ICELAND: FOOD EDITION
Okay first thing is first, Iceland is so expensive you will rarely see an actual Icelander eating in a restaurant outside of Reykjavik. It is shockingly expensive, more than New York, DC, or San Francisco. I was shook!
During our journey across the famous ring road, my husband and I stayed at this hotel, that charged $40 for a small plate of grilled mushrooms. The crazy thing is that was on par with pretty much everywhere we ate during our stay with only a few exceptions.
After spending an average of $200 a day on food we had to find other options. We loaded up on groceries when we could and made a lot of our food for the rest of the trip – sandwiches, fruit, etc. – so this is definitely something to consider if you are on a budget.
A cool thing about Iceland’s culinary culture is that there is no “farm to table” concept because everything is locally sourced, very fresh, usually organic, and they have never really deviated from this lifestyle. In fact, they find it odd that this is a trendy concept and not a standard way of living in the US.
One thing I like to do when I visit places is talk to locals. I asked them where Icelanders really eat and for recommendations on menus. I found a few places below that have a local flare, are somewhat affordable, and some that are off -the- charts amazing.
A local who worked at the rental car agency told me to go to Bergsson Mathus. I am so glad I did.
They had the best bread I’ve ever had in my life. I repeat IN MY LIFE!
I grew up in Europe, so I have high standards. Bacon was hot and crispy, there was a mix of fresh fruit with one being one I’ve never seen. It tasted like a papaya crossed with a honeydew melon. Wonderful! Average cost about $45 US a person
Best Pastries of Your Life
You guys, I am so impressed with the bakery situation in Iceland. Braud Co had a line out the door. It was filled with locals going to work and fast moving, so I figured it had to be great. It was a spiritual experience. We went back several times. They have something called a Danish, that is not like the ones here in the US. It is vanilla with a brown sugar crumble. Also, I recommend trying the cinnamon bun. It is buttery, and the right amount of sweetness. My Lord it was mind blowing.
I literally tried 3 different pastries each time I went. Each time I bought a turmeric juice (so tasty), a coffee, and pastries.
It was an average of $25 US and fed both my husband and I.
Okay I will say this. Icelandic coffee is not the best. I drank several cups in several establishments and well…. meh. However Reykjavik Roasters is on level Starbucks wise with their quality of coffee. So not the best, but will get the job done. Tea on the other hand is fabulous. They have high quality loose leaf tea with a large selection. The atmosphere is laid back with white walls plastered in local art, eclectic seating, green plants everywhere, and a record player booming the likes of DeAngelo. I made friends with one of the workers who gave us a cookie that was incredible. First off it was half black and white, It was a cookie outside, and almost a cake inside filled with a rich buttery caramel. My husband and I had never eaten anything like it before. It is worth trying. As you can tell by now expect to gain 5lbs. An average of $15 US for two coffees.
Saeta Svinid Gastropub is first off cute and unassuming. The decor is in the vein of a trendy small plates restaurant you would find in DC’s Shaw or NY’s Park Slope. There are burgers here, but you will see in Iceland, burgers are everywhere. After the advice from our server, we ordered every seafood item on the menu. It was outstanding With the freshest fish and lobster served either grilled or in the Icelandic version of ceviche we were happy campers. Also there is a large variety of beer with an alcohol content more than 3% which is hard to find outside of the capitol. One thing I will say is there are items on the menu most Americans are not used to. Horse is a staple in Iceland, along with puffin, shark, and whale. We did not order these options but I am sure If you are into this sort of thing you will not be disappointed. We spent roughly $250 on this meal.
Fiskfelagid Fish Company is the only establishment on this list we did not actually go to. We tried a few times, but were too late and they no longer were taking dinner guests due to capacity. We heard from many locals this is the place to go for seafood or a special occasion for a meal you will always remember. Maybe next time.
The Blue Lagoon is incredible. It is so relaxing, but the cafe was out of this world expensive. I’m talking you are not leaving spending less than $100 US on cafe sandwiches. So I researched local joints in close proximity to the Blue Lagoon. I found a small family owned restaurant in the coastal town of Grindavik named Bryggjan. We arrived and it was decorated with old nautical photos of family members, and each table but one was occupied by locals having a great time.
The menu was simple. You could choose from 4 items. Toast with salmon and cucumbers on top, toast with shrimp, vegetable soup, or lobster bisque. Each meal comes with bread, soups are free refills, and come with either coffee or tea. I have never been to a restaurant where so little items were offered. Once, I tried the food I understood. The vegetable soup was perfectly spiced and hearty, the bread was incredible, and the seafood toast fresh. The lobster bisque though was the winner. It is some of the best bisque you’ll have. Using spices such as coriander, it has a slightly different taste than bisque at home. I ate 3 bowls. Expect to spend $50 Us on this meal.
Best Fish and Chips
If you travel the country via Route 1/ The Ring Road you will see several fish and chip stands. They all are great, but the one at Skaftafell National Park was the best. Crispy beer- battered locally caught cod with delicious house-made tartar could do no wrong.
So what about the hot dogs? I read from several blogs and travel sites that Icelandic hot dogs are the best in the world. We even waited in half hour lines to try the two famous ones in Reykjavik. Both times we were left wanting, underwhelmed, and not impressed. $20 dollars for 2 hot dogs and a coke is first crazy. But we did it because we wanted to believe the hype. In hindsight we did notice only tourists were in these lines. Big clue we didn’t pay attention to. Overall, not great, just go to Shake Shack or Haute Dog, or just grill one at your house it will be better.