Published July 12, 2013
We can hear your stomach grumbling from our third-floor office. Go on,
Best Burger: Vitabar
It was only a matter of time until Vitabar would take our ‘BEST BURGER’ prize. After all, those guys have been serving up their cheap, delicious, no-fuss burgers to the praise of Reykjavík’s most hardcore burger lovers for decades without ever faltering in quality, raising their prices beyond what’s appropriate to pay for a burger or becoming hopelessly hyped and crowded. They are a constant; all good, all the time.
Now, most people will know them for their Forget-me-not specialty bleu cheese burger, and that certainly is one goddamn great burger. However, the regular one is just as good (if not better, if you’re one of those weird bleu cheese haters): a juicy no-fuss, quality burger served in a comfortable bar setting. It comes with all the trimmings, and goes wonderfully with either the first or last of your weekend’s beers. Respect.
Runners-up: Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar (“They always still kick ass—sweaty, greasy, meaty”), Grillmarket (last year’s winners lose points for raising the price and limited availability, “but they’re still damn good”), Roadhouse (“The kind of place that puts the extra effort into making it good), 73 (“300 grams of meat—NOT DRY. An accomplishment”).
2011: Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar
2010: Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar
2009: Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar
Best Veggie Burger: Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar (Búllan)
In this meat lovin’ city, a really good veggie burger can be hard to find. Luckily, the burger-grilling stalwarts at Búllan have provided the vegetarian community with a tasty and satisfying option that never leaves one questioning the authenticity of the “veggie” label, and is still greasy enough to feel like you’re eating a proper murderburger. Not some old dried out chickpea patty that crumbles as soon as you put ketchup on it. Because vegetarians like junk food too!
2012: Hamborgarabúllan Tómasar
Best ‘Specialty Burger’: Seasonal burgers at Hamborgara-fabrikkan
While Hamborgarafabrikkan is a bit too fancy (pricey) to take the ‘Best burger’ category, we think it’s the place to get something special. If you’re looking for something that you’d be hard-pressed to eat with your hands, this sit-down restaurant has loads of them to choose from—the whale burger, the goose burger, the lamb burger, the reindeer burger… Need we say more?
2012: Vitabar’s ‘Forget-me-not’
Best Slice: Deli
Lo and behold! Deli reclaim the title of ‘BEST SLICE’, and it’s no wonder. Getting pizza by the slice in Reykjavík can be a scary affair—you might just wind up chewing on something dry and cardboard-y that has been sitting in a heater box all day—but such concerns do not apply at the mighty Deli on Laugavegur. The slices are ever-fresh, the toppings are novel and delicious and the prices are well acceptable. We only wish they’d stay open for longer—pizza by the slice is meant to be enjoyed in a state of certain inebriation.
Runners-up: Devitos (“Never change, Devitos”)
Best Pizza: Gamla Smiðjan
Although our panel (and a lot of our readers, judging by mail-ins) have been dedicated Gamla Smi›jan eaters for years, the little pizzeria on Lækjargata took a bit of a dip last year, falling off their throne of pizza swords. That must have given them a real wake up call, because those guys quickly came back like gangbusters, conjuring up some of the best pizzas they’ve ever made! Good to have you back on top, GS!
Runners-up: Devitos Pizza (“A unique experience, one of a kind. And tasty.”)
2012: La Luna trattoria-pizzeria
2011: Gamla Smiðjan
2010: Gamla Smiðjan
2009: Devitos Pizza
Best Ice Cream: Valdís
This little Italian-style gelato shop in Grandi has been open for just over a month but it already has locals frothing at the mouth and standing in long lines for a couple of scoops. That’s no coincidence: The menu is an ever-changing smorgasbord of crowd-sourced flavours picked by Facebook fans. They serve freshly baked waffle cones. And the staff outfits are charming. Yup, Valdís is just the ticket to bringing a bit of sunshine to the cold and grey summer we’ve been not enjoying lately. We look forward to seeing Valdís thrive and prosper; thank you, Valdís.
