Concierge.com's insider take:
Amsterdam has a wild reputation, thanks in part to its coffee shops, but it is very much a café society, filled with places to quaff a bier topped with two fingers of foam and to get a taste of gezelligheid, the Dutch personality trait at the crossroads of conviviality, friendliness, and knowing others' business. 'T Smalle sets the model for "brown cafés" (named for their cocoa-colored walls, said to be the product of tobacco smoke over many generations). Sitting at the confluence of two charming Jordaan canals, it has a Vermeer-worthy interior of leaded-glass windows and tile floors, and open-air tables on the dock (12 Egelantiersgracht; 31-20-623-9617). Equally classic Hoppe, by Spui Square, dates from 1670 and keeps up the old ways with no music and daily replenishment of the sand on the floor (18-20 Spui; 31-20-420-4420). Intimate Spanjer & Van Twist looks out on its own timeless Jordaan canal intersection and draws determinedly arty patrons; the traditional menu of croquettes and apple pie is a bit lighter here, and includes chicken on ciabbata (60 Leliegracht; 31-20-639-0109). New-wave cafés have zealously whitewashed walls and more varied menus. Walem is centrally located, and packed by noon with the aimlessly stylish noshing on sandwiches such as beef carpaccio and shaved parmesan sprinkled with pumpkin seeds (449 Keizersgracht; 31-20-625-3544; www.cafewalem.nl). Nouveau scensters head to the café-deli Envy Delicacies, where meat cutters carve off thin shavings of prosciutto and serrano ham (381 Prinsengracht; 31-20-344-6407; www.envy.nl). "Grand cafés" think big enough to roll out soaring ceilings, canal-side terraces, and splashier decor. The three-story De Jaren, overlooking the Amstel River, is one of the largest (20 Nieuwe Doelenstraat; 31-20-625-5771; www.diningcity.com/ams/dejaren), while Luxembourg has a lovingly preserved Art Deco interior and coveted Spui-side terrace seats (24 Spui; 31-20-620-6224; www.luxembourg.nl). Even their drama is outdone by a new constellation of Frenchified brasserie-style cafés, including Café-Restaurant Dauphine, which is so roomy and French, it's housed in a former Renault garage (175 Prins Bernhardplein; 31-20-462-1646; www.caferestaurantdauphine.nl).
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