Too Early Review—Amsterdam Bar and Hall, St. Paul

How do you feel about mussels and broth served in a paper tray? Where do you stand on sour beer in glittering goblets? The answer to those two questions will likely determine your final opinion of St. Paul’s newest bar and place that also serves food, the Amsterdam.

I don’t say restaurant, I say place that serves food, because, in my book, if everything you serve comes in little paper trays, it’s not entirely a restaurant. Call me the Queen of England. But also call me the next time you want to meet for unusual Dutch and Belgian beers in downtown St. Paul, because I sort of love this new bar, paper trays notwithstanding.

Here’s why. It’s dark, close to pitch dark, lit romantically with tall, flickering taper-candles dripping antiquely into cast-iron skillets. Never seen that before! The beer list is extraordinary, filled with rare Belgian-style, Dutch, and Belgian ales. I tried a Canadian Unibroue Trois Pistoles which had the funkiest, and most delightful, taste of fir-needles to it, and came in a beautiful coupe-like shallow goblet. My date tried the Rodenbach Original, an intensely tangy beer with a scent like old oaks and rye bread. It was served in a curvy footed goblet; we looked at one another in the candlelight and felt very much like we were in Europe, and not St. Paul.

Then we tried everything on the menu. I liked the Amsterdam frites (though in my opinion they’re nowhere near as good as the ones in Amsterdam), and I liked the mussels in their zesty vermouth and tomato broth (though I worried the whole time that the broth would leak out of the nested stack of four paper trays. Eat faster!). But I actually loved the “broodjes,” the little Dutch sandwiches. There are 17 of them currently on offer, priced from $3.50 to $4.75. Each is served in the center of a good, fresh, slightly sweet fluffy bread bun about the size of a tennis ball, and each is made with a modest amount of filling. But the simple combination of good bread and a little something else that’s good, it’s strangely great. I felt very positive about the sausage patty broodje—just a little bit of perky sausage was paired beautifully with the bread. I heartily endorse the melty-cheese broodje, and also recommend the plain hamburger broodje. A couple of these beside an order of the frites and a fancy beer makes for a very deluxe rock-and-roll night—which is fitting, because the Amsterdam is mainly a rock club.

So, if you’re looking for a very casual dinner in St. Paul, check it out! If there’s a band you like playing here, rejoice! But if you need to entertain the Queen of England, or anyone who’s a stickler for plates, you have been given fair warning. Oh, and I tried the “pot brownie” too, so-called because it is infused with sage, just as the brownies of Amsterdam are infused with a different herb. It was perfectly nice, but next time I’ll put my pennies toward another interesting beer. I think the Queen would approve.

Amsterdam Bar and Hall
6 W. 6th St., St. Paul