It’s easy to eat well in Amsterdam. You can eat your way around the world, with every type of cuisine being offered. But oddly enough, one type of food is hard to find in Amsterdam—traditional Dutch food. Food like a Dutch mom or Oma would make for you in her home kitchen.
Fortunately for Dutchies craving comfort food and travelers who want to discover what it’s all about, there is Moeders. The name, Mothers, says it all. This small, cozy place is like stepping into Mom’s (or Grandma’s) dining room—if she is Dutch—and the food here is what she might be serving for a typical family dinner.
Location: Rozengracht 251, Amsterdam, at the corner of the Singelgracht. Tram lines 2 and 17 stop right in front.
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Menu: Dutch food is hearty. Think meat and potatoes, potatoes and meat, plus fish and seafood, with root vegetables and seasonal veggies thrown in for balance. And of course, cheese. Moeders is best known for its stamppot, or hotchpotch, something every Dutch person grows up on. It consists of potatoes mashed with some vegetable, like spinach, carrots or sauerkraut. At Moeders, it is accompanied by a smoked sausage, a giant meatball, and bacon, with gravy. There are also a couple of different rich and tasty beef stews, fish of the day and deliciously sauced spare ribs, cooked to the melting point. All that said, Moeders does offer many vegetarian options, as well as gluten-free choices. Just ask the server for these. Starters and soups, plus a nice range of desserts round out the menu. Wines and beer are available.
Thoughts: Moeders is what the Dutch call gezellig—a word not easily translated. It means cozy, convivial, comfortable, unpretentious. The room is small, its tables pushed close together. Pretty much every inch of the walls is covered with framed photos of moeders, moms of various guests from over the 27+ years since they opened. The dishes, glasses, and tableware are all mismatched—brought by those who came to the 1990 opening night and still in use. They simply add to the feeling of being in someone’s home.
Although to my mind, Moeders is a place to come hungry, you can eat lightly, if you must. There are nice salads and wonderful soups on the menu. I sometimes go simply for a bowl of their wonderful, thick, rich Dutch pea soup (erwtensoep). It comes in a covered enamel pot and is served with delicious crusty house bread and thick house-made hummus to spread on it. It makes a very satisfying meal. The only time I’ve had better erwtensoep was in the kitchen of a roommate’s Dutch mother many years ago (and it’s possible memory alone makes that better).
Service is generally friendly, and the staff is very good at explaining what the dishes are like and making suggestions. The menu is bilingual (Dutch/English) and so is the staff—like nearly everyone you meet in Amsterdam. Moeders is very popular, both with locals and tourists, so reservations are strongly recommended. If you just show up, they will try to accommodate you, but very often it is not possible, especially on weekends. Reserve to avoid being turned away. Reservations can be made on their website.
A good choice of appetizers, especially if you are sharing or just don’t know which one to try, is Mama’s Happas, a selection of five small appetizers on one plate. The individual bites might change with the season but could include a seasoned duck leg, a grilled oyster, cheese toast, smoked salmon, small sausages and/or some kind of pâté.
The main course menu is divided into three sections by price range: Annie’s, Betty’s, and Corrie’s. You can order the spare-ribs in one of two sizes. If you are two or more people, consider ordering the Dutch Rice Dish (which does NOT include rice). It is a combination of several of their traditional Dutch dishes, including suddervlees (Granny’s home-style beef stew); hacheé (a different type of stewed beef with onions and red cabbage); hotchpotch with bacon, sausage and gravy; roasted potatoes; boiled potatoes; chunky home-made apple sauce; and pickled red cabbage. It’s a lot of food, and at €20 per person, it’s good value. They also have daily specials. Check the chalkboard or ask your server.
It may not sound possible, but do try to leave room for dessert. I am in love with their speculaas ice cream (made with those yummy Dutch spice cookies). If you order the Dutch Delight, you’ll get three separate desserts, including that ice cream, a vla-flip (a variation on Dutch custard) and one other, like semolina pie or perhaps a few poffertjes (tiny buckwheat pancakes drenched in butter and powdered sugar).
Whatever you order, it’s going to be good and very Dutch. I have eaten in more than a few Dutch moeders’ home kitchens, and I can attest that at Moeders, you’ll get the real deal. In addition to the cozy room, there are outside tables that are lovely in nice weather.
Price Range: Soups and starters run €6.50 to €9.50 and up to €11.50 for the tasting plate. Annie’s main course are €16 to €17; Betty’s are €19; Corrie’s run €20 to €21.50. Desserts are €6.50 to €8.50.
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