Where do the locals eat in Amsterdam? It’s not the McDonald’s or Burger King, unless they have had one too many of course. There is a great choice of cheap but excellent places to eat in Amsterdam, but few of them are in the
central touristy areas. So who can help you find these places? *Slowly raises hand* I can!
Life is expensive enough as it is. You have to buy presents for lesser-known family members, replace the water heater that broke ages ago and, oh yeah, don’t forget to buy diapers for your newborn. When you finally decide to leave it all behind, at least for a little while, it can be depressing to find out that life across the ocean is just as expensive as it is back home. Or worse: more expensive. Fear not: I’ve crafted a list of my favorite low-budget restaurants and places to take away food. The criteria:
- At all these places you can eat for €10 to €15.
- We’re talking main course here, usually excluding drinks or side dishes.
- Ok, I’ve included some lunch places too which are worth visiting.
- A great vibe is bonus points.
- Don’t expect fancy waiters and prepped plates but instead you’ll find creative interiors and great food.
1. World of Food
This collection of food stalls, located in the multi-cultural South-East of Amsterdam, is one of my favorite places to eat. The atmosphere, cultural diversity and home-cooked food never fail to put a big smile on my face every time I visit it. The building itself used to be a parking garage, and little has been done with the interior to conceil this fact.
The World of Food building is shared with a McDonalds, which takes away pretty much all the glamour if you compare it to the most known up-scale food market in Amsterdam: the Foodhallen. Still, World of Food has many reasons to pay it a visit:
- The authentic, wide range cuisine. Here you will find food from all the corners of the world: Indonesian, Surinamese, the Caribbean, Indianm, but also Ghanese, Liberian and Armenian. Everything you will try here tastes absolutely amazing and will make you want to come back the next day.
- The atmostphere. You will undoubtly feel like you have teleported to a foreign country. Every stall has its own attributes, music and local chefs. As the stalls are all next to each other, this creates a beautiful labyrinth through many cultures. Forget slick marketing and neon well-curated signs: here you will find laminated A4 menu’s with pixelated iPhone photos of food. You’ve got to love it!
Liberian lunch dish with sweet potato, chicken en vegetables — € 5.50
Americano — € 2.00
Total: € 7.50
2. Restaurant Azmarino
Even though my girlfriend lives 5 min from this East African restaurant, we had never even heard it’s name before. It’s because of a tip from a friend that we decided to give it a visit. We turned into a unknown side street to find its minimally decorated entrance; it would have been very easy to have walked past.
The atmosphere inside the narrow, long restaurant is different. Many African-looking paintings can be found on the walls, and the themed bar makes for a fitting backdrop. It can definitely be labeled ‘Gezellig’ (Dutch for cozy), and it is a nice counterpart to the sprawl of ‘cool’ restaurants and cafes in Amsterdam.
If you like sharing your food, you’ll love this place. Your food comes on a single round metal plate, the bottom layer covered in what I can only describe as fluffy pancakes (which I learnt was called Injera, a large sourdough flatbread). ‘Curries’ will be served on top, and you’ll get a few more servings of pancakes on the side. The special beers are a great addition, try the coconut and banana flavors. All very tasty and between 10 and 15 euros (for the food).
Coconut beer — € 3.50
Minchetabish (Minced meat with a spicy sauce) — € 10.00
Total: € 13.50
There isn’t much left to the imagination with the name of this Tex-Mex burrito place. That doesn’t mean however that their hand-made oversized blankets of yummy goodness aren’t absolutely delicious. Because they truly are. All the ingredients taste very fresh, and the choice of filling and chili sauce is excellent. Get the chicken, avocado and bacon burrito if you don’t have any plans for the rest of the afternoon.
They have a couple of seats if you want to devour your meal indoor, but it’s a great take-away location too.
Burrito beef, bacon & avocado — € 9.95
Total: € 9.95
4. Spang Makandra
I was a frequent visitor of this place even before I found out what it’s called. This popular place offers surinamese/javanese goodness done well. The are ample Surinamese take-away restaurants in Amsterdam, but not all of them get it right.
