The Best Cheap Mac & Cheese in NYC
The area around Amstel Station continues to unexpectedly vie for hotspot status with the latest outpost of this stylish hotel (V) and restaurant combo. The new lunch menu -- an international mash-up ranging from eggs Benedict to a juicy bastilla pulled-chicken pastry with a fruity salad or a flavor-packed udon-noodle dish with pork belly and crab meat -- is silence-around-the-table-inducing spectacular. But this new locale gets bonus points for all that space. In addition to a jaw-dropping cavernous, multi-room interior, there’s a green-rimmed terrace that gets some sun for all but the late lunch shift and inside and outside feature glass cages, which include an outdoor smoking lounge. There’s an above-average wine list, the service is attentive (the water is refilled without question so often that even the Dutch might feel like they’re drowning), and the desserts, supplied by Brittons Bakery & Cakery, are as sweet and rich as you’d hope.
Just down the street from The Lobby’s original location is the under-the-radar, local favorite, which we previously tipped for its sweet strawberry-and-goat-cheese-topped steaks. No reservations, no menu, but expect plenty of laughter as you try to remember the details of the surprisingly long menu recited by one of the two sister owner/waitresses. The interior is knus and cozy, and the alley terrace even more intimate (bring on the footsy action). In addition to said steak, options include Indonesian meatloaf, mackerel mousse, and the odd sandwich -- but they’re all subject to change.
Embark at Westermarkt
Brunch by definition includes alcohol (what’s up mimosas and Bloody Marys?!), which makes it perfect for getting past first-date awkwardness. But if the awkwardness doesn’t go away, the prime canal views sliding past the windows and open roof (when the weather plays nice) offer the perfect excuse to get totally absorbed in your surroundings. Plus, as this is part of one of our favorite brunch empires, the food and the drinks are delicious and the all-inclusive formula (well, more than one alcoholic drink is extra) makes it easy to divvy up the bill.
You’ll have plenty of time to break the ice waiting in line for this popular lunch spot that, despite its three floors of striking white space, is almost as packed during the week as it is on weekends. But if you’re lucky, you’ll get rewarded with one of the loungey couches or bean bags to snuggle up on over coffee, plus a huge variety of (healthy) food and drinks. If you’re not, you’ll get one of the more traditional tables, but still have unfettered access to the full menu, of course.
If your date is the more active type, biking to this location feels like an adventure, with a waterside mini-manor from the 1900s as the treasure at the end of the trail. It’s your new “home on the Amstel.” Expect wholesome fare served with juice, coffee, beer, and wine. You might even get lucky... with some (indoor or outdoor) live music or one of the changing art exhibitions.
Want to see if your chemistry goes beyond the superficial? Try really getting to know someone (and your food and drink) by dining together in pitch blackness. Things could get either very intimate or incredibly weird... but dating is all about rolling the dice, right? Not just a dinner joint, you can also make a reservation for Ctaste’s Sunday brunch or high tea... or a chocolate (or other) tasting, if you prefer.
Amsterdam’s (literally) biggest opening of the year also boasts the city’s best lunch views. Reserve in advance, choosing between a two-course menu for €27.50 or a three-course menu for €34. The food can be hit or miss (come back for dinner at the pricier rotating restaurant Moon one floor below if you’re looking for top-quality cuisine), but you’re here for the adrenaline-inducing lookout platform (which doubles as the restaurant’s smoking space). Then it’s just €5 if you and your sweetheart want to lose your lunch over the 50-metre drop via a giant swing for two. All those other suckers you see on the roof who didn’t go the lunch route paid €12.50 to get up here via the back elevator without getting any food or cocktails out of the deal.
Whether you sit inside or outside -- but sit outside if you can, because that garden is amazing -- there will always be a table free plus plenty of eye candy at this Panama-adjacent, Asian-street-food-themed small-plates place where sharing is caring. With tapas-style ordering, you can decide whether there’s enough chemistry for another round of the spice-pumped munchies and decent wines by the glass as you go.
There’s lots of room inside (with a surprisingly cozy vibe), but unless you live in the area, you’re probably heading here on a sunnier day for a more intimate and fun date. With its edge-of-the-Bos location, your meal of locally sourced chicken or other fresh international fare accompanied by picks from top-trained wine professionals is easily combined with anything from an adventure rope course to a boat ride through the forest to a ride on a historical “museum” tram.
Show your date how alternative and in the know you are with this farm setting just a few minutes' bike ride behind Westerpark. The meals are cheap and simple and served in a cozy little house or a spacious garden with the greenest views in the “city center.” Nibble your tosti slowly and watch the chickens and sheep stroll. Enjoying yourself? Then bring your date back for one of the regular afternoon and evening events. If it goes really well, you can even get married here! Eventually, of course.
For when you really want to impress, the city’s most revered restaurant gets slightly cheaper at lunch -- meaning you’re shelling out a mere €50 per person for seven courses of Michelin-starred kaiseki cuisine (“kaiseki” means the fanciest of the fancy traditional Japanese fare; and the Japanese-trained chefs here know their business well). Or go the “cheap” route with a €40 bento box. At this time of day, you’ll even get to enjoy it with enough daylight to see the surrounding Japanese- and European-style gardens.
One of the coolest locations in Amsterdam (well, hottest maybe) is this operational greenhouse that has dished out high-end locavore eats for more than a decade. Again, it’s a spot where you can “cheat” with the cheaper lunch option -- a two-course meal will set you back €39, or you can go with a selection of three lighter dishes for €18.50. Once you’ve selected your deal, the rest is taken out of your hands: the chef sets a new menu each day, and everyone eats along and enjoys the view. That said, you won’t mind having one less decision to make once they present you with the list of 40 wines to choose from.
The name is a play on the name of the restaurant that owns this space come nightfall, Terpentijn. It’s “thinner” (as in paint) with a Dutch accent. And they dropped the H because they didn’t want to be misleading: this food definitely isn’t going to make you any thinner. It’s comfort food in a fancy jacket. So you get the same clean, green Terpentijn décor, but with a midday menu featuring fish and beef burgers, two types of French toast, Bloody Mary soup (vodka optional), poached eggs with pulled pork, fries three ways, and more.
The menu is alternately classic and inventive -- think red gurnard fish with tomato, lentil cream, broad beans, olives, and watercress-chimichurri or... beef sirloin -- and ever-changing. But what will keep you coming back is their location. Whether you’re sitting on the huge wooden terrace or inside the delicately mod two story interior, bring some extra tissues to wipe up your date’s drool (and this will happen before the dishes even come). If this spot doesn’t get you lucky, well, it’s just not the right match.