While the pandemic shows no sign of abating, Iceland’s food and beverage industry seems to be surging ahead on a combination of hope, optimism and high spirits despite the many challenges posed by COVID. In a year full of uncertainties, restaurants old and new showed us what resilience looks like. Take-away took on a whole new meaning with at-home meal kits being offered up by celebrated chefs, marked-down menus becoming commonplace and spirited underground deliveries brightened many evenings.
Our expert panel of gourmands were hand-picked for their dedication to food—these people eat out way more than one should and can sift the mojo from the mayo with ease. While it has been a difficult year, the winners rose to the challenge, and how! Adversity does bring out the best in some and this year we are delighted to shine light on our out-of-town superstars who often eclipse their Reykjavík counterparts by miles. So sit tight, and let us help you navigate these gastronomic waters, be it the hottest burger in town or the most memorable dining experience of your life.
Best Traditional Icelandic Food
Long before Icelandic food was considered cool, this unassuming cafe was unabashedly celebrating tradition. From the classic farm-style kjötsúpa (lamb soup, although we recommend trying the rye bread soup as well—it’s part what the heck, part dessert, but all delicious) to herring and plökkfiskur, everything is a throwback to how the island once ate. The carrot-cake doppelganger Freyja is a trout brauðterta (savoury sandwich cake) that is retro yet tasty. And for those writing their own tales of bravado, there is fermented shark to be washed down with Brennivín—a convenient platter for bragging rights.
Iceland’s oldest running restaurant, Kaffivagninn’s enviable location by the harbour is best enjoyed on a sunny day, out on the deck, a cold brew in one hand and a mighty slice of brauðterta in the other. Portions are very much sailor sized, and the plokkfiskur is a throwback to amma’s place, with one portion enough to feed two full-grown adults. Other Icelandic classics like fiskibollur and schnitzel are also on offer. The place continues to draw patrons from morning coffees to the popular evening shift, only made better by a slice of their homemade cake.
Þrir Frakkar had its strong sense of Icelandic food culture on display long before it was fashionable.. This restaurant has not let anything sway them from tradition—you’ll spot everything on the menu, from foal and blackbird, to cod throats and plokkfiskur, which will all remain long in your memory. A visit to this place underlines the fact that good old-fashioned Icelandic cooking can be all kinds of memorable.
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