As in many European countries, going out for breakfast in the Netherlands is a rare event. Yet some of us cherish the true enjoyment of a morning meal. Here’s how the Dutch do it on the go and on the cheap, along with a few tips for finding a nice a.m. sit-down spot in Amsterdam.
Breakfast — the Dutch way
The usual Dutch breakfast is made at home and consists of whole grain bread, Dutch farm cheese, a small coffee and freshly-squeezed orange juice. It’s quick, easy and often repeated for lunch.
Working types in a rush to catch a train are usually found in line at the nearest Albert Heijn grocery or “in-n-out” market. These smarty-pants supermarkets have the basics to go, from freshly-squeezed fruit smoothies (€2) to coffee machines (€1.50) and baked goods such as croissants and appleflaps (€1 to €2).
Other grab-and-go options are Bakkerij Bart and the usual train station bakeries.
Bagels are back
Those hole-in-the-middle circles of perfection were bound to catch on somewhere in Europe, and Amsterdam welcomed the classic bagel and cream cheese combo with open arms. Shops like Bagels & Beans, Gary’s Deli and Tony’s NYC Bagels offer various bagels and spreads with classic Dutch sides like fresh juices and mint tea.
The difference lies in the service. Most bagel places in Amsterdam have a sit-down style, which can be a bit confusing to North Americans. Still, it’s a fair option, and it’s the kind of place that encourages patrons to take their time.
Ponder on pancakes
In the end, the safest bet for a classic Dutch-style sit down breakfast is a pancake café. Unlike the classic flapjack, Dutch pancakes are thin like crepes but lay flat with an array of sweet or salty toppings.
Be sure to branch out and try different flavors; the menu will have lots to offer. A pancake with apples and syrup or cinnamon sugar is one thing, but try the shoarma pancake or the Greek salad pancake if you dare.
As a bonus, no matter where a pancake restaurant is located, the concept and the décor will be as unique as possible. For example, the Pancake Boat (Pannenkoekenboot), pictured above, is actually a pancake restaurant on a boat that cruises around the city a few times daily. The Jordaan’s brick-walled Pancake Bakery is nestled in a cozy pocket along the Prinzengracht, and the Carousel Pancake House is actually designed like a carousel.
If the saying “you are what you eat” were to show any hint of being a farce, it would in the Netherlands, as the tall and lean Dutch provide a strong contrast to round pancakes and bagels. Nevertheless, when in Amsterdam sink your teeth into a Dutch breakfast and enjoy both a traveler’s and local’s most important meal of the day.