If cities get the cuisine they deserve, Amsterdam's ought to be liberal, multiethnic, and adventurous. Guess what? It is. A port and trading city with a true melting-pot character, this city has absorbed culinary influences from far, wide, and yonder, and rustled them all up to its own satisfaction.
Just about every international cuisine type can be found on the city's restaurant roster. In Amsterdam, they say, you can eat in any language. More than 50 national cuisines are represented in restaurants here -- and many of these eateries satisfy the sturdy Dutch insistence on getting maximum value out of every euro.
From elegant 17th-century dining rooms to cozy canalside bistros, to boisterous taverns with exuberant Greek waitstaff to exotic Indonesian rooms attended by turbaned waiters, to the bruine kroegjes (brown cafes) with smoke-stained walls and friendly table conversations, Amsterdam's eateries confront visitors with the exquisite agony of being able to choose only one or two from their vast numbers each day. Dutch cooking, of course, is part of all this, but you won't be stuck with biefstuk (beefsteak) and kip (chicken) every night.
All in Good Taste -- As the waitperson removes your plate, he or she may ask: Heeft het gesmaakt? (Did it taste good?). If it did, the appropriate answer is: Ja, lekker (Yes, tasty), or heel lekker (very tasty). And if you had an unparalleled experience of gustatory pleasure, you can roll your eyes, pat your stomach contentedly, and purr: Mmmm, ja, heerlijk (wonderful). If you didn't enjoy your experience, however, you won't likely be able to, or need to, explain it in Dutch. Still, if you're adamant about expressing your displeasure, you could say: Nee, het heeft niet gesmaakt (No, it didn't taste good).
Dining Hours -- Most restaurants are open from noon to 2:30pm for lunch, and from 6 or 7 to 10 or 11pm. Many kitchens are closed by 10pm. It's wise not to make reservations for 8pm or after, if you want to enjoy a relaxed, unhurried meal. Even if a restaurant is open until 11pm or midnight, you won't get served unless you arrive well before then -- how much before varies with the restaurant, and maybe with the mood of the staff, but it should be at least 30 minutes in moderate and budget places, and at least an hour in more upscale venues. Still, more and more restaurants stay open later these days.
Reservations -- On weekends, unless you eat especially early or late, reservations are recommended at top restaurants and at those on the high end of the moderate price range. Call ahead to check; restaurants are often small and may be crowded with neighborhood devotees. Note that restaurants with outside terraces are always in big demand on pleasant summer evenings and fill up fast; make a reservation, if the restaurant will let you -- if not, get there early or forget it.
Tipping -- A 15% service charge and taxes (BTW) are included in all prices.
Budget Dining -- Eating cheaply in Amsterdam is not an impossible dream. And, happily, in some cases you can even eat cheaply in style. And though there's no such thing as a free lunch, there might be a dagschotel (plate of the day) and a dagmenu (menu of the day), for usually decent food at a bargain rate. Almost every neighborhood has a modestly priced restaurant or two, and new budget places are popping up all over town.
Lunch & Snack Costs -- Lunch doesn't have to be an elaborate affair (save that for evening). Typical Dutch lunches are light, quick, and cheap. A quick midday meal can cost 6€ to 15€. An afternoon pit stop for a pastry and coffee will set you back 4€ to 6€.
Wine -- Estate-bottled imported wines are expensive in Holland, and even a bottle of modest French wine can add 12€ to 20€ to a dinner tab. House wine, on the other hand, likely will be a more economical choice in restaurants of any price level. Wine by the glass costs anywhere from 3€ to 10€.
Smoking -- Smoking is not permitted in restaurants and cafes, except in a separate room or partitioned enclosure where staff will not serve customers.
Good-Eats Cafes -- For decent, low-cost food, look for examples of that Dutch dining institution, the eetcafé (pronounced ayt-caff-ay). Many of these -- some of which are reviewed below -- are essentially brown cafes (bars) with a hardworking kitchen attached. The food is unpretentious, mainstream Dutch (though some are more adventurous). The dagschotel (plate of the day), which might come with meat, vegetable, and salad on one plate, is usually 10€ to 16€.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.