I have been a Holland, Michigan, resident for over 17 years. I didn’t know much about Dutch history until I moved to this darling town with its Dutch roots. In the years I’ve lived here, I’ve learned that the Dutch know how to eat! I have made it a point to travel around town to find the top restaurants that serve Dutch food specialties, and here are the top five. So, next time you’re in town either for the Tulip Time Festival or for a summer visit to the beach at beautiful Lake Michigan, add these restaurants to your list of must-eats!
1. Hungry Dutchman Café
The Hungry Dutchman Café is located in Nelis’ Dutch Village along 31 North in Holland. This café is small and unassuming but packs a powerful punch when it comes to Dutch cuisine. The first thing you’ll notice upon entering is the beams across the ceiling decorated with some well-known Dutch phrases that you would likely hear in the Netherlands. Look for “Na regen komt zonneschijn,” which roughly translates to “After the rain comes the sunshine” and “Wi zoekt vindt, wie waagt wint,” meaning “He who seeks finds, he who ventures wins.”
If you enjoy the outdoors while you dine, check out the deck, which overlooks a lovely pond.
What To Order
Whether you eat inside or outside, you’ll love the many Dutch favorites on the menu:
- Banket, an almond pastry made from scratch
- Erwtensoep, traditional Dutch pea soup
- Frikandel, a Dutch-style hot dog, pan-fried and served with chopped onions, curried ketchup, and mayonnaise
- Kroketten, a deep-fried beef croquette, served with coarse-grain Dutch mustard
- Metworst, pork sausage made from a traditional Dutch recipe, usually served with hot potato salad
- Saucijzenbroodjes, pigs in a blanket
You can also order American fare at the Hungry Dutchman, so if you’re not an adventurous eater, or you’re traveling with someone who prefers something non-Dutch, then you can order hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, and other items.
Pro Tip: Plan to wash down your Dutch meal with a regional Dutch beer on tap at the Thirsty Dutchman Pub next door. You can choose from local brews, and if you aren’t able to narrow it down, then treat yourself to a flight served up in a klompen (wooden shoe).
2. Dutch Brothers Restaurant
Dutch Brothers Restaurant is owned and operated by three brothers, the first-generation sons born to Dutch immigrants. These boys grew up eating classic Dutch dishes such as pea soup and kroketten (deep-fried beef croquettes). They now share those delicious dishes with the community at the Dutch Brothers Restaurant.
What To Order
Be sure and look for the “Dutch stuff” section of the menu, which includes ham and pea soup, saucijzenbroodjes (pigs in a blanket), almond coffee cake, and even a sampler plate to give you the entire experience. With a “Taste of the Old Country,” you can sample all the Dutch delights, including a piece of mild Gouda cheese.
Pro Tip: When seated in the dining area, look for the black and white family photos on the wall showing the three brothers dressed in Dutch costumes as children.
3. DeBoer Bakkerij
The deBoer Bakkerij (that’s “bakery” in English) is connected to the Dutch Brothers Restaurant and is delightfully decked out in Dutch décor, including a bakfiet (Dutch box bike), a variety of baked goods, and a small cooler with Dutch cheeses for purchase.
What To Order
If you haven’t had a krakelingen, now is the time to try one! Once you’ve tasted one, you’ll want to stock up on these sweet and crunchy little delights! Shaped like pretzels, these cookies are made from puff pastry and doused in sugar. The magic is in how the sugar glaze dries to a crispy finish. Yum! You won’t be able to stop at just one!
Other delicious offerings at the deBoer Bakery include hand-made Dutch banket (sweet pastry rolled into a long and narrow log shape filled with a sweet almond paste mixture), Dutch currant and almond currant bread, and Holland rusks.
Pro Tip: DeBoer has a fantastic maple bacon donut, filled with a delicious cream filling and topped with a slice of bacon. It’s the perfect sweet and salty treat!
4. Wooden Shoe Restaurant
The Wooden Shoe Restaurant is steeped in the history of the Holland community. The building was constructed in 1958 and was used as a tourist favorite, the Wooden Shoe Factory, where visitors came to see authentic Dutch carvers create real wooden shoes like those worn in the Netherlands. However, by the 1990s, the owners had changed business direction, and the building sold and became the Wooden Shoe Restaurant, the Tap House, and the Wooden Shoe Antique Mall, all in tribute to the structure’s original purpose. The Wooden Shoe Restaurant entrance is accessible with no stairs and offers easy access throughout the building.
