The first food item I smelled in Amsterdam was pizza, but the first honest-to-goodness Dutch treat I ate was a Febo burger.

I was told in earlier comments to skip the burger and try the "specialitje, little deep-fried meatloafs, or a kroketten," but I just couldn't pass up the burger. (How am I going to fill the pages of AHT otherwise?)

Febo (pronounced FAY-bo) is a chain of automats that serve low-priced prepared items behind columns and rows of plastic doors. You browse the selections, drop your euros in the slot, open the door, and Bob's yer uncle, you've got your grubby little handen on a warm, if not hot, food item. For longtime New Yorkers, Febo would conjure up the world of the Horn & Hardart automats of yore, the last of which closed in 1991.

I can't say that the Febo burger was good. Let's just say it hit the spot after a long flight, hotel check-in, neighborhood recon, and a boat tour of Amsterdam's canals. And I can't quite say that it actually tasted like a hamburger, though it did taste like something familiar. I'll leave it to future samplings to determine exactly what.

Febo doesn't appear to be the only one in the automat game, though. I observed two outposts of Smullers on the way from the city's Centraal Station to the hotel. Both had similar offerings, but on first impression, Smullers seemed a bit cleaner. (The Febo I stopped at was also patronized by several of our pigeon friends.)

What they also had in common was a confusing change machine. To operate the automats in both franchises, you need coins. If you only have euro notes, like me, you'd think you'd be able to zip them through one of the in-store changers for €1 coins. But the changers didn't appear to take notes, instead breaking your €1 coins into €0.20 coins for items that cost, say, €1.80. Tomorrow (or later tonight after a nap), I'll hit up the front desk here for a stash of coins and try some other Febo offerings.

After all, there's one just across the street from where I'm staying.


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