When we think of Amsterdam, we think of tulips, coffee shops, and enough history to challenge even Egypt. Some of us (those that spend most of our lives crossing back and forth) also appreciate it as a European haven for foodies.
That’s right. Not everyone knows it – but Amsterdam has some of the most widespread choices in food in the world. Every culture resides in this free-thinking town, attracted over the years by the strength of the trade here, the pull of the freedom, or the lure of darker promises. Today, this means a thousand, million choices of taste, dish and delight.
FEBO, as weird an idea as it might be, is just one of the many millions of munchy-worthy eateries throughout the city. They go farther than that, in fact, and you can find FEBO stores throughout the Netherlands. To our best guess, there are 22 FEBO shops in Amsterdam with a total of 60, altogether, and scattered throughout the Netherlands.
Who are we, tow rite about such things? If you haven’t met us before – then hello and welcome to another wonderful entry into the world of Lilly Likes Amsterdam. We have reviewed some of the best entertainment venues in the city. We’ve also tasted some of the best food, been to most of the museums, and happen to be regulars in most of the coffee shops… in one way or another.
What we’re trying to say is that you can find loads to do through our pages, even if you aren’t a foodie. We have examined everything from the best things to do in Amsterdam with kids, to the biggest, highest swing in all of Europe! Not to mention the Foodhallen, the Vegan Junk Food Bar, the De Ton Ton club, the Chinese on the boat… and many, many more. So if you don’t want to learn about FEBO – head over to Lilly Likes HQ and find something that more matches your taste.
Now on with FEBO!
What Is FEBO?
All this excitement and some of our readers won’t even know what it is yet! FEBO is the vendor to end all vendors… in the lonely, 3 AM streets of Amsterdam, when everything else is closed for then night, and all other vendors are in their beds… you will still find yourself able to find a tasty treat at your nearest FEBO.
This vibrant shop is a store filled with vending machines… wall-to-wall. They only sell one thing and that’s food. Obviously, the vending machines are heated or cooled accordingly. This lets you get the best munch at all times of the day – and all without having to wait in long lines, order in, or fight with your friends over who pays for the meal.
It is the Netherlands’ equivalent of a takeaway food place, specifically located to catch the drunkards as they tumble out onto the streets of an evening. All they need to do is rock up to the store, insert coins into the relevant slot, and retrieve their hot, tasty snack. One of their specialties is chips served in the same sort of tubs you usually get filled with breadsticks and cheese to dunk them in.
So FEBO is, in effect, a snack food store that consists entirely of vending machines containing an array of different foods. What a good idea. In fact, we are currently in the British Isles wondering why they haven’t rolled the idea out here. Surely it would take off.
A Different Way to Feed the Masses
FEBO was first introduced in Amsterdam (where it was founded) in 1941. At the time, it had a focus on fries, burgers and cold drinks. Founder John De Borst started the eatery with big intentions. Automated dining was set to be the business of the future in the 40’s. People genuinely thought that robots were right around the corner and that every restaurant and diner would be fully automated by now.
Anyway, John has an excellent idea for automating fast food. With McDonalds and other American fast food brands only recently invented; FEBO grew out of an old bakery. Around the 1940s and 50s, the drive in eatery had only just been introduced. The reason, legend has it, is because cars had become readily available for the first time ever. Now that people had vehicles – they needed somewhere to drive them to. Fast-food was born, and the concept expanded to include snacks, sweet treats and chilled beverages.
Cut to 80 years later and you have 80+ FEBOs all over the Netherlands. Each one specifically selling that same snack food that made them so important, all those many years ago. The name of this innovative foodie heaven came from the original shop it resided in. According to local myth, the first store was a former bakery on Ferdinand Bolstraat. They took the first two letters from each of those names you get FEBO… and thus FEBO was born.
How the Food is Cooked?
The food is less of the mystery, with the vending machines being the focus of the innovation. Shortly after vending machines were invented, people were realty eager to place as many of them around as they could. The idea to have a shop filled with them might have originated in the US, but it quickly spread to Japan, China, and even as far afield as Amsterdam.
Pre-cooked food is placed in temperate or chilled vendors. The food (or drink) remains safely tucked away until such times as you stumble out of your pub of choice. You put a few coins in the slot and your chosen door slides open. You can then remove the food you want and scoff it, fuss free.
This method of selling food allows for a huge choice in menu. As many choices are available, as you can have machines. You can keep food at a perfectly legal temperature for a fairly long time using this technique. You can also satisfy a myriad of happy customers with minimum-to-no customer care. There are no servers to tip, and no time limitation on how long you can open for in terms of staff. All you really need is someone to refill the compartments and even that will only need done for an hour or two a day.
We imagine the founder rubbing his hands together at all the profits he was going to make. Instead, the idea hasn’t really spread on to the rest of Europe. While you can buy everything from a snack to a new car through Japanese vending machines: Europeans seem to trust people behind counters over robots.
What About the FEBO Menu?
One of the things FEBO in Amsterdam is most famous for is the croquet. That’s not the croquet that you play with a stick – it’s the one made of potato, a tasty filling for your choice, and wrapped in crispy breadcrumbs. While the rest of the world are used to potato croquets, the Dutch have reinvented them, whacked them on a roll, and given them a choice of meat fillings. You can also get vegetarian options, don’t worry.
There is an awful lot of deep-fried food. Although, since their market are drunk party goers around 2 am, fried food is the perfect choice. Another of the specialties to be had at FEBO is the Kaasouffle. This deep fried delight uses two thin pieces of dough sandwiching melted cheese in the middle. The whole thing is then deep fried, allowing additional calories to soak up the alcohol.
Don’t get us wrong: it’s not fine dining. If you are looking for excellence, a candlelit dinner, or silver service, this is not the place for you. On the other hand, if you stumble out of the club and need something to stop you vomiting into your handbag at the end of the night FEBO has got you.
They have a whole range of snack foods and chilled drinks for you to munch through – but don’t expect any staff available to complain to. It’s unlikely to swallow your change but if it does, there may not be anyone around to complain to.
The Lilly Likes Verdict
So what’s the Lilly Likes take on FEBO? We love the idea behind it, we love that it lets you feed your face at 3 am (that’s 4 am on a Friday and Saturday night, by the way) and we love the innovation. We also reckon that, no matter how advanced AI gets, it will never fully replace good customer service. As much as the robots in FEBO are doing a great job – we will always need people to refill the machines.
We give FEBO a thumbs up. It does what it does very well, and if it weren’t for FEBO feeding folk in the wee-small hours of the morning, there would be many tourists and locals alike going hungry every night. Whether you agree or not, whether you enjoy the food or not, you can’t help but agree that it fulfils a need in society.
We say rock on FEBO, keep feeding those drunkards. They (and we) need you.