Raw herring is a Dutch specialty, and there are dozens of haringhuis fish stands in town. The best of all is Zeebanket van Altena, Stadhouderskade at Jan Luijkenstraat (tel. 020/676-9139; tram: 7 or 10), a class-act operation across from the Rijksmuseum. Connoisseurs stock up on Pieter van Altena's raw or pickled herring (peppered with Piet's acerbic observations), and lunch on salmon or crab salad, or a dozen other fishy delights, on warm whole-grain buns. You'll use proper stainless-steel flatware and drink chilled white wine from a stemmed glass. It is basically a stand, but a few lucky diners can even sit down to dine at a couple of tiny tables (though local style is to eat standing). It's open Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 7pm.
To eat a genuine Dutch broodje (sandwich) in a real broodjeswinkel (sandwich shop), go to the ever-crowded Eetsalon Van Dobben, Korte Reguliersdwarsstraat 5-9 (tel. 020/624-4200; www.vandobben.nl; tram: 4, 9, or 14), off Rembrandtplein, where you might try a smoked-eel sandwich. Locals come here for these and herring, liverwurst, croquets, or ox-tongue sandwiches. Simpler roast beef and Gouda sandwiches are also available. Some patrons swear by the platter of giant meatballs. It's open Monday to Saturday from 9:30am to 1am (Sat to 2am), and Sunday from 11:30am to 8pm.
Should Amsterdam's shortage of good pastrami on rye get to you, head out to Amsterdam-Zuid (South), to the great kosher sandwich shop Sal Meijer, Scheldestraat 45 (tel. 020/673-1313; www.sal-meijer.com; tram: 12 or 25), off Churchill-laan. The sandwiches go for from 2.95€; the plate of the day begins at 15€. Sal's is open Sunday to Thursday from 10am to 7:30pm, and Friday from 10am to 2pm.
If you thought Amsterdam was a bagel-free zone, think again. Some of the best bagels come from Gary's Deli, Kinkerstraat 140 (tel. 020/412-3025; www.garysdeli.nl; tram: 7 or 17). Choose from plain, sesame, whole-wheat, poppy-seed, pumpernickel, cinnamon raisin, onion, and garlic bagels, which range from 2.95€ to 4.95€. The 20 different kinds of toppings include pesto, cream cheese, goat's cheese, guacamole, tomato, smoked salmon, and honey and walnuts. Gary's -- which uses organic ingredients whenever possible, brews a range of herbal teas, and offers takeout service -- is open Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 7pm, Saturday from 9am to 7pm, and Sunday from 10am to 7pm.
For tasty organic soups, like red-lentil and coconut soup, head to Soupkitchen, Nieuwendijk 50 (tel. 020/528-7175; www.soupkitchen.nl; tram: 1, 2, 5, 6, 13, 17, or 20). While you're there, you might want to sample the bagels, like the bagels with pastrami, roasted sweet peppers, iceberg salad, basilicum vinaigrette, and cream cheese, and other accompaniments, along with coffee and fresh fruit juices.
As in most European cities, you find the best meal bargains are the offerings of the most recent immigrants. In Amsterdam's case, the Middle Eastern snack bars and Surinamese fast-food restaurants have the cheapest meals. The former specialize in shwarma and falafel, and can be found in high concentrations around Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein; the latter are known for their chicken roti, mildly curried pieces of chicken served with a pancake-like bread, and can be found in the vicinity of Albert Cuypstraat, the site of a popular daily market. About 4€ to 8€ gets you a filling meal in either type of place.
Another quick-bite alternative, particularly for seriously cash-strapped budget travelers, are the branches of Febo Automatiek that you'll find all around town. They open directly on the sidewalk and look like giant street-side vending machines. Drop a few euro coins in the appropriate slots and -- voilà! -- you have a lunch of Indonesian nasi goreng or bami goreng, hamburger, fries, and a milkshake. I wouldn't say the portions are small, but they do have a compact form factor.
You can pick up almost anything you might want for a picnic, from Dutch cheeses like Edam and Gouda to cold cuts to freshly packed sandwiches at AH (Albert Heijn) supermarkets around town. From the AH supermarket at the corner of Leidsestraat and Koningsplein (tram: 1, 2, or 5), you can head over to Vondelpark, only a 10-minute walk. At AH's Museumplein supermarket, across the street from the Concertgebouw (tram: 2, 3, 5, 12, or 16), you can haul your brown bag right up onto the sloping, grass-covered roof, a prime spot for sunbathing, hanging out, and picnicking. Don't forget a bottle of wine.
For more sophisticated picnic makings, see Basilico.
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.