A good indication is when a restaurant has been rated highly by the late Johannes van Dam, who was a very ruthless Dutch food critic for newspaper Parool. Warung (which means ‘stall’ in Indonesian) Spang Makandra received a convincing ‘9’, even with a few positive personal comments. He wasn’t wrong, the food has a very good standard and is great for some quick takeaway or to eat in (it fills up quite quickly though around dinner time).
Try the Saoto soup (rich soup with bean sprouts, shredded chicken filet and rice) and the kip saté (chicken skewers; the sauce is amazing!) or if you’re really hungry try the Nasi Goreng (baked rice with chicken, beef or fish) or Roti (similar to the Indian variety). If you’re looking for a cheap place to eat in Amsterdam I recommend to schedule a pit-stop here.
Nasi rice with chicken sateh peanut sauce and vegetables — € 8.00
Tea — € 1.50
Total: € 9.50
In the very center of Amsterdam, near Nieuwmarkt, you will find a cozy little place called Latei. It has a great feel to it the moment you step inside.
You’ll be greeted by the friendly staff and shown a table, which you can also buy. Together with the chairs or, you know, one of the many lamps hanging above you. You get the picture: all the interior here (and there is a lot) is for sale. The food changes weekly, and there is usually one main dish and a couple of side dishes to choose from. Think Gado Gado (Indonesian vegetarian salad) or Rendang from goat meat (slow-cooked), but I’ve also had Ethiopian food here. The common denominator here is that it’s all truly delicious and affordable. On thursdays, fridays and saturdays the Kookkollektief takes over Latei’s evenings, where chefs Wanto and Paul create their famed delicious nutricious dishes.
Rendang Kambing (stewed goat meat) — € 6.00
Tostones (double fried plantain) — € 4.00
Tofu curry — € 4.00
Tea — € 2.00
Total: € 16.00
This restaurant has quite the bold concept. It’s ‘pay as you feel’ (not ‘pay as you want’ as I have been specifically told by the waiter) with all the free-spirited paraphernalia to go with it. “Believe nothing is too good to be true”, reads a poster on the wall.
Love and Heart are spelled with capitals on the menu’s appendix, which as a matter of fact is more of a manifesto. Luckily it is still possible to order your food, and there is quite some choice. Soups, sandwiches, desserts, coffees and some main dishes, it’s all there. Meat is a no-no however, as all dishes are vegan.
I ordered a Tom Tom soup, basically a vegetable-rich Tom Kha Gai soup without the chicken. To savor my sweet-tooth I order a coconut-pecan brownie. Both dishes turn out to be delicious, and the singing chefs (I don’t think it’s a thing) complete the extraordinary food experience.
Now comes the awkward part: how much do I feel I should pay? Will I look like a cheap bastard or will I grossly over-tip? Luckily there is a ‘anonymous’ money box where you can secretly drop your cash into. Some heads did turn when I dropped coins in, but only to say good-bye. How much I paid in the end? Well.. That’s really none of your business 😉
Tom Tom Soup — € ?
Pecan Coconut Brownie — € ?
Coffee — € ?
Total: € ?
7. Foodism (for lunch)
Located next to a main road, this place doesn’t really ooze accessibility. Nevertheless it’s a hidden gem in Amsterdam’s food scene. The Bosnian, Serbian and Montenegrin staff are super kind and the general vibe in this small place is homely and friendly. No wonder they called the next-door restaurant, which shares the same owner, “Friends”. During practically every visit one or more of the chef and owner’s many friends drop by for a little chat.
It’s the ideal place to work in my opinion: their wifi is fast, the coffee is good and there are power plugs available. I haven’t mentioned the best part yet: their food.
One afternoon when I was on a mission to re-discover Amsterdam I found a review on Foursquare promoting Foodism. “Great place, be sure to try their Salmon salad”. I found the place, sat down and ordered the salad. To be completely honest, I haven’t tried any of their other dishes yet: the salmon salad is just too good and I order it every time I visit. Just look at it!