When you stop in at the Wooden Shoe, you may be in for a wait as this is a popular breakfast and lunch destination in Holland. Don’t worry, you can meander through the connected antique mall and enjoy looking at and even purchasing all sorts of beautiful relics from the past.
What To Order
Once you’re seated, have an adventure and treat yourself to a couple of slices of Balkenbrij. This traditional Dutch food is similar to what we call scrapple in the U.S. Baulkenbrij is made in-house of a special recipe including hamburger, pork butt roast, and liver, then seasoned with alum and allspice. The meat is then mixed with buckwheat flour to bind it. This dish is a local favorite and a conversation piece!
The locals in Holland, Michigan, are very friendly, and when I stopped in for a taste of my first Balkenbrij, a couple of people dining at nearby tables couldn’t wait to chime in and share their knowledge of this unusual dish. One even regaled me with the entire process of making it from the original cuts of meat through boiling, grinding, blending, baking, cooling, slicing, and frying.
She has lovely memories of making it with her grandmother, no doubt an immigrant straight from the Netherlands. A gentleman at another nearby table remarked, “the Dutch know how to use every piece of the animal and let nothing go to waste.” Baulkenbrij is the perfect example.
Pro Tip: If you favor Baulkenbrij, enjoy it on a piece of buttered white bread and drizzled with syrup, as our new dining companions recommended. Some folks prefer a touch of salt and pepper over the syrup, but the sweet topping was welcome over the strange meat. If Baulkenbrij is not your cup of tea, you can grab another Dutch favorite here at the Wooden Shoe, the pig in a blanket. The pigs are also made from scratch and you’ll see them being served to tables around you. Finally, for a sweet treat, don’t miss out on a giant (and I mean giant) cinnamon roll while you’re here!
5. Russ’ Restaurant
Russ’ Restaurant was founded in 1934 and continues to serve the local community more than 85 years later. Everything you find at this restaurant is made in-house with an extra dose of Dutch love! Of course, Russ’ also serves plenty of Dutch classics like split pea soup and pigs in a blanket.
After your main course, plan on having a piece of pie, or a famous Dutch apple dumpling served with vanilla ice cream. Russ’ Restaurant is known locally for its made-from-scratch pies, and you can even take a whole pie home with you!
Plan on essential dishes and down-home service when you go to Russ’ Restaurant. Parking is always ample, the food is always good, and all their locations are easily accessible with no stairs!
What To Order
My favorite is the slim gem sandwich, a classic Dutch food. My husband notes that his family always serves this type of sandwich at family gatherings and funeral luncheons. He calls it “ham on a bun.” Made up of thin slices of ham and Swiss cheese placed on a buttered white bun, you can add condiments as you like, but the slim gem sandwich at Russ’ comes with lettuce, tomato, and mayo, then served with fries.
Pro Tip: I recommend a half order of Russ’ hand-battered onion rings instead of fries. These may not be genuine Dutch cuisine, but they are delicious, and regular customers love them!
More Dutch Food Locations
After you’ve had a day or weekend in Charming Holland, Michigan, you may find that you’d like to taste Holland, Michigan, home with you after your visit. No problem! Multiple shops in Holland offer Dutch treats that you can take with you. Check out the Dutch Village Downtown store on 8th Street for sampling some delightful Dutch cheeses such as Gouda and Edam, both with mild flavor and color, but so delicious! You can also find a variety of other great Dutch snacks like stroopwafels (waffle cookies sandwiched around a thin layer of caramel), speculoos (windmill cookies), and beschuit (twice-baked round toast).
Take a walk through the shops at the Windmill Island Gardens and bring home a bag of Windmill flour, whole wheat flour made from wheat grown in West Michigan and ground in the on-site windmill, the last authentic Dutch Windmill exported from the Netherlands.
You could also choose a bag of Dutch licorice, available at Veldheer Tulip Gardens on the North end of town. The Dutch love their licorice. You can choose from flavors and textures that are salty, sweet, hard, soft, and all different colors and shapes.
No matter where you choose to eat in Holland, Michigan, you will not go away hungry!