As winter temperatures drop in Amsterdam, a visitor may want to find a toasty spot to warm up before they venture back out to the charming canals. Since Dutch table service is generously relaxed, you can usually linger all day once you’ve found your spot.
When it comes to cold-weather comfort, the Dutch use the word gezellig. It doesn’t easily translate into English, but ideas like warm, comfortable, friendly, and enjoyable come to mind. Here are some places in a variety of central neighborhoods that you might find that perfect dose of gezellig on your next visit:
Van Kerwijk: At this unpretentious restaurant, just off touristy Dam Square, you can grab a drink, coffee, or a hearty meal. They don’t take reservations, so arrive early in the day or relax at the small bar until a table opens. There are no menus, but the friendly wait-staff (fluent in English, as are many people from Amsterdam) will tell you the day’s starters and entrees. On the day we visited, we tried a zesty potato and sauerkraut soup as a starter, and halibut in a mustard sauce as an entree. The options are fresh, simple, and filling. Nes 41.
Bar Brandstof: In the picturesque canal district of Jordaan, this artsy bar has several affordable Dutch and Belgian beers on tap. (You’d pay double for them in the U.S.). Along with your beer, try the traditional Dutch deep-fried veal croquettes, bitterballen, which evoke the flavor of a sage-infused Thanksgiving stuffing with a crispy outer-shell. Served piping hot, you can dip them in mustard or eat them plain. Marnixstraat 341.
Bar Spek: With large windows that overlook the canal and the passing trams, Bar Spek is a bright spot for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks. Located in the hip Baarsjes neighborhood, this laid-back restaurant space with its white tiles, cozy sofas, and quirky decorations (pig paraphernalia throughout), sets a friendly tone for a daytime crowd. You’re likely to be joined by people working on laptops, moms with their babies, and chatting friends and couples. Menu highlights for breakfast include American-style buckwheat pancakes with blueberry jam and Moroccan-style fresh mint tea. Admiraal de Ruijterweg 1.
Volt: Chef Rick van der Meer has created a seasonal, organic menu for this De Pijp neighborhood corner restaurant and bar. Lively (but not loud), with sleek modern touches and retro-style bare-bulbs, Volt is the kind of local that serves both adventurous culinary variety, or reliable comfort food, depending on your mood. On its current menu, Volt offers an upscale hamburger with pumpkin ketchup on a tangy bun that’s made with a local stout, thick-cut frites with mayonnaise, and a fried pike-perch filet. A mile-long beer list focuses on local brews. They take reservations but often can squeeze you in if you show up without one. Ferdinand Bolstraat 178.
Scandinavian Embassy: With blond wood tables and a glassed-in back room, this snug café feels like a bit of contemporary Scandinavia on the edge of an attractive park in De Pijp. It’s a short walk from the famous Albert Cuyp street market. Locally sourced ingredients (including chanterelles picked by the chef and his mother on the day we dined) make up an unusual menu which changes daily, but may include wild moose stew and smoked salmon. With award-winning barista Nicolas Castagno on staff, they take their coffee craft as seriously as they take their cooking, so for the traveling collector of serious coffee joints, this is a must. Sarphatipark 34.