If you're coming to Iceland, you will be blown away by the vibrant and unique food culture. Between the world-class restaurants with pristine ingredients and master chefs, the quaint little local flavours and the unique and unusual traditional cuisine, there is no shortage of flavourful experiences for both the adventurous explorer and the demanding connoisseur.
Modern day Iceland offers every kind of food you can imagine, and many that you probably can't. With globalization, downtown Reykjavík offers several each of Mexican restaurants, Thai, Sushi, Indian, and Iranian as well as more established restaurants offering more traditional international dishes like hamburgers, pizza and pasta. We have high-end restaurants offering the finest gourmet cuisine you can imagine, with steak houses, seafood and more international food. More recently we have seen several gourmet 'diner-style' burger places spring up. This is all in addition to a vast array of cafés which all offer standard burgers, sandwiches, and such, as well as a plethora of fast food places offering pizza, kebab, burgers and the like. In addition to this, many restaurants will offer some traditional Icelandic dishes, such as smoked lamb, or some variation on tradition, such as a reindeer burger.
Icelanders don't like to walk the beaten path. They do what they want and they don't really care what anyone thinks. This means that different local customs will spring up in different places that may seem a bit weird to an unaccustomed onlooker. Here are some choice examples, but be on the lookout for more, they are different all over.
Bæjarins beztu pylsur ("The best hot dogs in town")
Baejarins Beztu has been around since 1935, providing all hot dog lovers in Reykjavik with the best hot dogs in the world from their small hut near the harbour. It‘s arguably the most popular eatery in Reykjavik and the line is always long, but don‘t worry, the service is very quick. The Icelandic hot dog has a distinctive taste and is sold all around Iceland in gas stations and grocery shops. The hot dogs at Baejarins Bestu are still unbeatable.
Make sure to order the Eina með öllu ("one with everything"), the best selling hot dog. Ein með öllu is garnished with raw chopped onions, roasted onions, ketchup, mustard and remoulade, an Icelandic sauce made from mayonnaise and relish. When Bill Clinton visited Reykjavik in 2004, he had a hot dog with mustard only. The people at Le Gourmet TV came to Iceland to experience the hot dogs themselves, take a look:
If you order "eina með öllu" in the north of Iceland, your hot dog will also have "cocktail sauce" - a mixture of ketchup and mayo - and sometimes it will have red sauerkraut on it. Did you discover a local flavour hot dog somewhere in Iceland? Comment on our facebook wall and let us know!
Icelanders have a strange fascination with ice cream. Reykjavik has a wide selection of ice cream parlours where locally made ice cream is sold. One might think that because Iceland is relatively cold, ice cream would not be a big thing with us but the truth is, Icelanders love their ice cream all year around. Ice cream parlors usually close late, even when it‘s freezing outside, and it is actually not uncommon to see waiting lines outside ice cream shops on a cold winter‘s night.
If you find yourself in an Icelandic ice cream parlor, make sure to try the Icelandic specialty called "Bragðarefur", which loosely translates into "smooth operator". It‘s a mixture of ice cream, candy and fruits of your choice.
A very smooth operator
There is a long-standing debate in Reykjavík of which is better Ísbúð Vesturbæjar or the one in Skeifan. What do you think?
Traditional Icelandic Food
Finally, don't miss out on the traditional Icelandic food, prepared the same way it has for centuries, with flavours everyone can enjoy such as the smoked lamb, and some more adventurous items such as fermented shark and pickled ram's testicles. Read more about it in the Traditional Icelandic Food Article.