Cheap eats in Reykjavik

Apologies for the two travel posts in a row, my life isn’t normally quite so jet-set even if my tardy posting about NYC might lead you to believe otherwise.

I’ve just got back from Reykjavik and as Iceland can be a tricky place to find cheap eats, I figured I’d round up a few of the places that we visited and a few that we didn’t have time for. Hope it helps anyone on their travels!

First things first. Once you book your trip, you will hear a lot of talk about how Icelandic people love junk food and beer. This is no exaggeration. At all. We spent a couple of days with our born-and-bred Icelandic pal and really, they fucking love their hot dogs. Burgers and sandwiches are kind of popular, but hot dogs are the lifeblood of the country. They’re not special hot dogs with fantastic ingredients or anything – they’re just fucking delicious frankfurters. So, let’s talk hotdogs.

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur

Hot dogs are available just about everywhere in Iceland, but Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur is the best-known place. And with good reason. There are four locations and the family-run sausage stand has been going since 1937 – wonder how many dogs they’ve served up in that time? You will be told to order ‘eina með öllu’ – or one with everything. As well as your bog-standard ketchup and mustard, you’ll also get raw onions, remolaði (weird sweet curry sauce) and CRONIONS. Cronions are the best thing in the world. You will wonder how you survived without them. You will go to the supermarket and buy yourself pots of cronions to bring home with you and consider opening an import business. Cronions are crispy fried onions that you can sprinkle on just about anything – but especially on hotdogs.

Your delicious snack will set you back about £2. UH-mazing.

Sæmundur í Sparifötunum
Skúlagata  101, Reykjavik

We stayed in the incredible KEX Hostel, which handily houses the Sæmundur í Sparifötunum restaurant. Seriously, could have eaten there every night if it didn’t feel so lazy. As it happens, we ate there twice. The night we landed we had an amazing meal at the bar – I had salt cod and Andy had pork chops. That salt cod has speedily shot into my ‘top ten things ever consumed’ and I’m informed that the pork was top too. The menu changed pretty much daily and relies entirely on local, seasonal food with an emphasis on classic Icelandic staples. As you can see, prices are pretty reasonable – for Iceland, anyway. To save you going on XE.com yourself, my salted cod was about a tenner and the pork was about £12 – you also get a massive pile of bread. Beers in the bar are pretty cheap too – only about £4 a pint which is good for Reykjavik. There’s a really good selection of local brews, so I’d definitely recommend heading in for a drink even if you don’t eat.

Our second meal was ~The Plank~ tasting menu. You get four dishes and four beers to match – again there’s an emphasis on local food, so it’s meat and seafood-heavy. Check out the size of that MUSSEL! Definitely recommend this as an intro to Icelandic food and the lovely staff will talk you through everything before you tuck in.

Oh, and we had breakfast there every morning too. It’s your classic European breakfast – cured meats, cheese, tomatoes and cucumber and loads of freshly baked bread. They also had cereals, fruit and lots of skyr – Icelandic soft cheese which looks more like yoghurt. If you’re staying at KEX, add the breakfast on – it’s definitely worth it and you can stuff yourself full before you go out for the day.

Sægreifinn (The Sea Baron)
Geirsgata 8, Reykjavik

I think The Sea Baron is becoming a bit of a tourist attraction, but that shouldn’t stop you going because it’s awesome. Run by a salty old sea dog, it’s essentially a shed in the harbour that serves the freshest fish I’ve ever eaten. The most famous thing at this place is the lobster soup, and with good reason. Look at the size of those chunks! It’s a delicious spicy, tomato-y concoction but the full recipe is ~SECRET. With the soup you get around 12kg of bread, so really you don’t need to order anything else. Except, you should. Even though we were stuffed, we ordered a couple of the fish kebabs – there’s a whole fridge full of them, so just pick the fish that you like the look of and they’ll take it and make up a delicious kebab of deliciousness. I went for scallops, Andy had monkfish. They were, again, amazing.

It’s not as cheap as you might think here, although I guess this is probably because it’s so popular now. I think all of our food, and beer, came to £40 – not bad for an evening meal, just more than I expected. Anyway, who cares, it’s fucking delicious.

That last picture is lumpsucker – the most delicious food in history. It’s smoked like WOAH and tastes like a better version of haddock (I fucking love haddock, btw). I am now on the hunt for it in the UK, although where I’ll smoke it is anyone’s guess.

Chocolate milk and Daim break. Yum. Lunch of kings.

Gullfoss Kaffi

This is kind of an odd one, but if you’re in Iceland you will probably end up at Gullfoss waterfall. You should, it’s amazing, awe-inspiring and enormous. If you’re there, climb up to the top and go to the cafe. Yep it’s in the back of the gift shop, but lemme tell you now – that lamb stew is probably the best stew I’ve ever eaten. Perhaps it’s because I was cold, wet and tired – I dunno, all I can tell you is how much I loved it. This being Iceland, it comes with lovely bread and delicious Icelandic butter. Tasty and cheap.