2011: Ísbúðin Ísland
2010: Ísbúðin Ísland
2009: Ísbúð Vesturbæjar
Best Bakery: Sandholt
For the third time Sandholt wins this category, which should not really come as surprise. It is a little bit more expensive than the big bakery chains, but you’ll be hard pressed to get better value for your money. They offer all sorts of pastries, chocolates, cakes, breads, and sandwiches that the other bakeries in town don’t and–as our resident Frenchie notes–they use real butter in their pastries. “This is the only bakery in town that is consistently on point with their baked goods,” our former food critic says. “Their products also stand out and have a richer flavour than anything else I’ve tried.”
2012: Mosfellsbakari in Reykjavík
Best Indian food: Austurlanda-hraðlestin
The local institution Austur-Indíafjelagi› has been boasted to be one of the all-around best restaurants in the country, but it’s also rather on the pricey side! Luckily, the owners opened this much more affordable sister-restaurant that cuts back on cost, but not the taste. Their onion pakodas are addictive, the aloo gobi is plentiful and the chicken tandoori melts in your mouth – and those are just the standards! It’s still not what you’d call cheap, but it’s the best in the biz for your average budget.
Best Thai Food: Ban Thai
Ban Thai has been a constant winner since we started this BEST OF thing—actually this Thai operated place has gone decades without ever failing to provide Icelanders with the best, tastiest, most authentic Thai food that can be found outside Thailand. Ban Thai is a fancy, sit down kind of Thai place (with prices to match), where every single dish off the huge menu is made to order with great care, shaped by years of experience. The service can get flaky, so bring your patience and good humour to the party (and never go if you’re in a hurry), but the yummy food makes it all worth it. A true Reykjavík treasure.
Runner-up: Yummi Yummi—Ban Thai’s owner went into competition with himself a few years back, founding a cheap, fast food alternative to Ban Thai that’s way easier on the wallet (every course is 1,000 ISK!).
2012: Ban Thai
2011: Ban Thai
2010: Ban Thai
2009: Ban Thai
Best Kebab: Habibi
You can’t find a kebab in Reykjavík that quite compares to what you would find in almost any major European city (and whatever you’ll find is going to cost you more than you would expect), but the Icelandic ones still make for a pretty fast food option–and they keep getting better. By now Reykjavík has a handful of kebab places with the latest one, Mandi, opening last year right next door to another one called Ali Baba. Last year’s winner, Kebab Grill, is still pretty good, but we thought the title should return to Habibi, which took the award in 2011. “Habibi is the only kebab place that does proper spicy. If you ask for spicy, you’ll get spicy,” one of our writers explains. Furthermore: “they offer generous portions of meat, and the bread is always perfectly warmed so that is slightly crispy on the outside.”
Runner-up: In close second is the new kebab place, Mandi. The ingredients are fresh and the owner, Halil, is always there with a smile on his face.
2012: Kebab Grill
Best coffeehouse: Kaffismiðjan
Maybe it’s no surprise at this point (also, why would you be reading this BEST OF list for surprises? Some things don’t change)—Kaffismi›jan remains our ‘BEST COFFEEHOUSE’ for the FIFTH YEAR IN A ROW! That’s every goddamn year we’ve had these awards! We’ve explained this to you four times already, but in case you’re new in town, we should reiterate: Kaffismi›jan make the best coffee you will drink in Reykjavík. They take that stuff super seriously, roasting their beans on-site and employing folks who know just how to churn out a good cup of whatever type coffee it is you thirst for. Furthermore, the atmosphere is unique, of the kind you will only find (and grow to love) in Reykjavík. It’s “comfortable, but not falling-asleep comfortable, welcoming, warm and wonderful.” And did we mention they have a stack of vinyl records you can play at your delight?
Runners-up: Stofan (“a great place to sit in a corner and enjoy a cup with a friend.”), Café Haiti (“perfect in so many ways…”)
Best Coffee To-Go: Litli Bóndabærinn
This take-away joint on Laugavegur is really one of the most delightful places to pop into on any daily stroll. They brew up some real mean coffees, making a point to use only the highest quality beans, and if you go there a few times they remember your order. It also helps that their former barista-champ owner, David, is one of the most charming individuals who changes the experience of grabbing your morning java into a complete laugh-riot. David has also singlehandedly introduced savoury pastries into the snacking landscape, so make sure to grab a veggie-sausage roll or lamb pasties if you can—they are in a league of their own!
