It was early 2007, and I’d just hired a makelaar to help me buy my first apartment in Amsterdam. I was considering Oud-West (I’d been living near the Overtoom for the past nine months or so), de Baarsjes perhaps, or maybe the Plantagebuurt.
Ten years later, times have changed. A lot. People who don’t live in the Spaarndammerbuurt have actually heard of it. And that’s not all – they come here to go out in the evening but get away from the tourists at the same time. For now at least, we have the best of both worlds: a truly local neighbourhood vibe but with restaurants and bars worth getting on your bike for.
So, at the risk of ruining the very qualities I prize so much in my little slice of Amsterdam, I bring you…
The 10 Best Restaurants and Bars in Amsterdam’s Spaarndammerbuurt
As much social project as it is restaurant, Freud offers psychiatric patients the opportunity to work in its kitchen or front of house. The result? The service may be a little more eccentric than elsewhere in Amsterdam, but certainly no worse – and compared to a great many Amsterdam restaurants, considerably better. The food is good (and good value) too: eat three courses for under €30. The angle is loosely European, with the menu generally comprising a trio of starters followed by a choice of meat, fish or vegetarian main. The wine list is short but does the job. All in all, an unassuming but unfailingly pleasant little neighbourhood restaurant.
Pho & Yummie
Starting out in the Spaarndammerbuurt as Yummie Sushi, it then added Vietnamese food (including pho) to its menu, and morphed into Pho & Yummie. Well, I’m happy! The pho is warming, fragrant and packed full of goodies; the sushi is varied, fresh and well put together. They offer a speedy takeaway service or a smallish area to eat in, and I believe they were even granted an alcohol licence recently. What’s not to like? Pho & Yummie, you are yummy!
Café de Walvis
Arguably, de Walvis was the breakthrough that really started to make the difference to the Spaarndammerbuurt’s reputation. Opening in May 2012, it brought the hipsters to the hood – and as we all know, where the hipsters lead, the rest of us will (however reluctantly) follow. Although de Walvis is essentially just an eetcafe, it serves specialty beers, has a decent coffee machine, and is full of girls wearing high-waisted skinny jeans and louche ponytails. The food can be a little hit and miss, but you can’t go too wrong with the roast chicken or the burger at dinnertime – or indeed the tasty bar snacks at after-work o’clock.
As regular readers will know, I’m a confirmed omnivore with distinctly carnivorous tendencies. So it’s odd that I’d even step into a vegan restaurant. But when said vegan restaurant is five doors down from your place, there’s really no excuse – and I’m glad I gave Dophert a try. At least at lunchtime. Skip breakfast (it’s all scrambled tofu “eggs”, smoked tempeh “bacon” and seitan “chorizo” – kill me now) but at lunchtime they serve real food: tasty lentil salads, club sandwiches, great hummus, fresh juices and other things that even people who love actual bacon can enjoy.
I’ve had a soft spot for Bar Mick ever since they started a Facebook page way back in 2013 called something like “Living the dream of opening my own bar” (which, like any good alcoholic, has always been my dream too). Dick and Marijke took over what used to be the post office and turned it into one of my favourite bars in Amsterdam, serving Ciney (officially the tastiest beer in the world), piled-high burgers and the yummiest flammkuchen. Plus, the service is the friendliest in town.
Another favourite since it opened back in 2014, Trela Plein seems to be home to the entire Greek population of Amsterdam every Sunday. And for good reason: Alexandros is dealing in the best line of bougatsa you’ll taste outside of Athens. Try the spinach and feta, or the beef and onion, or even the vanilla custard… perfect brunch fare. In summer, don’t miss their legendary iced coffees.
The Spaarndammerbuurt’s most upscale restaurant, Bistro Zuidlande cooks up classic French fare paired with a good wine list. Expect plenty of butter (my scallop starter must have weighed in at a good 2,000 calories all by itself) as well as slightly more adventurous ingredients like sweetbreads, foie gras, truffles, oysters and even pigeon. Mains are above the €20 mark (unlike pretty much anywhere else mentioned in this article), so you may want to save Bistro Zuidlande for a special occasion. (Or not. Personally I have zero problem with splashing out on a random Wednesday evening – because you’re worth it, right?!)
I’ll admit I wasn’t a huge fan of Pinsa’s when I first reviewed it back in 2010, and would frequently bike out of my way to Pizza Bakkers or La Perla instead. But in the last year or two I’ve given Pinsa’s the benefit of the doubt and started popping in for their spicy ‘nduja-topped Diabolicum pizza more and more. In the intervening years, their crust has got crispier, their toppings have got more plentiful, and their customer base has grown accordingly. You’ll sometimes have a long wait for your pizza – but if all you’re doing is meandering back from the Westerpark in search of sustenance then you’ve got plenty of time to hang out at Pinsa’s while the lovely Italian chef lady works her magic.
Brasserie van Noordt
The latest addition to the Spaarndammerbuurt’s “restaurant plein” (at the crossroads of Spaarndammerstraat, Assendelftstraat and Van Noordtstraat you’ve got Bar Mick, Café de Walvis and Trela Plein already), Brasserie van Noordt is filling the meaty hole that Dophert is leaving. Their menu includes ribs, roast chicken, curries, burgers and other carnivorous offerings, as well as sandwiches and salads at lunchtime. Food-wise, I’ve not been too impressed so far BUT they do have the sunniest terrace on the plein served up with plenty of chilled rosé and La Chouffe…
Bagels & Beans
I don’t usually review chains, and while there’s nothing wrong with Bagels & Beans, it wouldn’t usually make a list such as this for that reason alone. However, the complete lack of breakfast and brunch options in the Spaarndammerbuurt merits Bagels & Beans getting a mention as it’s currently the only place I can roll out of bed to in the morning. There is one caveat, however: I am deeply upset that they no longer serve my favourite bagel – the pastrami, cream cheese and pickles with mustard sauce. B&B, if you’re reading this, BRING IT BACK!!!
PS. If you are a chef/restaurateur thinking of opening a brunch place in Amsterdam, please please please come to the Spaarndammerbuurt! If you are any good, you will get free social media marketing from me every weekend as I sit there drinking your flat whites and instagramming about you 🙂
This post was originally published on 30 August 2016, and was most recently updated on 8 February 2017 to reflect that fact that Bocconi had closed down.