Laundromat
Austurstræti 9, Reykjavik

Laundromat is a really family-friendly cafe, but don’t let that put you off. Icelandic children are incredibly well-behaved and very quiet, so you kind of don’t even know that they’re around. There’s also a children’s area downstairs, so maybe that accounts for their absence. Anyway – Laundromat is brill. Big sandwiches, interesting salads and a few hot dishes – as well as incredible breakfasts. Riddle me this – how could anyone feel hungover after the ‘Dirty brunch’?

Spiced sausages, bacon, eggs, fried potatoes, grilled tomatoes, cheese, yoghurt with muesli, fruit, American pancakes, baguette, rye bread and mango and ginger juice.

And that’ll set you back £9. HOLLER.

Hamborgarbúllan (Burgerjoint)
Geirsgötu 1, 101 Reykjavik

I’d heard a rumour that this burger place offered up patties to rival Meatwagon, so when we stumbled across it with a rancid hangover it was a bit like seeing a mirage in a desert. On the menu you’ll find something called ‘offer of the century’ – again, by Icelandic standards, I’d agree. You get a burger, fries and bottomless drink for about £7. Perfect. Did it compete with Meatwagon? Well, it was brilliant. Not sure it’s the best burger ever, but it was pretty spectacular and the fries were fantastic. Maybe my hangover influenced the decision, but I give it 8.5/10. They have a few branches throughout the city and I would highly recommend a visit for a bargain burger.

Tapashusid (Tapashouse)
Aegisgardur 2, Reykjavik

Located in the old harbour, I’d heard quite a bit about this tapas place and am pleased to report it lived up to expectations. You can order regular Spanish tapas, but the real treat here is Icelandic food served in tapas style. Basically, this means you get to eat loads of food in one go… perfect for acclimatising yourself with Icelandic cuisine at the beginning of your trip. You can order tapas style or choose a set menu and add your own bits in, which is what we opted for because there was just so much choice. We had the Local Seafood menu which had loads of lobster, cod, monkfish, salmon… uhm, just loads of delicious stuff. That was £30 so not really cheap – especially when you add in drinks – but it was mega tasty and you get piles of food. Definitely another one I’d recommend and the atmosphere, staff and interior are all pretty cool too. [Pics belong to the restaurant, it was a bit dark when we were there to take decent photos.]

Places we didn’t get to, but which I have on my list…

Grái Kötturinn
Hverfisgötu 16a, Reykjavik

Awesome breakfasts, apparently. One to check out if your accommodation doesn’t include breakfast.

Vitabar
Corner of Vitastígur and Bergþórugata, Reykjavik

Local pub which serves up tasty burgers – another place where I’ve read Meatwagon comparisons.

Höfnin
Geirsgata 7c, Reykjavik

Classic Icelandic cooking in the harbour. Looked lovely and really good reviews.

Litli bóndabærinn
Laugavegur 41, Reykjavik

Coffee shop with amazing-sounding locally sourced organic food, cakes, tarts…

Jómfrúin
Lækjargata 4, Reykjavik

There’s a lot of Danish influence in Reykjavik but this is the only place you’ll find mørrebrød – those tasty open sandwiches. Meant to be awesome!

If you’re planning a trip to Reykjavik, I highly recommend you take a look at the Reykjavik Grapevine’s Best of 2011 awards – I guess it’s an Icelandic equivalent of Time Out and I went with a lot of their suggestions. Bookmark it!

5 thoughts on “Cheap eats in Reykjavik

  1. Ooh bookmarking this post! I very nearly booked a trip to Reykjavik for this month but in the end we’re going to Paris because flights/my time off work didn’t really work for Reykjavik. Desperate to go at some point in the future though and junk food and beer are my two favourite things!

  2. hiiii
    i’m (fingers crossed) off to reykjavik at the end of november so reallllly appreciate finding some good food. can i ask about drinks (specially as you were hungover for burgers) so i’m hoping there were some good bars? it would be very mega if you could recommend any
    hannah xxxxxxxxx

    1. Hello!

      Bars were even more expensive than food, so we didn’t go to too many – the Icelandic folk tend to drink at home before they go out rather than drinking in bars… they even have a verb for the art of getting drunk at home first, although I can’t remember it!

      That said, I would recommend;

      Cafe Amsterdam
      Boston
      Dillon

      Also there’s a place called Karaoke Sport Bar which does what it says on the tin – not very glamorous but fun and drunk and raucous and they LOVE tourists doing karaoke.

      But… I would just recommend you read this guide, I trust everything Reykjavik Grapevine says:

      http://www.grapevine.is/media/pdf/issue_7_barguide_new.pdf

  3. There are also a lot of new (and cheap-ish) places down at Grandi pier, that’s the pier at the end of the old harbour. There is a newly opened ice cream parlour with endless queues (Icelanders looove their ice cream) and a Californian deli. There is also a hamburger joint serving lamb burgers and deer burgers along with more traditional burgers (http://touristinformation.is/2013/08/14/texas-borgarar/). There are also speciality stores and designers running their own stores there. Definitely worth the visit next time you’re in Iceland.

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