Pop a Herring
Amsterdam folk like their herring fresh and raw from a neighborhood fish stall. The best in a fishy business is Stubbe's Haring, Haarlemmersluis, at Singel (tel. 020/623-3212). Eat your fish in the approved Dutch manner -- whole, holding the fish by its tail, with your face to that wide Holland sky. Amsterdammers prefer theirs chopped, on a bed of raw onions and pickles/gherkins.
Eat on the Water
I can't say you'll never eat better than on a Dinner Cruise. But you'll have the music, the candlelight, the canals, and, if you're lucky, the moon over the water. Variations on this theme are cooked up by most of the canal tour-boat lines.
Feast in the Park
Tucked away behind the trees of Vondelpark, Vertigo, Vondelpark 3 (tel. 020/612-3021) lends a touch of the country to a convivial venue that's backed up by some fine food.
Try a Rijsttafel
Dutch settlers in the East Indies created the banquet-style "rice table." Comprising from 10 to 30 little dishes, some as fiery as rocket propellant, rijsttafel is a great introduction to Indonesian cuisine.
Live the Americain Dream
Join Amsterdammers for coffee and gâteau in the stunning Art Nouveau and Art Deco ambience of the Eden Amsterdam American Hotel's Café Americain, Leidsekade 97 (tel. 020/556-3000). You'll be pleased to learn that the service has improved in the half century since a Dutch writer described the waiters as "unemployed knife throwers."
Get Thee to the Waterfont
Amsterdam is rediscovering its old harbor zone along the IJ channel. Experience lively harbor views and fine Continental cuisine at Wilhelmina-Dok, Nordwal 1 (tel. 020/632-3701). So on the waterfront is this breezy eatery that a wayward canal barge once plowed right into it -- how's that for local color!
Best for Opulence
Royalty eats at La Rive, in the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam Hotel, Professor Tulpplein 1 (tel. 020/520-3264), as do business magnates, opera divas, and even ordinary folks with well-padded pocketbooks. It's highly opulent, the location is great, and the food is outstanding.
It breaks my heart to write this, because I know it will only make it harder to find a seat at De Prins, Prinsengracht 124 (tel. 020/624-9382). But duty calls. When you eat in this handsome, friendly, cozy, warm -- in a Dutch word, gezellig -- brown cafe-restaurant, you'll wonder why you paid twice as much for food half as good in that other place last night.
Best Grand Café
A New York Times reviewer went so far as to call Café Luxembourg, Spuistraat 24 (tel. 020/620-6264), "one of the world's great cafes." But Luxembourg is great on an Amsterdam scale. That is to say, it's cozy and kind of intimate, with little, if any, of the pretension that would normally go along with world-class status.
Best Traditional Dutch
It sounds contradictory to say that D'Vijff Vlieghen ("The Five Flies"), Spuistraat 294-302 (tel. 020/530-4060), is touristy and still traditionally Dutch, yet somehow it manages to be both.
Rose's Cantina, Reguliersdwarsstraat 38-40 (tel. 020/625-9797), is more a popular institution than truly great eatery, though the food can be quite good. There will likely be a wait for a table, during which Rose's deploys its secret weapon -- marvelous margaritas.
Bolhoed, Prinsengracht 60-62 (tel. 020/626-1803), takes this title for its joie de vivre, romantic atmosphere, and excellent, imaginative vegetarian cuisine.
The only problem with Sal Meijer, Scheldestraat 45 (tel. 020/673-1313), is that it's a bit removed from the action. They deliver, but their delicious authentic kosher sandwiches are well worth a tram ride.
Every Amsterdammer has his or her own favorite place for that "traditional" Dutch dinner treat: Indonesian food. With so many Indonesian restaurants in the city, it's hard to pick just one. Still, Kantjil & de Tijger, Spuistraat 291-293 (tel. 020/620-0994), has a restrained, refined character and consistently good food.
At Café Luxembourg, Spuistraat 24 (tel. 020/620-6264), you can read international newspapers while drinking coffee that actually tastes like coffee and munching your way through an extensive range of breakfast plates, sandwiches, and snacks.
Best Business Lunch
If it's a casual affair, many Amsterdam businesspeople will be perfectly happy with a snack from a seafood stall, but if you aim to impress, try the Excelsior, in the Hotel de l'Europe, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 2-8 (tel. 020/531-1705). The cuisine perfectly complements the elegant surroundings.
Best Kids' Spot
For small diners with big appetites, there can be no better experience than the Kinderkookkafé, Vondelpark 6B (tel. 020/625-3257), where kids (carefully supervised) get to cook their own meals.
Best Late-Night Dinner
You can't help feeling a little sorry for the staff at De Knijp, Van Baerlestraat 134 (tel. 020/671-4248), when you saunter in around midnight. They've been going hard for hours, but are ready, willing, and just about able to do it one more time.
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