Food In Iceland: Eating our way around Reykjavík

Kaffi Brenslann's yummy cafe fare

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

I’ll admit, we didn’t come across much song in Iceland (we didn’t hit up any clubs, after all). But we did encounter food and cheer aplenty. Because nearly everything is imported, food in Iceland is a somewhat daunting subject, especially for your wallet. So, don’t waste a single meal – check out some of our favorite food spots in and around Reykjavík!

 

Reykjavík

  • Svarta Kaffid. Their concept is amazing: two soups each day, held in big copper pots on the bar. One is veggie, the other is some type of meat; both are cream-based. They cycle through over 60 varieties, and their chef is still coming up with new twists on the recipe. It feels like an unmissable neighborhood pub.

    Boyfriend Perspective: Lava, a local beer, is one of the best smokey chocolate stouts I have had in a while. Highly recommended for the malty stout drinkers. Also, the soups are amazing enough that we went back several times. Just get there earlier than you normally would for dinner or it’s a LONG line.

  • Kaffibrennslan. Wherever you travel, a solid breakfast spot is a must. Brennslan serves a fabulous cup of coffee (Luke had his black and didn’t complain, while I loved my flat white), and their sandwiches are pretty damn delicious. Just look for the “This coffee was made for walking” sign and turn right.
  • Rok. From the copper silverware to the close-up view of Hallsgrimskirka, the atmosphere here is really sleek (and, of course, tailor-made for tourists). Their tapas-style menu is pretty unique in its offerings, but of the four dishes we tried, only one was a home run.

    Boyfriend Perspective: Rok does an interesting way of saying “order up!” to the staff. Whoever places the finished dishes at the pass-through window claps twice (and more insistently on the second round) to signal.

  • 3 Frakkar. After we expressed interest in traditional food, our coolest-of-the-cool tour guide, Auđunn, made reservations here for our small tour group on the way back from Snaefellsnes. Located in a former house, the atmosphere is cozy and (you guessed it) homey, and the food was amazing. Give the grilled cod fillet a try, and perhaps puffin breast or peppercorn whale steak, if you’re feeling adventurous. For dessert, definitely try the skyr brûlée. Your stomach will thank you.

    Boyfriend Perspective: Whale steak is… interesting. It’s a lean red meat, and very moist. It’s more spongy than stringy, and the flavor isn’t fish, but is also kind of briny like ocean water. I recommend at least trying it, even though it may not be for everyone.

 

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Desserts and drinks in Reykjavík

  • Barber Bistro. There is one thing I will come back here to enjoy forever: their meringue cake. With a hard chocolate meringue crust, a gooey vanilla meringue center, and topped with fresh fruit and chocolate syrup, even the memory if it is drool-worthy. We both actually used slices of this cake as our birthday cake!
  • Fredericksen Alehouse. This bar will forever be known as the place where we had the best fish and chips of our naive American lives. Decent beer selection. End of story.
  • Micro Bar. Chatty and hilarious bartenders, wonderful local beer selection, normal array of bar snacks. If you order flights, do a fiver, not a tenner, unless you have someone to carry you home. They also partner with Íslenski Hesturinn to provide the Horses & Beer package (which is a blast!). Highly recommended!

    Boyfriend Perspective: Word of caution, we grabbed our the English friends we met on the trip, Rob and Lucy, to help with our tickets. The four of us could barely manage the volume of beer on the table! (See 100 oz picture above.) I would suggest 3-4 people per 10 flight if you can manage, as it became a bit of a chore to finish all of that beer.

 

Outside of Reykjavík

  • Efsti-Dalur (Golden Circle). This farm restaurant was our snack stop on the Golden Circle. Apparently, as a farm, it had run into financial troubles a few years ago, and the owners decided to start making fresh, local ice cream. Many of the area tour guides banded together to start bringing Efsti-Dalur tourists, and now they’re a thriving, well-known staple. The cauliflower soup was quite good, and Luke loved his fresh burger (as you can see!). Also, try the rhubarb-caramel ice cream. I was skeptical, too, but you won’t regret it!
  • Guesthouse Hanna Sigga (Hvammstangi). This somewhat austere, family-owned spot was our lunch stop while touring Snaefellsnes. Located right on a brutally windy beach, these folks serve really cozy food. I got the veggie soup, which was hearty and a little spicy. Luke got the fish soup, which was a little on the bland side. Either way, it’s a great spot for a bit of cultural learning (and to thaw out or spend the night, if need be).
  • Lava (Blue Lagoon, Grindavik). Unlike many of our other stops, Lava offers luxury dining… in a bathrobe. (I mean, if you’re still wet from a hot spring, how else are you going to dine?!) With sparkling wine, multiple courses, and a table with a lovely view, we enjoyed our lunch at Lava. Luke couldn’t stop raving about his lamb dish, while I waited until dessert to go crazy over their delicious chocolate mousse.
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Miscellaneous

  • 10-11. Grocery stores count, right? They should. After all, breakfast has to come from somewhere, and most restaurants aren’t open when you drag your ass out of bed at dark-thirty for a tour. We found a 10-11 not far from our AirBnB, so that became our go-to store. Get ready for $8 boxes of Cheerios and $9 half-pints of blueberries, guys. Your best and most affordable bet for snacks and breakfast is going to be skyr, and the Skyr.IS brand is delicious. I legitimately still miss the taste and texture.
  • Vinberid. This sweetshop is located right off Laugavegur (i.e. super easy to get to), and you can all kind of locate chocolates, candies, and other treats. Highly recommended and relatively affordable. If you’re looking for tasty Icelandic chocolate, definitely give Sirius a try – I don’t like milk chocolate, but even I can’t stop myself from wolfing down one of their milk chocolate bars!

 

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