Published July 27, 2012
Lebowski Bar only has one significant downside. When I’ve gone there on a Friday night I find I tend to bump into a measure of the rat-bastard wannabe thugs that Reykjavík has in ample supply. So if you don’t have the patience for that (or if you simply don’t roll on shabbos) then you should find nothing to distract you on a weekday from the wonders of this nostalgic bar/diner inspired by the Coen brothers’ 1998 cult classic ‘The Big Lebowski.’
The owners of Lebowski Bar would seem to have taken their cues from the Lebowski kneipe in Friedrichshain, Berlin, but the Icelandic version surpasses its influence in every way (except alcohol prices, but they can hardly be blamed for that). Lebowski Bar goes all in, in every way, having divided the interior into four separate themes—bowling alley, a southern-style porch, a ‘50s diner, and a kind of ‘60s playboy lounge bar on the upper floor. And they have managed to tie the room together quite nicely, although I must admit that I had been hoping for an acid flashback bowling heaven, with a Saddam Hussein impersonator working the bar, a cowboy robot dispensing advice from a corner and a swinging Julianne Moore mannequin suspended above a floor decked wall to wall with urine-soaked rugs…but that was probably asking for too much.
Lebwoski Bar, it turns out, is only loosely inspired by the film. Instead the aim seems to have been to create the kind of establishment that The Dude might appreciate. And I can’t say they’re wrong. The music is good, the bartenders are friendly and they make a mean White Russian.
The diner themed portion of the bar is where they sling their burgers and fries. They may not live up to the In-and-Out burgers that The Dude lusted for, but we’re still talking about a pretty tasty burger. Those familiar with the Icelandic burger joint Hamborgarabúllan, will know exactly what to expect, since Lebowski serves essentially the same burgers, slightly pricier but with the option of rinsing them down with an alcoholic beverage.
The menu offers four versions of burger, and buffalo wings. A steak burger, which is basically just ground from a higher quality meat (don’t picture slices of sirloin), a bacon burger, a basic sesame-free cheese burger and a burger with béarnaise sauce. (I’d recommend ordering a side of béarnaise whichever burger you end up going with.) You pay 500 ISK extra for swapping the soda for a beer, which is a pretty solid deal.
Burgers in Iceland used to be universally terrible as little as a decade years ago, but these days Lebowski’s burgers would count as little more than average. A good choice if you get the munchies and don’t want to slam down the beer and head down to Hamborgarabúllan. I recommend indulging in one of their shakes afterwards, especially the peanut butter or caramel varieties. It’s an honest-to-god diner shake, which can be hard to come by in downtown Reykjavík.
My only complaint was the snail-paced service. We were the only customers there on a Saturday night, and still it took a good 40 minutes to turn out a couple of beers and some wings. Seems the cook stumbled upon The Dude’s secret stash. Lebowski Bar is a great mainstream bar and although the burgers might not be out-of-this-world, they sure beat sitting at home with pee-stains on your carpet.
Laugarvegur 20a, 101 Reykjavík
What we think: Basic burgers and fries, similar to Hamborgarabúllan. Great selection of White Russians and fun design
Flavour: Like, you know, American and stuff
Ambiance: Playful, nice music, a good place to hang out
Service: Great bar service, but the burger folks need more caffeine
Price for 2 (with drinks): 3,500–4,500 including beers
Rating: 3.5 out of 4