There aren’t a lot of Northern European rib joints that could open in Austin, Texas and earn a good living.
Then there’s De Klos, the reigning king of Dutch-style pork ribs in Amsterdam.
Deep in the heart of Leidseplein, De Klos sits quietly, putting out superb smoked ribs, twelve bones to a platter. In business since the early 70s, this old barbecue house has weathered the storm of Amsterdam’s transformation from sleepy village to major international tourist destination.
City ordinance forbids a billowing smoker sitting out back so the dirty work of wood and fire is done out of town with the meat being par-cooked, refrigerated then trucked into the city.
Once they’ve finished their trip from outlying Amsterdam, the ribs wait in the cooler til the eater orders from the barman, whereupon the cook then hoists an enormous rack and places it on a giant charcoal grill at the end of the bar.
What a sight.
I love to sit near the open kitchen so I can chat with the cook while he patiently transforms a cold slab into a red hot, salty plate of pork meat.
After 20 or so minutes on the grill, the sizzling hot rack is placed before you. You’ve got a little work to do as the ribs aren’t separated, they’re partially cut so you have to saw through the final 3 or so inches of flesh that keeps the ribs intact. Either that or just tear them apart with your bare hands which is the method I favor.
Do not ask for barbecue sauce as there is none. Instead you’re given a bouillon bowl of mayonnaise dressing and a pile of freshly sliced, raw white onion. Gnaw a hunk of meat off a bone, dip an onion into the sauce, repeat 60-70 times til the platter has been decimated.
A note on service: I love the staff as they’re a bunch of wise acres. If you give as good as you get you’ll relish the repartee of this group of smart alecks. Most of them have been here for a decade or so and when queried, respond that they still eat a couple platters of ribs per week.
A recent visit found me on the tail end of a barbecue eating journey where I’d descended upon Asia Minor, Western Europe and The Balkans prior to my arrival in Amsterdam. De Klos was as good as any barbecue I had on the entire pilgrimage.
Amsterdam is a city given to corporal pleasures.Chief among them is walking down Kerkstraat at dusk just as De Klos opens for business.Stepping out of the gloaming and into the darkened bar with a plate of Dutch barbecue in your very near future is one of my favorite ways to begin a night on the town in Amsterdam.