the Oud-West. On Eating Europe‘s newest addition to its repertoire of small group foodie tours, you’ll savor, sip and nibble on Indonesian, French, Turkish, Moroccan and Dutch treats in an ever-evolving district often ignored by tourists.
Treats from a Street Market
Think hummus refers to that beige spread sold in plastic cups in supermarkets? You won’t after sampling the sweet and savory creations at De Gouden Tent, the first stop on Trendy at Twilight. After tinkering with hummus recipes for two decades, Iranian owner Amir now offers an eye- and mouth-watering array of variations on the classic dip, including beet, mango, grilled vegetable and smoked lemon versions. Along with Mediterranean salads and the aforementioned flatbread, the yummy fare is available from both a store and a food truck in Amsterdam’s century-old Ten Kate market.
Immigration laws that brought a wave of guest workers from Morocco to Amsterdam in the late 20th century also ushered in many Turkish immigrants. Expats from both cultures brought their families, food and traditions to the neighborhood just beyond the city’s 17th-century canal belt that’s now known as the Oud-West.
Some immigrants opened shops like Bakkerij Dunya, the second stop on Trendy at Twilight. The tiny bakery alongside the Ten Kate market offers Turkish favorites like kebabs and sandwiches stuffed with shoarma meat, as well as some of the city’s best baklava. Have yours with pistachios or try a less traditional version topped with flaked coconut.
Drinks & Snacks in Foodhallen
Before De Hallen opened in 2014, the Oud-West was already on track to becoming one of Amsterdam’s hippest ‘hoods. An evolving crop of ethnic restaurants, hip boutiques and concept stores along Overtoom, Kinkerstraat and Bilderdijkstraat provided a draw for both locals and visitors. But it was the debut of the derelict tram depot-turned cultural hotspot—complete with indoor food court, funky shops, an arthouse cinema, and cozy neighborhood library—that really put the Oud-West on the map.
No tour of this trendy neighborhood would be complete without a visit to Foodhallen, De Hallen’s culinary enclave proferring street food from around the world. Note the still-intact tram tracks in the renovated structure as you enter the buzzing food court for the next stops of your tour.
At the stylish Gin & Tonic Bar, cocktails arrive in fishbowl glasses garnished with fresh botanicals. Try the V2C Orange, mixed with spicy, V2C Dutch Dry Gin, infused with ginger and dressed up with an orange slice. On Trendy at Twilight, it’s paired with gourmet bitterballen from Foodhallen’s De Ballenbar, the brainchild of Michelin-star chef Peter Gast. To introduce Dutchies’ favorite snack to a wider audience, Gast creates the crunchy, fried balls with non-traditional shrimp, bouillabaisse, cheese and spinach, and truffle fillings—all served with the obligatory mustard.
Also in Foodhallen, Petit Gâteau is a reminder that France ruled Holland under Napoléon Bonaparte in the early 19th century. The family-run patisserie offers a freshly baked assortment of miniature tarts daily, as well as macaroons, madeleines, éclairs, and other classic French goodies.
Where Cultures Collide
For 16 years, Huseyin Gunduz dreamed of building a mosque in Amsterdam. Having met in factories, community centers and private basements, he and his congregation worked tirelessly to build a place of worship for the city’s Muslim community. Their dream became reality when The Mosque of West Amsterdam, known locally as the Westermoskee, opened in 2016. Modeled after Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia, it’s now the largest mosque in the Netherlands, with a capacity for 1700 worshippers.
Admire the structure that tested both the resilience of Amsterdam’s Turkish community and multiculturalism in the Netherlands enroute to your next stop on Trendy at Twilight, Meneer Wit Heeft Honger (literally, Mr. White is Hungry). At this romantic hideaway that opened in 2015 on Witte de Withstraat, savor Mediterranean-style dishes by Chef Simo Bouabgha, who learned to cook from his Moroccan grandmother.
Just as foreign influences have shaped the Oud-West food scene, immigrants have impacted its public spaces. On Trendy at Twilight, you’ll stroll past a giant painting of Ten Kate market vendors —a gift to the community from the vendors themselves. Funky metallic grapes designed by a local artist illuminate the site after sundown.
At Nicolaas Beetsstraat 82, the interactive Wall of the Poets is designed to replicate a local doorbell, suggesting the poets are alive and well inside. The work showcases Dutch poets after which Oud-West streets are named. Nearby, the Three Buddies statue oversees the neighborhood.
Far more colorful is the mosaic that adorns the Da Costa Badhuis en Sauna. Originally built as a public bath to encourage Dutchies to bathe more than once a week, the small sauna boasts a local vibe and affordable prices.
From Spuds to Sambal
Dutchies love potatoes, whether boiled, baked, mashed or fried. To satisfy their appetites, as well as those of hungry tourists, Vlaamse Friets stands throughout Amsterdam sell cones of hot fries anointed with sauces ranging from mayo to curry ketchup and Indonesian saté sauce—the latter hinting at Holland’s colonial past.
But Dr. Peiper is no ordinary fry shop. So obsessed with the humble spud was Jelle Westland that he sourced his recipes from a potato scientist known as Dr. Pieper. Alas, the Dutch spud analyst disappeared mysteriously after leaving Amsterdam for South America. But his secrets for superior fries are alive and well at Westland’s eccentric shop.
You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the antique wooden desk set with a vintage typewriter and telephone on Kinkerstraat. Blasts from the past continue inside what looks more like a potato lab than a snack shop. In the dark interior, spuds float in sconce-like tanks along walls designed with industrial clamps to hold hot bags of fries. Staff sport white, knee-length coats like those worn by lab technicians. In a Dutch-Indonesian twist on Canadian poutine, orders of Vlaamse Friets arrive topped with spicy rendang sauce. The shop’s potato beer is the perfect accompaniment.
The Trendy at Twilight tour concludes with more Indonesian flavors at Café Amoi, an intimate bistro specializing in small, sharing plates of original and lesser-known Indonesian dishes. Killer cocktails laced with cloves, cardamom, ginger and other aromatic spices are ideal for toasting new friends and experiencing true Dutch gezelligheid. Proost!
The Nitty Gritty
Eating Europe’s Trendy at Twilight food tour is offered Tuesday–Saturday, beginning at 4:15pm. Tours meet at the corner of Jan Hanzenstraat and Ten Katestraat, on the western edge of the Ten Kate market in Amsterdam’s Oud-West.
At €95pp, the tour is geared neither for budget travelers nor for those looking for the ultimate dining experience. But if you want to explore one of Amsterdam’s hippest ‘hoods with all your senses while learning how colonial history and recent immigration have influenced Dutch cuisine, you’ll surely enjoy this three- to four-hour moveable feast. Were he around to join the fun, Anthony Bourdain would surely approve.
Disclaimer: I was the guest of Eating Europe on a Trendy at Twilight tour. My informed guide, Camilla Lundberg (who’s led Eating Europe Tours in Rome, Florence, London, Prague and Paris), provided much of the background for this story. But all opinions are my own.