2012: Café Haiti
Best Tea: Iða Zimsen húsið
Icelanders aren’t big tea drinkers. While most, if not all, coffeehouses around town have tea, it seems far from their focus. The new I›a coffeehouse in Zimsen húsið, however, seems to be putting a lot of effort into not only having good coffee and, but also their tea. They offer a nice selection of loose dry leaf including both premium foreign brands and popular mainstays in abundance, and the atmosphere is nice and calm, which is what we look for when we want tea.
2012: Litli Bóndabærinn
2011: Te og kaffi
Best Sushi: Sakebarinn
This relatively new addition to the downtown restaurant scene has quickly become our favourite place to get sushi. If you’re alone or in a hurry, Sushibarinn (Best sushi, 2010) is a good option, but otherwise you should walk upstairs to Sakebarinn, which serves the same items and more, plus it’s in a nicer restaurant setting. The sushi is fresh and it’s not a bad place to try some unique pieces—tender whale sashimi, if you’re not morally opposed, and shark sashimi, which tastes a whole lot better than the fermented kind that comes in cubes and reeks of ammonia. Plus, washing it down with a tasty sake-cocktail also beats the brennivín.
Runners-up: SuZushii (“The Japanese embassy’s go-to place for sushi, apparently”), Sushibarinn (“Great for take-away”)
Best vegetarian: Gló
Iceland is not the most vegetarian-friendly of countries, but Reykjavík does have a couple of exclusively vegetarian restaurants and some others that feature great vegetarian options. Not exclusively vegetarian, Gló falls into the latter category. Its chef, Sólveig Eiríksdóttir, better known as Solla, was voted “Favourite Raw Gourmet Chef” and “Favourite Raw Simple Chef” in the annual Best of Raw contest two years in a row as well as Grapevine’s ‘Best vegetarian,’ now three years in a row. With fresh ingredients and a menu that changes daily, you’re always in for something tasty and you can feel good about it being healthy too.
Runner-up: Grænn kostur is serves filling vegetarian and vegan dishes at an affordable price and although it’s not the ‘Best vegetarian,’ we’re thankful that it exists.
2010: Á Næstu Grösum
2009: Á Næstu Grösum
Best hangover meal: The Hangover Combo at Prikið
Our panel of hard-drinking, hard-partying 101 rats fervently voted in Priki› to come back as the monarchs of hangover country. When you wake up feeling rough, slurp down a Bruce Willis shake (it’s got Jack Daniels, Treo painkillers and yummy ice cream!) and scarf up an American breakfast. You’ll quickly find yourself invigorated and inspired to hunt down your next hangover.
Runners-up: Trucks at Grái Kötturinn and Laundromat.
2011: The Truck at Grái Kötturinn
2010: The Truck at Prikið
2009: The Truck at Grái kötturinn
Best Soup: Kryddlegin Hjörtu
It’s kind of surprising, but Reykjavík is quite the soup town, what with so many places offering their own take on the classic meat soup, lobster soup and other crazy blends. Only Kryddlegin Hjörtu (“the spicy heart”) really specialises in soup though, and the soup-lovers on our panel were all pretty adamant of its top-dog status. The buffet-style restaurant offers four different soups a day alongside a colourful, healthy and fresh salad bar. We admit that not ALL their broths are Soup Nazi-great, but most of them are so fucking delicious. Plus, the owner washes all the vegetables in crystals. CRYSTALS.
2011: Kryddlegin Hjörtu
2010: Most soups at Súpubarinn
2009: Lobster soup at Sægreifinn
Best place for a fancy meal: Gallery Restaurant at Hótel Holt
This was a really tough call—we were torn between last year’s winner, Grill Market, and 2009’s winner, Gallery Restaurant at Hótel Holt. After much debate, we decided that, although they both serve some fancy meals, Gallery should take the title. If you’re looking for a fancy restaurant where everyone looks really fancy and you yourself feel really fancy, you’re going to find exactly that at Gallery. From the food–post-nouvelle French–to the ‘70s classy interiors, to the walls, adorned with paintings by Iceland’s foremost artists, this is Fancy. We highly recommend getting a pre-drink at the bar and enjoying it from their big leather couches.
