Where To Bite – Amsterdam [The Traveling Bite]

Like its name, De Beiaard’s interior resonates with authenticity. While their beef stew, Dutch pepper steak, and croquettes may be standard North-Holland fare, the Catalan stew, fajitas, and Oriental beef tenderloin salad are surprising additions.

Food isn’t necessarily what Amsterdam is best known for.  The Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum, coffeeshops and the Red Light District, are the more famous stops. If the subject does turn to food, as it so often does after a long day of sight-seeing, you’ll be told to try the “Stroopwafel” – a unique Dutch confection made from two thin waffles filled with a layer of carmel-like syrup. Or perhaps you’ll be encouraged to try a ‘Pannenkoek,” the thinner and larger Dutch pancake.

But if you’re looking for a real meal, there are no shortage of places to grab a delicious vegetarian bite, although it might not be in the traditional Dutch fashion.  During my weekend in The Netherlands, I sought to have an authentic Dutch-dining experience. Yet I was surprised to find that Amsterdam was flooded with Argentinian Steakhouses, street-side falafel vendors and Mexican bars. My friends and I even stumbled upon the tiny strip serving as Amsterdam’s local Chinatown.

For a quick bite, we all quickly fell in love with Maoz, a chain that I sincerely hope to see in Boston soon. While this chain has since branched out to a few choice cities in Europe and the US, this vegetarian falafel restaurant had its start in Amsterdam in 1991. I feel fortunate to have experienced Maoz in its home city, a happy accident in my search for all things authentic, delicious, and vegetarian.

Falafel is a great vegetarian option – the chickpeas provide substatial protein, and while frying is never the healthiest way to go, a standard falafel patty is only 50-60 calories, and worth the crunch.

At Maoz, gluten-free falafel comes served in a salad box or in a wheat or white pita sandwich – you fill your own box or add your own toppings from the fresh salad bar, which included such interesting dishes as a curried carrot salad, pickled baby eggplants, roasted peppers, and tabouli. Not only was this one of the more unique salad bars I have ever encountered, but the control Maoz gives its customers over what and how much they eat is refreshing.

While Maoz’s Amsterdam-roots made it a surprisingly authentic bite, I was still craving some true Dutch fare. Drawn in by the tarditional name, my friends and I agreed that De Beiaard Dining and Beer Pub seemed like perfect place to finally sample some cultural cuisine.

We were all surprised to find that, in addition to an assortment of expected pub snacks, the menu at De Beiaard was very vegetarian-friendly, and loaded with dishes far from our expectations. I ordered the Mushroom Fajita; a tortilla loaded with mushrooms, onions, peppers, and tomatoes marinated in a red wine sauce. The thick cut portobello mushrooms were hearty, and the richness of the vegetables was countered perfectly by a light slaw and homemade guacamole – whole pieces of avocado still intact.

While not your typical Dutch-fare, the dishes coming out of some of Amsterdam’s most quintessential Dutch pubs are a vegetarian’s dream.

Despite its quiet canals and gothic architecture, Amsterdam is truly a bustling metropolis. Evidenced in the variety of restaurants and menu offerings, as well as the easy liberal attitude of its residents, there is no question that Amsterdam is a modern city. There was no shortage of places to eat, and I only wish, as always, that I could have had just a little more time to take a few more bites out of this wonderful place.

This concludes my summer of weekend European excursions, as I prepare to wrap up my semester in England and eat up everything else it has to offer.

Melanie

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