A few weeks ago I went on a belated spring break trip to Amsterdam with our mother (who orchestrated the amazing adventure) and one my closest friends from undergrad (who happens to have excellent taste in music if you’re interested). We covered a lot of territory in five days, which included a bike tour of the city, a trip to the Van Gogh museum, and long walks in the de Pijp and Jordaan neighborhoods. (There were also plenty of late-night walks to frites shops.)
As is usually the case when I travel, food takes priority, and here are our favorite restaurants from the trip. Note: make a reservation wherever possible, even for the squatter’s co-op.
Our first night in the city, Molly and I had dinner at a former squatter’s co-op, de Peper. The meal started with live jazz music and 2 euro glasses of wine, and several glasses later our vegan food arrived. I have no idea what we ate, and not because of the wine, but because the dishes bore no resemblance to the vegetables from which they were mashed/mixed/pulverized. And it was all surprisingly good. I say surprisingly because the cooks are all volunteers, and I’ve had vegan food prepared by professional chefs that sent me running for the nearest pizza place.
Molly and I are big proponents of high brow/low brow dining when we travel, and the day after the squatter’s dinner we had lunch at this gorgeous restaurant located in the Park Frankendael. The food is farm to table, beautifully prepared and served, and we opted for a multi-course lunch with wine. We spent a couple hours eating, chatting and taking in the scenery.
Our globetrotting hairdresser recommended this place to me and my mom, and I’m so glad he did. It’s a small, funky bistro that serves traditional Dutch food on mismatched chinaware. We kicked off the meal with Aperol spritzers, homemade soup, and then went for the stamppot and hollandse keuken. Everything was delicious , and go hungry, because you’ll be stuffed for days (or until the next morning).
The trip to Pllek (and back) was interesting. After Molly and I finally found the right ferry to Amsterdam Nord, we took it to NDSM, where Pllek and some other cool out-of-the way spots are. Next was actually finding the restaurant. All we could see were shipping containers and vacant lots, which prompted Molly to point out that this was probably the part of the trip where we would disappear forever. In some ways we came pretty close, because once we found Pllek (in a shipping container), we didn’t want to leave. The restaurant was so cool. Open, multi-level dining room with a disco ball hanging from the roof and DJ spinning in the middle of it all. There was also an outdoor patio along the water, but it was too cold to venture out. I ordered a ravioli dish that came with toasted hazelnuts, lemon, and lots of cheese that was successfully recreated when I got back to Chicago -- recipe coming soon! Anyway, we could have stayed there all night, and almost did after we missed the ferry home. Miraculously we found another one and spent the ride listening to music on my phone and twirling around the cabin in our wine-induced glee. No one seemed to mind, and I guess they’re used to it. People in Amsterdam know how to have fun.
Lou Anne and I went here for our last dinner -- although she was staying on for the rest of the week, I had my flight home the next day. It was the perfect ending to the trip. The food is French/Flemish and served in a bright, industrial space with an open kitchen. We had some of the best, crispy-skinned roast chicken either us have ever had. After dinner we ordered a round of drinks -- French coffee for Lou Anne, and calvados for me. Don’t get me started on how good the calvados was. It was the moonshine equivalent of apple brandy, bottled in the 1970s by a French farmer and sold (in unmarked bottles) exclusively to Rijsel. Unless I’m extremely lucky, I won’t get to have that calvados again, but I’m determined to find other bottles with its same hay-y fragrance and crisp taste.