Runners-up: Grill Market (“Meaty and wonderful”).
2012: Grill Market
2009: Gallery Restaurant at Hótel Holt
Best place to go on a date: Tapas Barinn
There are many great places to go on a date, and some of them aren’t food-related, but let’s face it, dinner is a pretty good way to go. And if you’re going that way, Tapas Barinn won’t disappoint, especially if it’s a first date. The dimly lit basement makes for an intimate setting to share some delicious tapas. What’s more, if there’s ever a lull in conversation, the continuous flow of dishes will fill any gaps and give you something to talk about. By the time you’ve finished a pitcher of sangria and a bunch of tapas, you’ll stumble out, look down at your cell phone and be surprised to find that you’ve been there for three-hours. Time flies when you’re having fun…
2012: Sushi Samba
Best Newcomer Restaurant: Bergsson Mathús
An adorable and cosy new neighbour to the long-time dining classic Við Tjörnina, Bergsson’s emphasis on local produce and seasonal cooking gave it a huge lead to take this prize. Our panel wholeheartedly agreed that their menu is a unique and welcome addition to the restaurant scene and their dishes are really very tasty. Our only comment is that their portions are on the smallish side, so you’re always really sad to eat your last bite. But that’s what they call one of those “good” problems.
2010: Noodle Station
Best goddamn restaurant: SNAPS
Holy moly. This is a first. Yup, SNAPS has earned BEST GODDAMN RESTAURANT for two years in a row. How did they do it? Well, according to our definition, a ‘best goddamn restaurant’ needs to be ‘on the cheaper side,’ ‘consistent,’ ‘tasty’ and ‘available’. And SNAPS managed this during its first year, and it is managing it right now. Offering the perfect balance between good food, great atmosphere and affordable pricing, SNAPS remains the best choice for everyday dining—preferably with friends in tow—when you want to feel a little fancier than you do when stuffing your face with a slice of pizza or a sub of the month. Always “tasty,” “fairly priced” and “done with care,” their French and Spanish inspired fare is guaranteed to hit the spot whether you’re there for lunch or dinner (or lunch that eventually turns into dinner, as frequently happens at SNAPS). HOORAY FOR SNAPS!
Runners-up: Grillið(“Steakhouse-fancy, and quite French”), Grillmarket (“Never disappoints, but you pay for it”),
2011: Ban Thai
2009: Segurmo at Boston
Best Family Restaurant: Laundromat Café
If you have loud and obnoxious kids or a screaming baby, you can bring them to Laundromat worry-free. It has a casual diner feel to it with a family-friendly menu, including special kid’s items. The place is always bustling with life—coffee drinkers sit next to beer drinkers who sit next to board game players who sit next writers typing away on their laptops who sit next to you, breast feeding your baby. The constant chatter of conversation will drown certainly drown your kids out if they get noisy, and if they get really noisy or squirmy, you can send them to that downstairs play area. It’s hard to beat that. Plus, while your kids play, you can look at that wall of Grapevines, ten year’s worth of them.
Best cheap meal: ‘Sub of the month’ at Subway
Subway left 101 Reykjavík a couple of years ago and we had no idea where to go for a cheap lunch. And then they came BACK! And we are thrilled. Now, listen: As almost any working man or woman in Reykjavík will attest, Subway’s ‘sub of the month’ sandwich is a real lifesaver for when you need to a quick, satisfying lunch. OK, it’s Subway. But still—450 ISK will get you a sandwich featuring some meatstuffs (that can be easily foregone) fresh veggies and a sauce of your choice. The price can’t be beat, and if you figure out a nice combination for the sub, it’s pretty damn tasty.
Runner-up: Noodle Station (“damn tasty, and filling.”)
