Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

No kaas: Searching for Dutch food in D.C. turned up few options

Looking to go Dutch in the District? You might be in trouble.
Tanner Nalley | Photographer
A customer accepts a triple-scoop cone at Van Leeuwen’s Georgetown location.

As the stash of snacks I brought to GW on my exchange program from the Netherlands shrinks and my homesickness grows, I have been desperately searching for Dutch food in D.C. to little avail.

Since D.C. is one of the most diverse metropolises in America, I expected that finding food from the Netherlands would be easy. After all, almost every country is represented here from Irish pubs to Ethiopian restaurants. 

I expected to find something resembling a typical Dutch dinner, what we call an AVG’tje — Aardappel, Vlees en Groente — a plate of cooked potatoes, meat and vegetables, often served with a side of applesauce or mayonnaise.

But when I started searching for Dutch restaurants online, I quickly discovered finding food from home would be challenging. The first three restaurants I came across were actually German, Eastern European and Belgian. I found references to “Dutch babies,” an American pancake that originated in Germany, not the Netherlands, but still not a traditional Dutch restaurant.

But after an exhaustive search, I finally found three real Dutch places: DC Snacks, Dutch Family Restaurant and Amsterdam Falafelshop. TripAdvisor showed mouthwatering pictures of typical Dutch dishes like poffertjes, Dutch pancakes and bitterballen, fried Dutch meatballs similar to croquettes. 

Unfortunately, upon some further sleuthing, I realized the D.C. in DC Snacks does not represent the District of Columbia but is an acronym for a restaurant in Taiwan. Luckily, Dutch Family Restaurant is located in the correct country, but it’s all the way in Germantown, Maryland — two hours away from Foggy Bottom via public transportation.

I decided to try my luck at the Amsterdam Falafelshop located in Adams Morgan, slightly more accessible than Germantown and Taiwan. I was intrigued by the place since the only thing Dutch about the restaurant seemed to be its name and their fritesaus, a Dutch version of mayonnaise that contains less fat. The other sauces, like curried ketchup and peanut sauce, were not from the Netherlands, although we do eat them often. The eatery’s main dishes have an even weaker connection to the Netherlands: Middle Eastern falafel and Belgian fries.

After arriving at where Amsterdam Falafelshop should’ve been, I learned it closed in May. The only thing left is an old sign showing off reviews that promise the best-prized drunk food in D.C.

Three other places where I tried my luck were Van Leeuwen, Le Pain Quotidien and Belga, which I found by further combing through TripAdvisor and Yelp.

Van Leeuwen is an ice cream store with multiple locations within the District. One of them caught my eye when I walked through Adams Morgan while mourning the loss of Amsterdam Falafelshop. Van Leeuwen is a Dutch name, but besides that, the store, unfortunately, does not offer anything particularly Dutch, instead focusing on Italian and American ice cream flavors.

Le Pain Quotidien is a Belgian bakery and restaurant with four locations in the District that sells poffertjes. Compared to American pancakes, they are smaller, rounder and fluffier and are typically served with a lot of butter and powdered sugar. On the menu, they were listed as Dutch pancakes with banana, maple syrup and powdered sugar ($10). 

I ordered them without the banana to stay closer to the traditional dish. In hindsight, I should have also nixed the maple syrup, which is traditionally a Canadian topping, and asked for extra powdered sugar to make them taste more Dutch. Despite the syrup, the pancakes made me feel nostalgic like coming home from primary school and finding a special lunch my mom made for me. Still, I don’t think they are worth the $10 price tag because in the Netherlands, you could purchase fifteen of the small, pancake-like pastries for half the price.

My final stop was Belga, a Belgian restaurant on Capitol Hill. I sat in an outside wooden chalet decorated with fake candles and lights, listening to jazzy pop song covers and the chatter of other guests while warming myself with a complimentary blanket under an outdoor heater. It felt cozy, something I would describe in Dutch as “gezellig.”

I got some fries with mayonnaise ($9) because although the fries might be typically Belgian, eating them with mayo feels especially Dutch. Even Hollywood agrees. In “Pulp Fiction,” John Travolta tells Samuel L. Jackson that the Dutch do not eat their fries with ketchup but mayonnaise: “they f*cking drown them in that sh*t.” 

Besides the fries, I ordered vier kazen kroketten ($14.50), fried cheese balls similar to croquettes. The food was not as good as I expected it to be, with not enough mayonnaise and too much cheese — a weird critique for a Dutch person, who are often described as “kaaskoppen,” meaning “cheeseheads,” because we love our cheese.

When the restaurants failed, I pivoted to finding food in supermarkets. At the GW Deli, the Market at Columbia Plaza and Whole Foods, I found stroopwafels, typical Dutch cookies consisting of wafer-like waffles sandwiched together by syrup. 

The stroopwafels at GW Deli are from a brand that tried to make them healthier by removing most of the sugar, losing a lot of calories and adding fibers. Unfortunately, the loss of calories went hand in hand with the loss of taste. I would rather not eat a stroopwafel than its healthy alternative. 

The offerings at the Market at Columbia Plaza were better but still not food I would recommend, as they tasted slightly burned. The stroopwafels from Whole Foods ($0.80/pc) were by far the best: not too healthy and also not burnt. Although they were a little bit too sweet, I would get them again after I finish the last few I brought from home.

Whole Foods also sells Gouda cheese ($12.99/lb) from the Netherlands and Dutch pancakes. I acknowledge my cheese standards are high, but I would never eat Whole Foods’ gouda again, as it tasted like feet.

The poffertjes from Whole Foods ($2.79) compensated for the disappointing cheese. Similar to the stroopwafels, they were a little too sweet, but with some butter and powdered sugar, they offered the sense of home I was looking for. Also, you get way more poffertjes than you would get at Le Pain Quotidien for much less money.

I was surprised by the overall lack of Dutch food in the District, especially bitterballen, which are essentially fried meatballs, an ideal fit for Americans. I still consider my search a success because I found a few tastes from home, stroopwafels and poffertjes, to tide me over for my semester abroad. But if you want to get the real deal, take a semester abroad or a trip to the Netherlands to enjoy the food. Eet smakelijk.

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