Published July 7, 2010
Hafnarstræti 17, 101
The Icelandic pylsa: possibly the only hot dog with the ability to unite an entire nation, for better or for worse. And Bæjarins beztu pylsur certainly doesn’t have any shortcomings when it comes to providing the populous with delicious, mouth-watering pylsur.
The stand was first set up in 1937 on Austurstræti. Yet it wasn’t until the 60s that it moved to Tryggvagata where it stands strong today, catching all the hungry eyes of the wandering tourists during the day and the ravenous mouths of the stumbling slurring folk throughout the night.
The town’s best hot dog?
The hot dog stand, appropriately named (“The Town’s Best Hot Dog”), has been doing what it does best for over 70 years. It’s even gained international attention. In 2006, the Guardian confirmed that it’s not just the best in Reykjavík, but the best in Europe! Yet despite all this fame and fortune it still manages to retain its humble, family routes. Guðrún Kristmundsdóttir, the current owner of the stand, tells us that it was her grandfather who first ran the joint, which was then handed down to her father, and finally to Guðrún, who has now been running it for 20 years.
A typical hot dog, or ‘ein með öllu’ (“one with everything,” as it is affectionately known by the locals), will usually be covered in an assortment of condiments, namely ketchup, mustard, fried onion, raw onion and remoulade. The contrast between the ambrosially sweet remoulade and the slightly bitter mustard, finalised by the crunch of the cronions, may just be what gets the joint through its thousands a day. However, unfortunately there is no vegetarian option, but most people should probably know what they’re getting themselves into when joining a queue for a hot dog stand.
One of Bill Clinton’s mistakes
Indeed, rain, snow or shine, there is always a queue. Even if you’re freezing your ass off in sub-zero temperatures, it’s most definitely worth the wait. But don’t be fooled by the length as the queues move swiftly and one is often left feeling surprised that putting five different condiments on a hot dog could take just under a second. A fact many people may have previously found inhumanly possible.
Not only has it beckoned almost every Icelander to its feet, Bæjarins beztu also boasts a culture of celebrity customers visiting the island. The most notable appearance being Bill Clinton foolishly going for the simple hot dog and mustard. “All the visiting bands live on my hot dogs”, Guðrún tells us, “from Ella Fitzgerald to Metallica frontman James Hetfield, to name but a few.”
But what draws these A-listers to a meagre hot dog stand? “One thing that is crucial for my business is that everyone gets their privacy in the queue,” explains Guðrún. “But they have to queue just like every other person. I often receive questions about celebrities wanting special treatment and I always say no.”
Danes will want their pigdog
Apart from the speedy service, cheap prices, and consistently good hot dogs, it can be hard to place a finger on what separates this stand from the rest. The ingredients used are the same as any other vendor, but some say it’s the layering of the sauce that conquers all others. The trick is putting the remoulade on top as opposed to on the bottom, a mistake that’s often made by pylsa-amateurs. But whatever it is, each visit is guaranteed to leave you walking away nodding your head and rubbing your belly in satisfaction.
Another good, stable sign for it being the best is that so far there have been no incidents of people spitting food out in disgust. “No, the only complaints I get are from Danish people. They can always taste the lamb, which they aren’t used to,” says Guðrún “But once they get over it they seem to enjoy it!”
A hot dog may not sound like traditional Icelandic cuisine, but if you haven’t tried one of Bæjarins Bestu then you should flee the country in shame. Unless you’re vegetarian of course, then I recommend just the bread with the sauces. On top of all that, a hot dog costs a mere 280 ISK, so it’s one of the few places which won’t leave you broke, that is, if you’re not already.