Food Guide: Iceland

Cinnamon rolls and hot dogs may not be the first things that come to mind when you think of food in Iceland. Known for traditional delicacies such as fermented shark (the food item that Anthony Bourdain says is the most disgusting thing he's ever eaten), puffin, and minke whale, Iceland may not seem like a food destination. And truthfully, I would not consider it a food destination the way I did Vietnam. 

I'm going to overview the several places we ate while we were in Iceland. Honestly, we didn't eat much. When the jetlag is bad, and oh was the jetlag bad, I have a difficult time forcing myself to eat. My body needs time to adjust to the new circadian rhythms which includes my digestive tract. 

Braud and Co. 

 

The cinnamon roll from Braud and Co. was the first thing we ate in Iceland. While walking down the street after visiting the Hallgrimskirkja, we were hit by the delicious aroma of freshly baked bread, cinnamon, and sugar. Alfred and I look at each other and smiled. We headed straight on in and got in line. We pointed to the cinnamon roll along with some coffee. We found a bench and devoured it in less than two minutes. Fluffy with a squishy gooey center, this freshly baked cinnamon roll was the best I've ever had. You hear that, the best fucking cinnamon roll ever.

Several days later we came back and ordered the cinnamon cake. More akin to a light fluffy bread than an American cake, it is topped with gooey, crusty cinnamon. And butter, delicious butter.

Sandholt Bakari

 

Something that may be difficult for American tourists and morning people like myself is how late in the day places open in Iceland. This makes sense when the sun doesn't come up until eight-thirty but when your flight arrives at 4:30 in the morning or you want to get the most out of the day and hit the road early, you may need to get breakfast before 9:30 a.m. In this case, you should hit up Sandholt Bakari, which opens at 7:00 a.m. 

We went to Sandholt: the first time we ordered pastries to go and the second time we had a sit-down breakfast. When we ordered pastries to go, we got, of course, cinnamon rolls. The cinnamon rolls at Sandholt were puff pastry based as opposed to the bread dough based from Braud and Co. Personally, I favor the bread type cinnamon roll but the cinnamon rolls from Sandholt were quite good.

For sit down breakfast, Alfred ordered a breakfast sandwich with egg/potato salad, sauerkraut, and parma ham, and I got toast with butter and preserves. The bread in Iceland is excellent and their butter is much better than the ultra-pasteurized stuff we get in the United States. 

Laundromat Cafe

 

I love the idea of laundromat meets cafe. Some of the best taquerias are in laundromats. However, the Laundromat Cafe in downtown Reykjavik did not deliver on the food end for me (I can't speak to their laundry services). 

The place has a fun and slightly hipster vibe. I loved the decor with the maps, books, and photographs of laundromats from around the world. The restaurant is well reviewed on Google and Yelp, but I just don't get the hype. 

It came down to a couple of things. First, there was the service. This was one of those times when I truly missed the overly obsequious nature of American service. We got the coffee with our meal and not before, though other people who got there after we had ordered our food got coffee before we did. We never got offered a refill on our coffee until we had finished our food (the coffee came with one free refill, oh America sometimes I miss your endless coffee refills). It took forever to get the check. Secondly, the prices were outrageous even for Reykjavik standards. We spent over forty dollars for breakfast. We weren't even drinking mimosas or getting fancy coffee drinks. 

Now getting onto the food. We probably ordered the wrong thing. I ordered the avocado toast. Being a California girl who grew up with cheap, delicious avocados, it is hard for me to pass up anything involving avocado. The avocado was only slightly underripe, which is to be expected. However, I was not expecting an entire avocado sliced in half and put on rye bread with about half a cup of mayonnaise/yogurt and arugula. The amount of mayonnaise/yogurt made the arugula soggy and inedible. The fried eggs on top looked beautiful with deep orange yolks but were slightly over what they should have been. 

Alfred ordered the pancakes with Greek yogurt and blueberry compote. As a pancake obsessed fiend, he had to order the pancakes. They were American style and stodgy. The Greek yogurt and blueberry compote served with them were delicious but I kind of wish they had used skyr, a local fresh cheese/yogurt type product, instead of the trendier Greek yogurt. 

Overall, we were not impressed with the Laundromat Cafe but maybe we just came at an off time and ordered the wrong thing. 

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur

 

Translates to the best hot dog in town. Hands down this was the best non-cinnamon roll meal we had in Iceland. The place is incredibly popular with both locals and tourists. Former president and soon to be First Man, Bill Clinton famously ordered a hot dog with only mustard. Anthony Bourdain ate here in the Iceland episode and it seemed like the only thing he enjoyed doing the entire time he was here (besides getting drunk). 

The hot dogs, made from lamb, are served with three condiments: a remoulade sauce (a type of mayonnaise), ketchup, and a brown mustard that is only to be eaten on hot dogs. They take their hot dogs so seriously here that they have a special hot dog mustard. It is a brown mustard and much sweeter than the mustard we typically use on hot dogs in the United States. In addition to the sauces, the hot dog is eaten with fried and raw onions. I got mine without the raw onion since no. Cannot do raw onion. Alfred enjoyed his with everything, stating that the raw onion gave it some much-needed freshness. The hot dogs have an amazing snap and were very tasty. The fried onion provide a different textural note against all the sauce. 

The young man taking our order was adorable. Every time I requested something he would say "Aaahyuuup." Be prepared with how you want your hot dog and don't a lot of time making choices. This is a busy place with a huge line. The cost was reasonable for Iceland.  

The Unnamed Place Where We Accidentally Dined and Dashed

Now, I am not an advocate of thievery, and I have worked in the food industry so I feel like such an asshole that we did this. But it was a moment of frozen anxiety and befuddlement where we made a mistake. We had decided to go to Prikith, the oldest restaurant in Reykjavik, but they were closed. On our way there, we had seen people eating what looked to be delicious food in a restaurant.

It was our last day, and I thought oh hell, let's get something really good. We walk in and nobody greets us. Not uncommon in Iceland. We sit down and wait several minutes before realizing it was a buffet. Okay, awesome a buffet. We pick up plates and fill them with smoked trout breakfast pizzas, smoked salmon, french toast, and soft boiled eggs. Still, no one comes up to us and says anything. We go over to a counter and grab a carafe of coffee. 

This is when I see people walking down the stairs, greeting one of the women working, and sitting down. I do a Google search of the restaurant to realize this place is not open for breakfast, but it is part of a hotel and provides a buffet for its hotel patrons. I whisper to Al that this is not a restaurant but a hotel buffet. We quietly finish our food, and completely overwhelmed by our faux pas, get up quietly and leave the restaurant. 

Have you ever done something like that? Where you were just too embarrassed and anxious to fix something you know you did wrong? 

Oh, and the food there was delicious. It was the best quality smoked salmon I've ever had.