2012: Íslenski barinn
2011: Noodle Station
2010: ‘Sub of the month’ at Subway
Best Seafood: Fiskifélagið
It can be hard to keep them straight—Fish Company, Fish Market, and Seafood Grill—they all have fairly similar names, some of them are located very near to each other, and they all serve, yes, fish and more generally seafood. It was a tough choice, as they are all pretty good too, but once again we think The Fish Company, also known as Fiskifélagið, takes the cake. “They are consistently good,” our food critic said this year, just like last year. “The food is exceptionally good, the dimly lit basement is cosy and romantic, and the service is excellent.”
2011: Við Tjörnina
Best Brunch: VOX
If you’re willing to spend north of 3,000 ISK, VOX has the best weekend brunch in town. But you’re getting your money’s worth. It has an expansive buffet with all kinds of must-try Icelandic foods. And, as our former food critic notes, it comes with a free reminder that Icelanders have very poor buffet etiquette, so if you’re looking for some aggression with your smoked salmon you’re in luck. You’ll get a lot of Iceland stuff, all of your classic brunch stuff – eggs, bacon. If you’re hungover, you might feel more comfortable at Prikið or Grái kötturinn though.
Runners-up: For something more affordable, Bergsson is a great option. It serves your classic American brunch items with an Icelandic twist—skyr of course.
Best Place to go With a Group of Friends: KEX Hostel
Since opening a couple of years ago, KEX has firmly planted itself as one of the coolest places for casual evening beers and easy-going concerts. But most impressively, it’s one of the few places in town with really, really big tables. Like, many of them, that you don’t need to reserve. It’s a huge, comfy, stylish space with a super social atmosphere too, so our panel had no trouble agreeing that this is ideal for a big group of people.
2012: Tapas Bar
2011: Tapas Bar
2010: Tapas Bar
Best Must-Try Dining Experience: Icelandic food at Kaffi Loki
Nestled on top of the hill, next to Hallgrímskirkja church, Kaffi Loki offers a rare treat for travellers and locals alike. Specialising in nice tasting Icelandic food, they make the kind of homemade rye bread and meat soup that your mother wishes she could. If you order the ‘Icelandic treats’ set dish, you’ll get a taste of everything. Top it off with Icelandic pancakes and you’ll have a royal meal. Or if you are feeling adventurous, try the rye bread ice cream—it’s something else entirely!
2012: Home-Style Food at Mamma Steina
2011: The svið at Fljótt og Gott, BSI
2010: Moby Dick on a Stick at Sægreifinn
2009: Bæjarins Beztu
Best Kept Secret: Lunch Beat
All over town
Having emerged during the last edition of the Reykjavík Dance Festival, this secret sensation has been roving around our fair city for almost a year and still remains a near mystery! What started as an eat-and-dance-your-ass-off lunchtime party in Sweden a few years back has gone all over the world, and our local chapter has held parties at Hemmi & Valdi (RIP!), Bravó (formerly Litla Gula Hænan) and Harpa. There’s a healthy smorgasbord for 500 ISK to sustain you through the beats and DJs to get you shaking. But we don’t know where the next one will be! Maybe that’s why it’s such a secret.
2012: Icelandic Home-Style Food at Mamma Steina
2011: The svið at Fljótt og Gott, BSÍ
2010: Moby Dick on a Stick at Sægreifinn
2009: Bæjarins Beztu
NEW! Best Lunch: Ostabúðin
This cheese and deli shop on Skólavörðustígur offers a daily lunch that is certainly no secret at all. Although some of our people had only just been converted to their quick and plentiful dishes, including a catch of the day and fresh bruschetta, others were afraid that giving it this award would make the place even more crowded in the two short hours it serves the mid-day meal. Hopefully our devoted Ostabú›in-lunching readers won’t lose their spots, but damn, this place is deeeelish!
NEW! Best Late Night Bite: Nonnabiti
A Nonni boat (or sub, hoagie or grinder for non-local readers) is one of those incredible late-night foods that inspired impassioned responses from our respondents—some enamoured, some disgusted, and others wallowing in self-loathing. Still, it was unanimous that shoving one of these in your food-hole at 2am is basically unbeatable. By the time you get to the end of one, you’re just drinking down all those delicious sauces. Plus, several folks also pointed out that Nonni himself is a total hunk and super nice to chat with. Now that’s a late night treat!