I’m pretty sure the staff must call me the salmon salad man behind my back, but I don’t care. I really enjoy it when food places do one thing well, and Foodism definitely falls into this category. Only downside? They don’t have their own bathroom, so you’ll have to pop into the “Friends” cafe next door.
Salmon salad — € 6.50
Coffee — € 2.00
Total: € 8.50
With it’s extended opening hours (every day from 11:00 till 21:00 or 22:00) this fancy pizza place can be a great go-to place if you’re in the neighborhood and craving lunch, dinner or just a quick snack. Don’t let looks fool you though, as you’ll definitely get your money’s worth here. A (square) slice costs around €3 – €4 and is freshly made throughout the day. The concept comes from Rome, where you can find plenty of “Pizza al talgio” (meaning “pizza by the cut”) which is baked on large rectangular trays. Sugo’s interior is very photogenic with it’s indirect lighting and large windows, so I didn’t even have to edit the pictures to make them look good. What more is there to say? I chose a slice with pancetta, spinach, mozarrella & gorgonzola sauce, and it was absolutely delicious. Have a look!
Pizza slice pancetta, spinach, mozzarella, gorgonzola sauce — € 3.80
Total: € 3.80
9. Neighborhood farm “Ons genoegen”
If you’re looking for a glitch in the Amsterdam food scene I nominate this place. It’s prices are astronomically low; you get an Americano for €1.50 and a proper sandwich for €3.00. We’re not talking cheap white supermarket bread with shabby cheese on top, the sandwich I had was decent-looking and good-tasting. The dinners are even better value: a three course meal is only €8.00 and on Wednesdays and Fridays they even lower this to a mere €5.00!
Another good aspect of this place is the atmosphere. It’s completely non-pretentious, with a crowd of old and young. If anything, I would call it a little bit on the bohemian side. In the driveway to the farm for instance there is a giveaway shop, where all things are free for the taking. The motto is: “Take what you want, but when you have some things that you’d like to get rid of, think of us”. If you really want to calm down and get out of the rat-race driven city center, this is a great place to do so.
All in all I find this a brilliant place to visit in the summer or whenever the sun decides to show itself in Amsterdam. The best way to visit the place is by bicycle, but you can also take bus 22 from central station which takes you there in about 20 minutes. You will find that the farm is a bit hidden, so make sure you punch the address into Google Maps before your journey. A nice way to end your day would be to stroll around in the nearby Westerpark.
Mature cheese sandwich with caramelized onions and rocket — € 2.75
Filter coffee — € 1.00
Cake — €3.50
Total: € 7.25
10. Thai restaurant “O-cha”
I love Thai food, but then again who doesn’t? I built up quite a high tolerance (and addiction!) for spicy food during my stay in Thailand. For me the more chillies the better. Back home in Amsterdam I started a quest to find the most ‘authentic’ Thai flavors. Of course there are plenty of haute-cuisine-type restaurants that get it right (and many who don’t), but I wouldn’t be writing this if my recommendation wasn’t well within a modest budget too.
I present to you: Thai restaurant O-cha, located in the touristy Nieuwmarkt area. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and even on the inside the interior isn’t the main attraction: a couple of Thai flags, carpets and posters are stuck on the wall. The place is small and and tables are arrange in a tetris-like fashion. This does give the place a cozy atmosphere: people and food are clearly put above anything else. The staff is as authentic as the food: the typical Thai-style way with (English) words makes you feel welcome and jolly.
I order a Phanaeng peanut curry, a self-proclaimed stamp of approval for Thai restaurants I visit. I take a bite and automatically start nodding my head in approval: this is good. The pot of ample jasmine tea is a very nice addition to the rich flavors of the main dish. After a most satisfying meal, meanwhile listening to the funny conversation of the group I was sharing a long table with, it’s time to ask for the bill. The figures on it give me a second round of satisfaction: I’ve stayed well within my budget. If it’s Thai food you’re after, try out this gem of a restaurant which comes highly recommend.
Phanaeng peanut curry — € 10.00
Jasmine tea — € 2.50
Total: € 12.50
All cheap places to eat in Amsterdam on one handy map
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