The bitterballen croquet were less flavorful. The fried balls of beef chuck and vegetables ("basically a chopped-up pot roast," Lowe says) were too bland, like a typical plain, Midwestern version of the dish coated with breading. The accompanying spicy mustard sauce couldn't quite save them.
A few other appetizers and two salads round out the menu. There are no entrée-sized dishes at the Amsterdam—and no actual dishes, for that matter. Food is served in paper trays, which keeps things nicely casual and works fine in most cases but can be a little awkward with, say, the mixed greens salad topped with house-cured salmon, onion, roasted tomatoes, and croutons. There is real silverware, but it's not easy to slice through vegetables without damaging the flimsy vessel holding them. The salad was still enjoyable, especially the house vinaigrette, which was bright and citrusy and just a bit sweet.
For dessert, who could resist the "pot brownie"? No, it's not made with that other famous Amsterdam specialty; the name is justified by the little cast-iron pot the decadent, caramel-laced chocolate concoction is served in. The large portion comes in two pieces and is topped with plenty of fresh whipped cream, so it's perfect for sharing.
Service could stand a little tweaking: Servers note orders via smart-phone devices—yay for embracing technology, but so far the method seems to actually slow things down a bit rather than the opposite—the credit-card swiping function doesn't seem to work, for one thing. And though servers are friendly and helpful, their timing could use some adjustment. I had no problems at dinner, but at lunch, when people often need to get back to work quickly, it should be easy to get the check at the end of a meal. Instead, our group had a server who hovered as we tried to decide what we wanted but had disappeared when we were ready to leave.
But those are small quibbles. The Amsterdam is filling a huge gap in the downtown St. Paul scene. Now there's somewhere cool to get a drink and a bite to eat after a show at the nearby Fitzgerald Theater, for example, as well as a new destination music venue in its own right. And while it's not quite a dinner destination, it doesn't need to be—the food surpasses that at most rock clubs, makes for an interesting midday meal, and goes well with a brew (the bar has a great beer list, including many Dutch and Belgian options). That's plenty.