Grilled Half Cornish Hen
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What: Ah, the humble Dutch meatball. Or, not so humble, as Dutch gehaktballen (plural) are generally much larger than the more famous meatballs of Sweden, or even those associated with Italian (and Italian-American) cooking. Meatballs are important here: Used to be that every Wednesday was “gehaktdag,” or minced-meat day, an invention by butchers who used to slaughter animals on Monday and discount the leftover (minced) meat by Wednesday. As in other cultures, it was food for the commoners. Nowadays, we’d gladly take this ultimate Dutch comfort food over an overpriced tourist meal any day of the week. What’s not to love about a big fat homemade ball of juicy beef?
Where: At the canalside Café Onder de Ooievaar (Utrechtsestraat 119), a cozy “brown cafe” with great sidewalk seating, we fell in love with a meatball.
When: Mon-Thurs, 10am-1am; Fri-Sat, 10am-3am; Sun, 10:30am-1am. But be warned: The kitchen closes at 5:30pm every day.
Order: The homemade “bal gehakt” (€6,50) here is enormously satisfying: two beautiful balls of beef, studded with white onion and topped with chopped chives and slices of red onion, swimming in a rich brown gravy. It was served with three triangles of soft white bread, pickles, and mustard. Such simple perfection, best washed down with a local brew from Brouwerij ’t IJ. This place also has a good selection of broodjes (sandwiches), tostis (toasted sandwiches), and local van Wees jenever.
Alternatively: Old-timey Hap-Hmm (Eerste Helmersstraat 33, map), open since 1935, has long been a favorite for tasty, freshly prepared Dutch food at low prices. There’s no way its “grootmoeder’s gehaktbal”—grandma’s meatball—can be bad (note that the kitchen is open weekdays only and closes at 8pm).
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