“You know I don’t eat pork, not because I’m a Muslim—I just don’t really like it. But I really will fuck a bird up”
– Immortal Technique (‘Beef & Broccoli’)
My favourite chicken place when I was living in New York was called Kennedy Fried Chicken, down the street from Otto’s Shrunken Head. Not because it was good chicken—truthfully it was disgusting—no, I liked it because the suffering I would feel the day after provided a karmic balance to the way I assume the chickens must have been treated.
I’m not a big fan of chicken, especially now that the body worship culture in Iceland has voted that chicken breasts are the only acceptable foodstuff, sent down from the heavens to maximize ripped- and sixpackness.
People assume they are gaining a health benefit because they have chosen the most tasteless cut. Just the opposite, the dark meat is generally richer in high quality protein (makes sense, since those are the bits the chicken uses to move, even if it’s just inside his tiny steel cage), the calorie count is roughly the same and although it is, on average, 35% leaner, people more than make up for it by slathering it with sauces and marinades.
The worst is that Icelanders seem perfectly willing to delude themselves that this massive chicken demand isn’t being met by factory farming methods. Haninn does not offer free-range chicken but the owner did use the opportunity to lecture me about the heightened risk of infection in free-range chicken by quoting the TV series ‘Bullshit!’ (everything you need to know about the accuracy of that show is in the title). He also insisted that the American style CAFO factory farming doesn’t exist in Iceland. He is patently wrong about both, but the Grapevine should address that at length another time.
Ethical treatment aside, Haninn does offer a transfat-free, non-deep-fried, BBQ chicken which is saner and healthier than anything on offer at a certain unnamed fried chicken chain (call it ‘Kompletely Fukd Chicken’). And a little bit goes a long way, as Haninn is offering the best fast food chicken I’ve tasted in Reykjavík. But then that might not be saying much since there is no one doing a great southern-fried chicken in Iceland. At least at Haninn the chicken tastes of something other than a wasted ‘oppoultrtunity’ (poultry opportunity—you’re welcome).
Interior design is very franchise-ready, which is the norm with Icelandic fast food places. Few are in this without intentions of spreading their wings. It’s basically an Icelandic version of the UK chain Nando’s.
All dishes come with a side. Three pieces of chicken come in at 1.390 ISK (I actually received four pieces as they threw in an extra wing) and considering that you probably won’t need to eat another big meal that day, I’d say that’s a fair price.
The omnipresent chicken breasts go for a rich 1.790 ISK, while a chicken burger is at 1.390. Half and whole chicken, chicken salad, wings. That’s the whole menu right there. Everything grilled, even the whole chicken. But everything has been partially pressure-steamed beforehand (as opposed to “pressure-fried” like our friends at Kompletely’s do).
Haninn only offers two sides—fries and rice—and being a place that prides itself on its lack of transfats, the French fries were predictably not up to much. Haninn definitely should look into expanding its selection of sides. But they do get a big plus for making “kókosbollur” their only dessert option (uncooked meringue in a thin coconut-chocolate shell). They also have free coffee!
What We Think: Grilled chicken. Tastier and slightly healthier. By default, the best fast food chicken option in Iceland.
Flavour: Spicy, sweet&sour or BBQ. Like Nando’s.
Ambiance: Diner-chain feel. Like Nando’s.
Service: Fast and friendly but a tiny bit defensive.