Each morning, the Green Brothers supplier cycles through the Amsterdam streets, his bike cart full of fresh produce destined for the new food hall in Amsterdam-West. Today, he has brought eggplant, sweet potatoes, onions and parsley to vendor Ronald van Uden.
Van Uden in return has charcoal-grilled and transformed the greens into soup, sandwiches and deep-dish piles of glistening, warm veggies paired with hummus. Steps away, there's another food stall, le Big Fish, created by not one, but two Michelin-starred Amsterdam chefs that serves Thai fish soup and crispy soft-shell-crab burgers in steamed buns. At the other end of the market, a Spanish charcuterie stall run by a first-timer is selling paper cones filled with deliciously thin shaved Iberico ham for €4 ($5.64).
Whatever your hankering, Amsterdam's new indoor Foodhallen – the first of its kind in the city – is sure to satiate. Located in a former electric-tram depot, it's one of those beautifully renovated century-old spaces that give hope to old buildings. The iron track lines from the streetcars are still visible in the smooth cement floor. Huge glass doors, three-times a person's height, open between two rooms where pop music plays above the chatter.
Renovated by Dutch architect Andre van Stigt, the 172,000-square-foot complex also includes a cycle shop, a denim lab and a TV studio. De Hallen is also the home for the monthly Local Goods Weekend Market.
But on this weekday afternoon in late October, what lures me is the food market. It's been open for just a couple of weeks, but it's busy with patrons doing the slow walk, reverse, linger and order at the stalls that range from hot dogs in pretzel buns to Mumbai street food.
"We tried to have the best of Amsterdam under one roof," says Zing-Kyn Cheung, one of the four young friends behind the food market and next-door restaurants, Halte 3 Brasserie and Meat West Restaurant. "There are no chains. No McDonald's. We made the selection on diversity, on originality."
Cheung says the idea emerged after visiting the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid. He and his friend ended up drinking, eating and staying for hours and left thinking: Let's do this in Amsterdam.
The tram station, where the city's first electric streetcars were once serviced, had been empty for years, but the surrounding neighbourhood vetoed a succession of ideas to fill the space. Judging by the crowds, the locals have voted.
I slow down by the Rough Kitchen. The stall combines the talents of award-winning Dutch barbecue caterer Smokey Goodness and a food writer whose books include Het Perfecte Varken (The Perfect Pork).
"There's a lot of patience and good meat," says Jasper, who's manning the stall. "We do tasting platters of cold bites, like smoked bacon, and warm bites like pork belly, and pulled-pork sandwiches. It's appealing if you're with people with different tastes."
Feeling very full, I settle, however, on trying one more very Dutch item: beef bitterballen from De BallenBar, a partnership that includes another Michelin-starred chef who designed the fillings that test the bounds of tradition, with goat cheese, shrimp and truffle flavourings. The young woman behind the counter dips the croquettes in a deep fryer then plates them in a paper boat dish with a Dutch flag and mustard-mayo sauce.
I find a spot at a table with picnic-bench seating. The bitterballen are crunchy on the outside and warm, meaty and smooth inside. Around me, people are engaging in conversations, not staring down at their phones. I also don't see anyone with a tourist map, but here in De Hallen, that's surely only a matter of time.
33 Hannie Dankbaar Passage, Amsterdam; dehallen-amsterdam.nl/en