Taste the real Rotterdam!

Food for thought at these eleven delicious spots in Rotterdam

Iris van den Broek

Taste the real Rotterdam!

It will take some time to taste the real Rotterdam. The diversity of places and tastes typifies the city on the river Maas! From nostalgic to worldly dining and from traditional goodness to homemade sweetness: Rotterdam has it all. Here are some suggestions to get you started. Indulge in traditional Rotterdam treats at these ten places and learn more about the city, its inhabitants, entrepreneurs and history. You’ll be back for more!

1. Ballentent: traditional café with the best meatballs

De Ballentent considers itself to be the cosiest port pub in Rotterdam, and it specialises in meatballs. Many old timers still find their way to this place today, but young Rotterdammers, families and visitors also come to enjoy the meatballs and the view of the Nieuwe Maas river after a walk through Het Park. Besides the famous meatball, this traditional café also has other sandwiches and pancakes on the menu.

2. Koekela: Rotterdam’s biscuit king

Koekela’s biscuits and cakes have been an institution in Rotterdam and the surrounding area for years – since they opened in 2003. The products are honest (no artificial additives) and delicious; the carrot cake and lemon meringue pie are legendary. Besides cakes and biscuits, there are brownies and bars and even an extensive vegan and gluten-free range. You’ll find many people with a sweet tooth queueing here on a Saturday morning…

3. Kampong Express: small, colourful and very fresh

It is perhaps the smallest restaurant in Rotterdam: Kampong Express can seat twelve guests. The Wong family runs the eatery and serves ‘Malaysian Soulfood’. The father and mother work in the kitchen, and the son and daughter serve the food. They make the dumplings they serve in the restaurant fresh at their home every day. One bite of these will fill your heart with joy and your stomach with the best of both Malaysia and Rotterdam.

4. El Aviva: Turkish home of the Kapsalon

It’s impossible to imagine Culinary Rotterdam without the Kapsalon; this hearty snack is known throughout the Netherlands. The very first Kapsalon was made in the Turkish shoarma shop El Aviva, at the request of their ‘neighbours’ at hair salon Tati. That is how the dish got its name. More and more people heard about it and tried the dish with fries, shoarma, salad, cheese, garlic sauce and sambal. El Aviva has had the Kapsalon on the menu since 2005 and still sells thirty to forty a day.

5. Warung Mini: Bara Chicken Curry with or without yellow sambal

Warung Mini on the Witte de Withstraat is another favourite. Where good food is not expensive, as they say themselves. They serve delicious Surinamese, Javanese and Indian food. Try the specialities, such as Bara Chicken Curry, Risolles, Baka Bana or Bakkelauw. Their ‘tip from auntie’: if you are not used to hot food, take it easy on the yellow sambal!

6. de Kade: for delicious vegan roti, pom or dumplings

De Kade, on the bustling West-Kruiskade, offers good vegetarian and vegan Surinamese and Chinese food. Owner Jeanette has created two menus – a meat menu and a vegetarian/vegan menu – and makes sure that everything is prepared separately: veg really is veg here. Many Rotterdammers like to make a detour for the delicious vegetarian roti.

7. Jordy’s Bakery: a household name

‘Pure ingredients, traditionally prepared’ is the promise that Jordy’s Bakery makes and delivers. Jordy grew up in a baker’s family and decided to bake his own bread a little differently. After a course in America, he kept his holy grail – a ‘basic dough’ from the US – alive for a year, until he could finally use it in his own bakery. The original dough was a success and formed the basis of the sourdough loaves that have made Jordy’s Bakery a household name in Rotterdam and beyond. You can buy and taste his baked goods in the shop and lunchroom on the Nieuwe Binnenweg.

8. Kaapse Brouwers: beer pioneers

After starting at ‘de Kaap’ – Katendrecht – in the Fenix Food Factory as beer pioneers, the now established Kaapse Brouwers are ‘fermenting’ the Merwe-Vierhavens area, in the Keilepand building and as part of the Rotterdam Makers District. In recent years, the trio Tsjomme Zijlstra, Etienne Vermeulen and Genevieve Vachon put their craft beer on the map as the best Rotterdam beer in the world. They have since opened several catering establishments – from a traditional brown café to a restaurant – where people can taste their Kaapse Gozer, Carrie and Nelis.

9. De Pijp: attracting students since 1898

Many people have found their way to the restaurant and ‘beer merchant’ De Pijp in the Gaffelstraat, a side street of the Nieuwe Binnenweg, since the end of the nineteenth century. A lot has changed since then, but the authentic atmosphere of this student-friendly place gives De Pijp its appeal. There are times when no change is beneficial: regulars know what to expect and newcomers are surprised by the original Rotterdam nostalgia and the Rotterdammers themselves. You eat ‘together’ at long tables, and there is no menu. You can choose what you want from the blackboards. Dishes like tournedos, mussels and fried liver with bacon and onions are as classic and unpretentious as the rest of the place but always good and seasonal. De Pijp is timeless and, as such, moves with the times.

10. de IJssalon: ice cream at its best

A lot of training, enterprise and experience preceded the opening of Robin Altings De IJssalon on the Meent and the winning of De Gouden IJsspatel award in 2006. It’s been extremely popular ever since. It’s not the temperature or the colour that’s important but the quality of the ingredients: good quality vanilla, well-roasted hazelnuts, fresh fruit and excellent chocolate. Besides the classic flavours, you can taste a few unique types of ice cream every season, such as fresh mint, advocaat or caipirinha. De IJssalon also has branches in the Markthal and on the West-Kruiskade.

11. Bram Ladage: Rotterdam at its crunchiest

No, Bram Ladage is not a French fry. He is a person who sold cone-shaped bags of fries at the Rotterdam market back in 1967. His father was also a professional chip fryer, but Bram went his own way. Today, there are 38 branches, and besides Zuid-Holland, you can also find the Rotterdam fries in Utrecht and Noord-Brabant. Bram no longer has to shout to attract business, everyone knows where to find him.

10 x local and innovative dining in Rotterdam

10 x local and innovative dining in Rotterdam

In Rotterdam, residents and businesses alike seize a challenge with both hands. Rotterdam’s food culture reflects this beautifully. Discover a selection of (the many) ‘friendly’ restaurants in Rotterdam, started by ambitious and passionate entrepreneurs. Give them a try and discover how rewarding it is to eat innovatively and responsibly!

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