One of the first burger joints to really hit it off in Iceland, American Style was something of a legend in its early days when “American” still meant “state-of-the-art.” People who grew up in the countryside recount how they would come to this exotic new fast-food place to treat themselves when they visited the capital. This was only ten, fifteen years ago, which shows how far Icelandic food culture has come in only a few years. But can American Style keep up with the times?
We strolled in on a Friday night and, despite our timing, found there were plenty of free tables. Orders were placed at the counter, where a large and colourful menu displayed dozens of tempting burgers as well as a few healthy options such as salads and chicken breast. The meals ranged from 1,200–1,900 ISK and most of them included fries. I chose the Kevin Bacon (allegedly their most popular burger), and my partner opted for the new Lobster Style burger that has been heavily advertised for the past few weeks.
The first thing I noticed as we got our soda from the dispenser was how spotlessly clean the place was. We had our pick of lemony-fresh and shining tables so we chose a cosy booth by the window. It was warmly lit and surprisingly romantic despite the rather drab view of the Customs building across the street. The walls were lined with portraits of people who were famous in the ‘90s (give or a take a decade) and the speakers washed us with a constant wave of classic rock mixed in with a few golden oldies. All in all, it was a great setting, neither too posh nor too greasy, and so gloriously clean!
Our order was called up and brought to our table within minutes. I immediately dug into my fries, dipping them into a completely un-American (but very Icelandic) “cocktail” sauce, which something everybody should try at least once before they leave this country. The fries were nice fat pieces that actually looked as if they may have started life as real potatoes. The meat in my burger, however, was long dead from saline poisoning. It was thin and dry and so salty I had to wash it down with two extra glasses of water. Although it didn’t help with the saltiness, bacon lovers won’t complain as there were layers upon layers of crisp rashers.
I was sceptical about my partner’s lobster burger, since the combination sounded too good to be true. How could langoustines improve a salty burger? The answer is that they don’t. Served with a layer of greens marinated in vinaigrette, the langoustines were as lemony-fresh as the spotless tables—and completely at odds with the rest of the burger. Although I can’t fathom why, my partner actually enjoyed his meal, so perhaps it’s an acquired taste. If you like junk food and/or enjoy raising your blood pressure by a few notches, you’ll find no place better suited to your needs.
What we think: Cheap food, cosy setting
Ambiance: A squeaky clean, dim-lit diner
Service: Prompt and mostly invisible
Price for 2 (no drinks): 3,000-5,000 ISK
Our Rating: 3/5