If you visit Iceland, you’ll hear about some local delicacies you must try, such as puffin (too cute to eat? think again!), hakarl (fermented shark), and brennevin (strong Icelandic alcohol similar to vodka).
Despite these foods being “can’t miss” Icelandic experiences, I didn’t try any of them.
Grace did order a stew with lamb in it one evening, and supposedly Icelandic lamb is something one ought to try. I can vouch for the fact that it was tender, and delicious. It may also make you feel slightly guilty because you’re eating a baby animal. Just saying…
Regardless, here are some of the interesting places I ate and enjoyed in Reykjavik.
For starters, Grace and I stumbled upon Cafe Babalu when we wanted a light dinner and needed a cafe that was open late. Head down Skolavoroustigur almost as far as the main church in Reykjavik, and you’ll come across this darling second floor restaurant.
With paninis and crepes on offer, it’s a good option for a light meal, but the real draw is the atmosphere. The whole place is cozy and inviting like a really funky living room. There’s even an entire wall with postcards visitors have sent to the cafe after returning home.
Grace and I recommend warming up here with hot chocolate on a rainy day.
One Iceland-specific food experience I did manage to have during my week there was a pylsa or, in English, a hotdog.
Now, before you go suggesting I could have gotten one of those in the US, I’ll have you know that Bæjarins beztu pylsur is a hot dog stand by the harbor, whose name translates to “the best hot dog in town.” This place is especially crowded in the middle of the day, and serves up a specific kind of deliciousness. Be sure to order one with everything, and you’re in for a hotdog experience complete with crispy onions and at least two kinds of sauce. I couldn’t tell you what is in either sauce, but take my word for it, it’s delightful.
Me, being amazed at how delicious that hotdog is, as well as the fact that 7Up is still a popular beverage in Iceland.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, for a heartier meal you should head to Icelandic Fish and Chips, just down the street from the hot dog stand and across the street from Reykjavik’s harbor. (Update! Icelandic Fish and Chips has moved down the road from its old location and into The Volcano House building. Apparently a new restaurant has opened in its old location, but don’t be fooled!)
Icelandic Fish and Chips is ideal for high quality, locally-sourced (you can literally see the fishing boats across the street) organic food. Amazingly, this place is also reasonably priced. You can choose from 4 different kinds of fish, which are lightly battered and fried, and three different kinds of potatoes (they’re more wedges than fries, but they are oh so delicious).
Another treat is the skyronnes, dips made from skyr, which is similar to Greek yogurt. Definitely try the sampler so you can decide which flavor you like best. My favorite was the one with mustard seeds in it–spicy and perfect with fried fish.
I think I ate pretty well despite missing some Icelandic specialties.
You can’t experience everything everywhere you go. And I’ve found that at some point it’s best to just assume I’ll be back rather than regret things I don’t have the time or resources to try.
I’ll get you next time, puffins.