Vegetarians and vegans have a fairly easy time in Amsterdam; while it's not the vegetarian destination that, say, Portland, OR or Berlin is, most restaurants have several meat-free choices or can accommodate diners by request. Vegans still have to take extra precautions to avoid meals with animal products, but it's by no means mission impossible to locate vegan food in a pinch. The restaurants below, moreover, specialize in entirely vegan or vegetarian fare - because even we like to be spoiled for choice every now and then.
- TerraZen Cafe
Sint Jacobsstraat 19
Nieuwe Zijde, Amsterdam Center
It's easy to miss the small TerraZen Cafe, tucked into a narrow alley just north of the Dam, but visitors who find their way to this completely vegan cafe will be rewarded with its inventive and nutritious menu: Caribbean favorites rooted in the Rastafarian Ital diet (and philosophy) and Japanese dishes that are seldom encountered in the city. Try the tempeh katsu, a uniquely Indo-Japanese combination of tempeh, a fermented soybean cake from Indonesia, breaded and deep-fried in the popular Japanese katsu (cutlet) style, and complete with the addictively savory standard katsu sauce, a Worcestershire-like concoction; follow it up with a moist, nutty square of the cafe's "survival cake". But by all means, don't come in a rush; TerraZen is a place to relax, and the pace of the service will see to it that you do.
- Maoz Vegetarian
Multiple locations in Amsterdam Center
This meat-free fast food franchise has multiple locations not only in Amsterdam, but has branched out to other Dutch cities (Leiden and Nijmegen) as well as internationally. Its claims to healthfulness are somewhat undermined by its specialization in deep-fried falafel and fries, but its fresh foods are certainly a notch above the typical fast-food chains. The falafel, moreover, is indeed some of the best to be found in Amsterdam, where the Middle Eastern fried chickpea balls are all too often on the dull side. The customizable menu allows for plenty of vegan options. Perfect as a casual take-out meal for veg and non-veg eaters alike.
- Alchemist Garden
Vondelbuurt, Amsterdam South
Amsterdam has its own raw food cafe, annexed to a health food store on the Overtoom, just a few meters from the Vondelpark. Nary an animal product is to be found on its menu of snacks and complete meals - from salads, pies and tarts, to pastas and (meatless) patties, to its selection of sweets and sorbets. The cafe fare is also quite affordable, at 5 to 7.50 euro for a main dish, to ten euro for a full meal. The cafe is a part of the Energieregie Center, which promotes health and wellness, self-sufficiency and sustainability in its workshops and events.
Rijnstraat 75 huis
Rijnbuurt, Amsterdam South
An option for the more discriminating vegetarian, Betty's is an upscale lacto-vegetarian restaurant in Amsterdam's Rijnbuurt, the westernmost part of Amsterdam South. The menu alternates weekly, so diners can taste the freshest foods of the season amid the restaurant's formal ambiance. Diners can call ahead to request a vegan meal or other special requests (such as favorite dishes that have been retired from the menu). With its impeccable service and atmosphere and its fine cuisine, Betty's is an excellent choice for special occasions - ones when diners may not necessarily mind the commensurate price of the experience. The restaurant also has a delicatessen and offers the occasional courses.
- Golden Temple
Southern Canal Belt
While the name Golden Temple refers to the spectacular Sikh temple in Amritsar, Punjab, the menu of Golden Temple is more eclectic than Indian food alone. The dishes occupy several distinct culinary spheres, each more irresistible than the next. Main meal salads draw on continental flavors; Indian thali plates offer a sampler of North Indian curries and other recipes, served with chapati (Indian flatbread) and basmati rice; Middle Eastern mezze consist of a sampler of different preparations served with pita; and whole-wheat pizzas put a more nutritious spin on an Itaian favorite. A full 60% of the menu is vegan, and even raw vegan meals can be requested 24 hours in advance.
- Marits Huiskamerrestaurant
Andreas Bonnstraat 34H
Oosterparkbuurt, Amsterdam East
One of a slew of huiskamerrestaurants in Amsterdam, Marits has the same intimate atmosphere as its peers but without the pesky meat. While the web site humbly admits to "no culinary stunts", the food is indeed very refined, exquisitely prepared and plated. A three-course set menu alternates each month to feature the freshest seasonal fare, while the fixed price is set at a modest 28 euro. (Private dinners are also available for parties of 15 to 24.) The recycled interior - which doubles as the owner's actual home - is easily one of the most attractive of all Amsterdam's restaurants.
Eerste van der Helststraat 43
De Pijp, Amsterdam South
Sonny's has a similar menu as the above-mentioned Maoz Falafel, but is an independently-owned and -operated one-man business. Sonny's restaurant has served snack foods like falafal, hummus and fries to Amsterdammers since 1992, when it opened in the heart of De Pijp, close to attractions such as the Albert Cuypmarkt and the Heineken Experience. The fresh-made foods are personally prepared by the owner each day, and have a special emphasis on their health content; the falafel and fries are deep-fried in a vegetable-based liquid fat that's said to be healthier than other fats, and Sonny claims his fries have half the fat of his competitors. Whatever the verity of these claims, Sonny is still a convenient local stop for some fresh salads (some, like the chana masala, are a nod to Sonny's home country of India) and snack foods.
- De Vliegende Schotel
Nieuwe Leliestraat 162
The Jordaan, Amsterdam West
A stalwart of the Amsterdam vegetarian scene, De Vliegende Schotel (The Flying Saucer) has been around for over 30 years in its corner of the Jordaan. Nevertheless, the restaurant has evolved with the times; once a macrobiotic eatery that admitted some seafood dishes, the restaurant is now an Ayurveda-inspired, meat-free haven that uses 85% organic ingredients. The cuisine draws influences from all over the world, from American Tex-Mex favorites to continental cuisine, North Africa to India; there's also ample choice for vegans, such as the Bornean coconut-milk chowder with tempeh and cashews. Take a seat in the restaurant's wildly colorful interior and choose from a daily or weekly special or a menu favorite.
- De Waaghals
Frans Halsstraat 29
De Pijp, Amsterdam South
This popular restaurant in the Oude Pijp, the older quarter of Amsterdam's eclectic De Pijp district, has also put in some 30+ years in the Amsterdam restaurant scene. And if I were to own a restaurant, I would follow precisely the formula De Waaghals uses for their monthly set-menu specials: each month the focus shifts to a different world cuisine. (The rest of the menu alternates semi-monthly.) Diners are treated to a multi-dish showcase of the country at hand; other set menus feature chiefly Dutch and/or continental cuisine, in addition to a choice of à la carte appetizers, entrees and desserts, all reasonably priced.